Right. Here we go again.
Previews for the first game of the season are usually an absolute minefield. You can't comment on form, you can't comment on league position, and you've got minimal info on individual players' fitness.
Still, God loves a tryer.
The Giants kick off their 2020 with one of the most difficult away days in the sport, as we head to Perpignan in a rematch of the final game of the 2019 season. Following a succesful preseason which saw us comfortably go three wins from three, there's good reason for Giants fans to be cautiously optimistic about the year ahead, even if that feeling isn't shared elsewhere. Because while almost any team could be relegated this season, and we are by no means exempt from that, the number of pundits backing us for the drop really is surprising, given our off-season strengthening.
That said, for a few years now we've not performed anywhere as well as our squad on paper would suggest we should. Talk is cheap, and it's time for the Giants to prove what they're capable of.
While the club were unfortunate to lose Ashton Golding to injury in our game against Wakefield, there's plenty of new blood in the side to keep things interesting. Kenny Edwards is set to make his debut against his former club alongside NRL newcomer James Gavet, who will both add some much-needed aggression to the pack. But if there is to be an improvement in our fortunes this year, Aidan Sezer will be at the centre of it. He's one of the top signings in Super League this year, his class and exceptional kicking game has already been teased in the preseason.
With the new 21-man squads, predicting a 17-man side is even harder. I'd expect Gavet, Matagi and English to be safe bets at prop (with one on the bench, of course), with Edwards, Wardle and Bruno rounding out the pack. That leaves three spots on the bench, and with Adam O'Brien seemingly set to play 80 minutes at hooker (unless Russell is called to play there), you can expect two more props and a back rower. Depending on Murphy's role in the side, I'd expect Ukuma to be joined by two from Wilson, Walne and Clough. If Simon shows faith in one of his young centres, then Murph will almost certainly look to displace one of those names from the side
Huddersfield aren't the only side to make some big signings this year. Catalans have brought in some big names, many of whom aren't hateful bigots (to our knowledge). Much like the Giants, their star signing - one James Maloney - will be making his debut in the halves after his high-profile transfer from the NRL. There's no question the State of Origin star will be their key man.
Where the game will be won
There's no getting away from it - the narrative this weekend is the battle of the halfbacks. Two huge signings with lethal kicking games, making their debut against one another. One fresh from State of Origin, the other fresh from an NRL Grand Final. They both have what it takes to lead their teams to an all-important first round victory, they just need the platform to do it.
So for me, as exciting as Sezer vs Maloney is, it's going to come down to the performances of the packs. And while Catalans have a stronger back line going in to this game, (thanks to a controversial ban for Jordan Turner), our pack was really impressive in the preseason, and I think we've got more than enough in the tank to surpress their attack and open things up for our halves. Granted, Gavet and Edwards are somewhat unknown quantities, given their lack of preseason games, but if they perform half as well as the rest of our forwards have, it's our game to lose.