Could Stuart Fielden be the key to Huddersfield Giants re-finding their early 2011 form?
If he stays fit, then yes. But as is the problem with a number of the Giants’ big name signings, Fielden joins with an injury record that could be politely referred to as ‘questionable.’
Having only played two games in the past two seasons, Giants coach Paul Anderson will be hoping Fielden can regain his fitness and perform to the levels which caused Wigan to splash out a world-record transfer fee of £450,000 in 2006.
However, this was also the hope when former coach Nathan Brown brought in the likes of David Fa’alogo and Luke O’Donnell, Huddersfield’s marquee signings for the 2010 and 2011 seasons respectively.
Neither lived up to the expectation and hype they arrived with, and both struggled with injuries, with O’Donnell only managing to compete in eight Super League games in 2012, and Fa’alogo being released at the end of last season.
Nevertheless, Anderson has taken a calculated risk in bringing in Fielden, who arrives at the Giants with a string of honours and a winning mentality, something which is lacking from the Huddersfield squad.
Anderson’s approach at the back end of 2012 was that of a traditional one; a strong pack which set out to build a platform for the creative spark of Danny Brough to build on. However, he just didn’t have the forwards to do this with, and it was down to Eorl Crabtree, who singlehandedly at times, kept the Giants going forward.
Anderson recognised this, and immediately went out to put together a formidable pack, something the Giants were renowned for before predecessor Brown opted for a more mobile, lightweight pack at the beginning of last season.
The purchases of Anthony Mullally from Widnes, and Ukuma Ta’ai from New Zealand Warriors, alongside Fielden, means that Crabtree now has an abundance of firepower alongside him, and can concentrate on playing the game he is familiar with – making yards and offloads.
These acquisitions also allow the likes of Larne Patrick, Dale Ferguson and Michael Lawrence to go back to positions they are more familiar with, away from the biff of the middle of the pitch.
On paper, a front row set of Crabtree, Fielden, Ta’ai and Mullally certainly looks a formidable one. And if Anderson can keep his pack fit, then Huddersfield undoubtedly have a much better chance of gaining footholds in games that went away from them last year.
Still though, Anderson’s search for a world-class stand-off goes on, aware that Scott Grix, Leroy Cudjoe and Luke Robinson, who all had chances at half back last season, are not up to speed in the number six role in Super League.
Without an extra creative output alongside Brough, the Giants could once again be languishing in the middle regions of the Super League ladder, rather than the higher echelons upon which they found themselves a matter of months ago.
Anderson has a huge task of rebuilding a shattered Giants side, but the formation of a strong pack was the number one priority, which these signings, (on paper), indicate he has done successfully.