PAUL SMITH is poised to make his Giants Super League debut in front of the Sky TV cameras at Widnes tomorrow night (8.00) and declared: "I'm ready!"
Huddersfield head coach Jon Sharp had initially signed the former Rochdale Hornets captain with a view to introducing him later in the top-flight campaign.
But he believes the 24-year-old 6ft 3in back-rower, who was named in last season's National League Team of the Year, is ahead of schedule in terms of development and is ready to be handed his big chance.
Injuries to several players mean Smith is still not clear what role he will play.
Yet that hasn't stopped him preparing for the biggest challenge of his career.
"Jon has been keeping everyone on their toes this week by keeping team selection very firmly under wraps," said Smith, who was last season a top target for Super League rivals St Helens and London Broncos.
"But I've spent all week training hard with the lads and I've told him I'm ready to play.
"The boys have started the season strongly, and I'm aware I've got my chance because of injuries to players of the quality of Brandon Costin and Jim Gannon.
"But this looks like it'll be my big chance, and I'm determined to make the most of it.
"I've worked hard in pre-season and I know that training full-time with top coaches and with high quality players has helped make me a better player.
"The pre-season games against Castleford and Leeds also helped me adjust to the extra speed in Super League.
"So I'm confident about playing in the competitive fixtures. It's a great chance."
Sharp has again confirmed 19-year-old former Newsome Panthers junior Philip Joseph will remain in the Super League squad for tomorrow.
He was 18th man in the top-flight opener against Castleford Tigers and was in the frame for the Challenge Cup clash with Pia.
But the McAlpine chief appears to be edging towards Smith on this occasion.
"Both players have impressed me with their attitudes in training and there's no way it is something I can overlook," said Sharp.
"Phil has been in the first-team frame for a number of weeks already, but this is new ground for Paul.
"Initially, I had looked at Paul as a longer-term project, with the aim of easing him gently into Super League.
"But he's already showing he's ready to take the next step and now his wait won't be quite so long.
"Obviously, what role Paul, or anyone else for that matter, will play has yet to be finalised.
"We've already had to rule Brandon Costin out, but there are a number of other senior players who are not 100% right now.
"There's every indication they should recover, and they will be given until later today to prove their fitness.
"But even at this stage of the season it's clear injuries are playing a big part in the competition.
"Apart from Leeds, every squad in Super League has been suffering, including Widnes.
"I see their coach, Neil Kelly, is also having to delay selection because of the number of knocks."