HUDDERSFIELD will head into Sunday's crucial Super League clash at Widnes (3.00) having spent as much of their preparation time in the gym as out on the training pitch.
While Stuart Spruce, caretaker coach of relegation-threatened Widnes, has called for more of the same from his side, despite their 14-13 defeat at Salford, Giants chief Jon Sharp wants a major improvement on the 29-12 home setback against Castleford as he bids to rekindle the club's Super League play-off bid.
That Cas win put the basement side within two points of Widnes, who have been sucked into the relegation dogfight after taking only two points from the last 12 on offer.
The seventh-placed Giants, who will hope they can win at Widnes while play-off rivals Wakefield slip up at home to Salford, have the same meagre return, and Sharp believes his side have lost their physical edge.
"I was delighted with our form in the first half of the season, but I'm disappointed at where we are at the moment," said the Galpharm chief.
"Analysis of recent performances shows we have been losing a lot of collisions, both in terms of clashes when we are carrying the ball and when we are tackling in defence.
"We don't look like we have the ability to break a tackle, and when we make them, we are getting pushed back and failing to put opponents on their backs.
"Controlling the play-the-ball also seems to be a struggle at the moment, and it all points to two things, technique and strength.
"We are not looking as clinical or as strong as we were at the start of the season, and while that's a reflection of a long, hard campaign - we've played extra matches because of our run to the Challenge Cup semi-finals - and a crop of injuries, it's a situation we have addressed by spending more quality time in the gym, working on specific exercises to get back some of that strength and power."
Widnes have welcomed former Wigan boss Frank Endacott, now a leading agent, to the Halton Stadium in an advisory capacity this week, and while he accepts the `new-face syndrome' could give the Cheshire side a life, Sharp insisted: "It's about what we do out there on Sunday.
"I'll rejig and reshuffle as much as I can within the confines of the resources at my disposal, and it's about bringing in some freshness, and showing enthusiasm, commitment and confidence.
"We've done that plenty of times this season, and while recent results have been poor, we're still in there with a chance of making those play-offs."