Paul Anderson appears relaxed in his black tracksuit, but his eyes betray him. They burn with intensity.
It is Anderson’s aim to make his mark during his first full season as a head coach by establishing Huddersfield as the most intimidating squad in Super League. If he gets his way, few teams can expect an enjoyable trip to the John Smith’s Stadium this summer.
Anderson has pieced together one of the biggest packs assembled in recent memory, determined to inflict pain and punishment on those who might challenge them. Craig Kopczak (112kg), Stuart Fielden (104kg), Anthony Mullaly (111kg) and Ukuma Ta’ai (105kg) have all been signed as part of a deliberate ‘beefing up’ policy. It is almost like being back at Odsal when Anderson made up one quarter of the Awesome Foursome.
“We definitely felt we needed more physical presence,” he admits. “If you remember the Hull play-off game last year, they just rolled us physically.
“Then the mental state of where we were probably wasn’t the best, but if we get rolled over physically this year we’ve got a serious problem somewhere. If we keep the right people on the field and stay healthy then we should be a match for any team.
“People are making those assumptions (about Anderson trying to recreate Bradford’s infamous pack power), but if you look at things last year – and this isn’t a slight on the guys we had last year – we just had Eorl (Crabtree) as our lone big bloke. He pretty much carried us.
“To save his career – because he can’t keep having surgery every year and he can’t keep doing 70 or 80 minutes every week – we needed to help him. Craig Kopczak, Stuart Fielden and the others are there to help him with his workload. Craig’s outstanding and Stu’s credentials are what they are. People might have doubts over his fitness, but there haven’t been many sessions that he’s missed.”
Huddersfield might not end 2013 as Super League champions. They might not reach Wembley. But their new boss will not allow any slacking – that much is clear.
The aim is avoid a repeat of last season, when the rot had long since set in before the play-offs began; defeat at the KC Stadium merely put Huddersfield out of their misery.
After that loss Anderson publicly questioned his squad’s mentality. He inferred they were weak of mind. Soon the tests will come to see whether his off-season work has generated tangible progress.
“Some of the things we’ve tried to do, some of the little things we’ve put in place, and some of the personnel we’ve brought in has made a fair difference to that. What we have to do now is transfer that across to the collective from the individuals.
“It’s been tough and challenging, but pre-seasons always are. There aren’t many that have ever gone completely to plan, but we’re not far off where we wanted to be with regards to the plan we had in place. We’re happy with where we are.
“People ask about what went right or wrong last year, but if I’m being honest, that was last year. I’m not interested. It’s been and gone.”
What can Huddersfield fans expect in 2013? “Hopefully they’ll see a physical side. It’s a physical game and I want to be physical.”
St Helens and former Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown are up first for Anderson’s Giants. You get the impression he cannot wait.