PAUL SMITH admits he is still struggling to come to terms with his meteoric rise up the rugby league ladder.
This time last year the back-rower was playing for Rochdale in front of crowds as low as 250 at Chorley.
But six days ago he was playing for the Giants against St Helens in a Challenge Cup semi-final in front of a crowd of over 13,000 and a BBC television audience of millions.
That's rapid progress in anyone's book, and the 24-year-old admits he is having to pinch himself to make sure it's not a dream.
"I know that Jon Sharp has described me as a long-term project, a player who would be one for the future," said Smith.
"And, to be honest, I also felt it would take me a little longer to establish myself in the senior set-up.
"But after getting my chance earlier in the year, I've not really looked back.
"I have to pinch myself to make sure it's not a dream.
"Less than a year ago I was playing in front of crowds of less than 500.
"Now, I've just played in a Challenge Cup semi-final. It's an incredible thought."
But Smith has revealed he had to wait until the day of the game to learn he was to play against Saints.
"Believe it or not, it was an hour-and-a-half before kick-off before I found out I was playing," he added.
"It was a toss up between Stuart Donlan and myself as to who would take the final slot, and I could hardly believe it when I was told it would be me.
"I was delighted when I heard the news. It's just a shame there was no happy ending.
"But what a fantastic experience!"