The Huddersfield Giants have never been in better shape to challenge for a Super League Grand Final appearance.
That’s the message from excited Michael Lawrence as his hometown club edges closer to a first trip to Old Trafford.
Victory against leaders Leeds Rhinos at the John Smith’s Stadium tonight would guarantee the Giants a home play-off semi-final spot for the very first time. It could also earn them the Super League Leaders Shield for the second time in three years if Wigan lose at home to Castleford at the same time.
Even though Leeds have lost their last three Super 8s fixtures, Lawrence accepts tonight’s derby challenge is absolutely massive.
But with just three defeats in their last 19 top-flight clashes (they’ve won 14 and drawn two) and with an almost fully-fit squad available, the 25-year-old former England Knights star senses this could be the Giants’ year.
“The feel around the place at this time of the year is better than I can ever remember,” said the former Newsome Panthers junior.
“In recent times we’ve earned a bit of a reputation as a club who fade badly when it comes to the play-offs, and there have been reasons for that.
“In years gone by, people would turn up for training beaten up and sore, and would then limp into games.
“But this time around, we feel fit and fresh, and you can sense the energy around the place.
“Training’s going really well and everyone’s excited about the opportunity we’ve got to go all the way this time. The buzz right now is unbelievable.”
And Lawrence knows the return to fitness of England back-row forward Brett Ferres, who’s back in the squad to face Leeds after suffering a torn bicep in the win at Catalans Dragons on July 18, has boosted the squad even more.
“Brett’s a quality player who’ll make us even stronger,” added his fellow pack star.
“He gives us so many more options, as well as helping to keep everyone on their toes in terms of team selection.
“With Brett now back, it means Kyle Wood (broken foot) is the only player not available, so the coaching staff can change things around a bit if they feel they need to.
“But no-one who’s been playing in the side for the last few months wants that to happen.
“There’s no better feeling than going into games with momentum behind you, which is exactly what we’ve got at the moment, and no-one wants to miss out on playing in the really big games.
“We’ve obviously got some massive games ahead of us over the next few weeks, and with the competition there is for places, everyone’s going to have to perform to their maximum to keep hold of their spot.
“Everyone’s desperate to impress against Leeds tonight, because the rewards for doing that have never been greater.”