Bulls chief fearful of Giants backlash after Castleford setback
NEW Bulls boss Steve McNamara can't wait to lock horns with one of his oldest rugby league pals.
McNamara, left, and Giants coach Jon Sharp, opposite page, have been close friends for almost 20 years and they will go head-to-head in Super League for the first time at Odsal tonight (8.00).
McNamara is the first to acknowledge he learned many of the coaching tricks of the trade off Sharp when he was a player at the Giants and Sharp was the assistant to Tony Smith.
But with the Bulls looking to build on last week's 20-18 triumph over leaders St Helens, McNamara is not going to allow friendships to upset his club's new-found momentum.
"Jon and me go back a long way together," said McNamara, who was captain of the Giants when they gained promotion back to Super League in 2002.
"When I first signed for Hull as a 17-year-old, Jon was an established first-team player.
"Because we were both back-row forwards we spent a lot of time together and struck up a firm friendship.
"That continued from Hull, then to Wakefield and finally to Huddersfield.
"We had some great times together and now I'm looking forward to pitting my wits with him in a head coach duel for the first time.
"It's not going to be easy, because I obviously know what a good coach Jon is, and that's reflected in the way he's got his Giants to play.
"They will have been disappointed with the game at Castleford, and I know they'll be desperate to put things right against us tonight.
"We've got to make sure that doesn't happen.
"We, too, struggled at Castleford the week before (they were held 26-26) and bounced back with the win over St Helens last Friday.
"Let's hope we can prevent the Giants from responding like that after their last trip to the Tigers!"
Tonight will be Huddersfield's second trip to Odsal this season.
They were beaten 52-18 in a Sky TV fixture on April 18 in what proved to be a highly emotional occasion for the Bulls, with coach Brian Noble in charge for the last time.
And, following the shock news of Great Britain prop Stuart Fielden's departure to Wigan, McNamara is expecting a far tougher challenge this time around.
"That game in April was emotionally charged. Circumstances dictated that," added McNamara.
"It was Brian's last game in charge and the fans seemed to sense that.
"In the end, that worked out well for us and badly for the Giants.
"We were really pumped up, and I think we would have beaten anyone that night. It was just unfortunate for Jon and his team that it was against them.
"And, personally, I felt sorry that Robbie Paul was caught up in it all.
"Under any other circumstances, Robbie would have received a hero's welcome back to Bradford from the fans.
"They all still idolise him here for what he has done for this club, and I know that had it not been for the whole Brian Noble situation Robbie may well have taken centre stage.
"And that's something I've thought about in the build-up to this game.
"After a relatively low-key return in April, I'm sure Robbie will want to make a far bigger impact this time around.
"His performances for the Giants this season have shown he's still got the class, and I'm sure he'll want to show it against the Bulls tonight.
"In fact, I'm sure all of the Huddersfield boys will want to put on a show.
"I know how disappointed they were with their performance down here in front of the Sky cameras.
"This is their chance to try and put the record straight and to show everyone that they are genuine top-six contenders.
"I know only our very best will be good enough to win this game. Anything less and we could suffer.
Tonight's action does, in fact, get under way at 5.40 with the Bulls v Giants Senior Academy clash.
Coach Paul Moses is unable to finalise his side because of the possible late calls to cover for injuries in the Super League squad.
But already provisionally named in the Academy side is Tom Hemingway, who was in senior action at Castleford last Sunday.
Junior Academy stars Luke George and Leroy Cudjoe are also expected to play tonight.
That means they will miss Monday's Junior Academy game against the Bulls at the DRAM Centre (7.00).
Another key absentee for the Under 18s will be in-form hooker Matthew Whittaker, who is still struggling with a damaged thumb.
But coach Andy Procter still has a strong squad at his disposal as they look to maintain their play-off push.
Junior Academy: Heeley; Ormondroyd, Lopag, Wilson, Gorman; Garrod, Brooke; Lawson, Donlan, Roberts, Housely, Martin, Lawrence. Subs: Broady, Williams, Sandland, Prendergast.