GIANTS chief Nathan Brown believes his players are ready to face what he knows will be a massive Super League challenge at resurgent Hull FC at the KC Stadium tonight (8.00).
Both sides opened their 2010 campaigns with excellent opening-night triumphs.
While the Giants were working overtime to beat Bradford Bulls 24-12 at the Galpharm last Friday, Hull were cruising to a 32-12 triumph at St Helens 24 hours later.
At the heart of the visitors’ success that night were new signings Sean Long and top Australian forwards Craig Fitzgibbon and Mark O’Meley.
Legendary St Helens scrum half Long is still rated as one of the world’s best No7s, while Brown knows all about the potential threat of back-rower Fitzgibbon and prop O’Meley – or Ogre as he is known throughout the game – from their time in the Australian NRL.
And although Brown’s Giants will travel across to the east coast feeling confident and in good shape, the Galpharm chief knows his men will need to be at their best to keep such talented players at bay as they look to repeat last season’s magnificent 24-0 win at the KC on July 31.
“Although it was difficult to see much of their performance in the win at St Helens last Saturday because of the mist, they look to be shaping up well,” said Brown.
“Fortunately, I was able to take a good look at them in their trial game against Hull KR last month, and it’s fair to say they are quite an improved team.
“Both Craig Fitzgibbon and Mark O’Meley are good additions to their squad and the one thing you get with them is that they’ve been around a long time and played in big games.
“Fitzy is still going strong and playing really hard, and Ogre always gives everything that his body has got to give him. They’re players who will be a threat.
“As, too, will Sean Long, of course.
“He may have left St Helens at the end of last season, but he is still one of the top players in the competition and will organise those around him very effectively.
“And after missing out on a pre-season last year, Hame Lauaki also looks like a new signing for them, and he’s a real handful and carries the ball well.
“But even though they are such a talented group, we’ll still be going there tonight with a bit of confidence, there’s no reason for us not to.
“We’re the same as other teams after the first week in that we know we’ve got some things to build on and there are a couple of things we need to get better at. Last week’s win against Bradford has given us something very solid on which to build on.”
The Huddersfield chief is expected to keep changes to a minimum.
Obviously, there is one forced change, with prop Keith Mason ruled out for a month with a torn pectoral muscle, meaning Larne Patrick gets an early chance to step up.
But the other 16 are fit to play, with Andy Raleigh set to make his 200th appearance for his hometown club after escaping a ban, despite being found guilty of a late challenge on Bradford’s Matt Orford last week.