COULD the signs coming out of the Giants right now be any more positive?
On the field, Huddersfield are proving to be one of Super League’s super powers, proudly sitting second in the table at the halfway stage of the season.
And, all being well, the Giants will tomorrow beat Catalan Dragons at the Galpharm Stadium and take their place in the draw for the Challenge Cup quarter-final.
Few changes are expected to be made from the side that cruised to a 40-18 home League triumph over St Helens seven days ago, which means 16 of the Giants’ 17 will be homegrown players.
Furthermore, with the new long-term deals secured by Scott Grix, Keith Mason and Shaun Lunt over the past week, it’s a trend that looks like it will continue for years to come.
That’s especially true when considering the likes of Kevin Brown, Danny Brough, Luke Robinson, Eorl Crabtree, Leroy Cudjoe and Larne Patrick have also been tied down to long-term deals.
As a result, the Giants are already by some distance the Super League club with the least reliance on imports.
Even St Helens, who have a proud and enviable record of producing their own talent, included three overseas players in their injury-hit squad for the game at the Galpharm Stadium.
Huddersfield have long since adopted a “best of British” policy which has dove-tailed nicely with the Rugby Football League’s tightening of the overseas quota.
The game’s governing body introduced a “club-trained” rule in 2008 to force Super League clubs to give opportunities to more homegrown talent, with a view to enlarging the player pool available for the England team, and the Giants have been particularly pro-active.
“We have had a policy of British where possible for five or six years,” said Giants managing director Richard Thewlis.
“Had we been more overseas-based say between 2005 and 2007, the restrictions could have been a problem but, when Jon Sharp was coach at the club, we made a conscious decision to target the young players at other clubs who were on the fringe of international honours.
“That formed the basis of our recruitment policy and it has really carried on from there.”
Wigan were a rich source of the Giants’ initial recruitment – Stephen Wild, Martin Aspinwall, Brown, Robinson and David Hodgson all made their names with the Warriors.
But the club’s recent development work on their own doorstep is now reaping rewards, with Saturday’s line-up including four Huddersfield born-and-bred players, two of whom went on England’s Four Nations tour to Australia and New Zealand last autumn.
Crabtree and Cudjoe are among four Huddersfield players in England coach Steve McNamara’s 32-strong elite training squad, along with Brough and Robinson.
While fellow ‘locals’ Jermaine McGillvary and Michael Lawrence are among five club representatives in the England Knights party. Dale Ferguson, Shaun Lunt and Larne Patrick are the others.
The Huddersfield squad is, in fact, bulging at the seams, with seven British players currently either on loan or playing on a dual registration with Championship clubs.
Jamie Cording, Gregg McNally, Jon Molloy, Kyle Wood, Elliot Hodgson, Jacob Fairbank and Adam Walker are following a path trodden successfully by McGillvary and more recently Joe Wardle, who scored his first Super League try in the win over Saints.
Not that the Giants are completely against the use of overseas players. They had New Zealander David Faiumu in their line-up against Saints, while Luke O’Donnell, David Fa’alogo and Jamie Simpson were on the sidelines carrying injuries.
It’s a matter of finding the right balance and concentrating on the imports who add value to the competition.
“Rugby league supporters really enjoy the overseas players at their clubs, both for their abilities on the field and the community work they undertake,” added Thewlis. “We take them into our hearts.”