JON SHARP believes he has the squad to take the Giants to the next level.
The Huddersfield coach last season guided the club to a first appearance in the Super League play-offs.
Unfortunately, the Giants suffered a 22-16 defeat against Hull at the KC Stadium after finishing the regular season in fifth spot.
Now, Sharp will set his sights not only on claiming another top-six finish, but winning a play-off game for the first time.
And with the squad he has in place, he is convinced it’s a realistic target.
Sharp may have lost the services of some highly influential players in the shape of Brad Drew, Chris Nero, Robbie Paul and Paul Reilly.
But having replaced them with hooker George Gatis (New Zealand Warriors), winger David Hodgson (Salford), utility back Danny Kirmond (Featherstone), scrum half Luke Robinson (Salford) and centre Paul Whatuira (Wests Tigers), he feels he’s done a good deal.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the look of this squad,” said Sharp, pictured left.
“Over the last three years we’ve recruited heavily in the off-season. There have been around seven or eight changes each time.
“But this year we’ve only signed the four established players and Danny Kirmond, who I believe has an incredible amount of potential.
“And the fact I’ve kept the signings to this level is a big indicator of my satisfaction with the squad I’ve got.
“As a result, we hope to get even more consistency from not having made wholesale changes.
“The plan is that the team will gel together quicker and build on what I believe has been one of the most successful teams in the game over the last two years, with a Challenge Cup final appearance and top-five finish.
“To improve on that you need quality players, and Whatuira is a proven Test centre, Hodgson is a current Test winger, Robinson is also an international and Gatis is one of the best hookers in the Australian NRL.
“Over the past two seasons, and particularly last year, George has been outstanding in offence. He’s got plenty of skill coming out of dummy half, he’s very comfortable kicking the ball and defensively he’s very strong.
“Paul is only 26 years old. He’s got 16 Test caps for New Zealand, which speaks volumes.
“He’s got great skill levels with the ball, and defensively he’s very strong.
“And British fans will know about David’s finishing ability, and the positive effect Luke can have on a team from half-back.
“Obviously it goes without saying it’s a massive disappointment we won’t have David available for the next few months because of his knee injury.
“But I definitely feel we have a better squad overall, and that we can go up another level.”
Yet even though Sharp has total confidence in his players that they can build on last year’s achievements, he knows the competition will be more fierce than ever.
“I think there’s been a levelling up of the competition in recent seasons, and certainly in 2007,” added Sharp.
“The so-called lesser clubs have certainly improved, and that is pushing the so-called bigger clubs to improve to try to stay in front of the pack, and the results show that it is proving more difficult for them to do that.
“During my tenure here I believe that we’ve always been competitive.
“We’ve been knocking on the door of the play-offs for four years, and we’re proud of both that and the fact we went through that door this time.
“The respect of other players and coaches is something we regard highly and we don’t take lightly.
“Although we aren’t in the business of making bold predictions, nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing us start winning play-off games.
“That’s the next big step, and arguably the hardest.
“Suffice to say we will keep working hard and if we do that then we feel we will be there or thereabouts this season.
“As I said, it’s going to be tough, but I know I have the players in place to make it happen.”