Jake Connor is relishing the chance to continue to deputise for injured skipper Danny Brough and lead the Giants to play-off glory at Wigan Warriors tonight.
The 19-year-old stepped in for reigning Super League Man of Steel Brough and produced a man-of-the-match performance to help Huddersfield secure a thrilling 17-16 victory over Super League minor champions St Helens last Friday.
His performance earned him praise from head coach Paul Anderson, who described his kicking game on the night as ‘outstanding’.
Connor also crossed for a vital individual try just before half-time to tip the balance in his side’s favour.
And the England Youth international admits the confidence his Saints’ display has given him has helped make him feel even more positive ahead of tonight’s trip to the DW Stadium.
“The other night couldn’t have gone much better for me,” said Connor.
“It was by far the highlight of my career so far, and it’s definitely given me a lot more confidence.
“I’ve now played a few Super League games and I’m feeling more and more comfortable with every game I play.
“But to have to fill in for someone like Danny Brough and be expected to help us get a win over a quality side like Saints and earn us a place in the top four was a pretty daunting prospect.
“As a result, I was feeling really nervous before the game. In fact, it was pretty similar to how I felt when I played at full-back in last season’s play-off semi-final at Warrington.
“But as soon as I got my first touch the other night and everything went according to plan the nerves disappeared.
“My confidence soon started to grow, and to score that try just before half-time (he followed up his own grubber-kick close to the tryline and got the vital touch and then added the conversion to make it 10-6 at the break) took it up an extra level.
“To be honest, I think the try also gave the team a boost in confidence at just the right time.
“So I’d definitely have to say it’s the most important try I’ve scored in my career.
“I just hope there are many more still to come.”
Although it’s still to be officially confirmed, it would be a massive shock if Connor didn’t start at stand-off against the Warriors.
Brough is recovering well from the painful blow to the groin he suffered during the home win over Hull less than a fortnight ago.
But with Connor’s influential showing against Saints, any thoughts of attempting to rush Brough back were instantly lessened – although the talented teenager knows that when his club captain does return, he’ll step aside.
“Danny’s a fantastic player and massive for the Giants,” added the former Siddal youngster.
“He’s one of those players who can turn a game in an instant, which is probably why I felt so nervous the other night having to fill in for him.
“I know that as soon as he’s fully fit, he’ll be expected to come straight back in.
“But that won’t stop me giving it everything I’ve got in the meantime. I want to make it as hard as possible for Paul to leave me out.”
Although Connor partnering Luke Robinson at half-back is an obvious selection, the coaching staff face a tough call over who to start at full-back.
Aaron Murphy was outstanding in the role against Saints – pushing Connor all the way for the man-of-the-match award – but with first-choice No1 Scott Grix having fully recovered from his groin problem, that’s going to be an interesting pick.
In the past, Grix has played full-back, with Murphy getting the nod over Jodie Broughton on the wing, and that could be the option tonight.
There’s also likely to be at least one change in the pack, with prop Eorl Crabtree expected to return after missing the St Helens game with a knee injury.
But that also poses a selection dilemma, with all of the forwards in action against Saints producing displays which deserve to keep them in action against the Warriors.