18 players have taken to the field for the Giants this February, and it's hard to find much fault with any of them. With the injury situation of the past few years, it's hard to get your head around us only making one change over the course of a month. But as we mentioned in our game recap, it's gone well for us!
That's not to say we've had a full squad to choose from. Our first-choice fullback has been absent since preseason, and we're still waiting on the likes of Cudjoe and Uate to return to the side. But by Super League standards, that's not the worst situation to be in, and it's a far cry from the shortages we've had in recent years.
Let's take a look at how the squad went in February
Sometimes, when a player is sent on a season-long loan, it's a sign their days at the parent club might be numbered. But after a year at Batley, Sam has seriously impressed in his return to Super League. Admittedly, he may not have gotten his chance were it not for Turner's suspension, but looking at his performances so far, you'd never know he wasn't one of our first choice players. He's our third-best metre maker with just over 100m a game, he's got the second most-carries in the side with 44, and he's been a safe pair of hands, with just one error and zero penalties. Turner and Jardle won't be taking their role in the side for granted, and if all three are available for Sunday's game at Wigan, it won't be an easy pick for Woolford.
This year, Darnell has returned to fullback in the absence of Golding, and while he's brought all of his strengths from 2019, he seems to have left his high error count behind. He lost the ball once against Salford but came through the nasty weather in Hull and James Maloney's kicking boot without a single handling issue. Plus his post-hooter pounce at Salford was the final act that secured a tight win.
And on the wings, Jerry's been doing Jerry things. He's leading the way on metres and carries, nabbing two tries on the way. But it's our other winger we really need to talk about, because Louis Senior has been outstanding in the opening rounds. And I don't mean outstanding-for-a-young-player, I mean he's our top try scorer, and also leads the way in tackle busts and clean breaks. Still only 19, he's been really impressive, despite an unexpected switch to fullback in two of his three games. Much like Wood, he may have gotten his chance due to an injury elsewhere, but he's laid down a marker to keep a regular place in this side.
After years of seeing our halfback pairing change every week (to mixed results), watching our new 6 and 7 work so well together is such a relief. Sezer could well prove to be the signing of the season; when fit, his kicking game is up there with anyone in Super League, but even against Salford, where he was battling a calf injury, he made his mark on the game throwing a beautiful pass out wide to create what turned out to be an essential try.
With Sezer pulling the strings and taking on more of a leadership role, Gaskell is freed up a little and looks a lot more dangerous as a result. His kick through for Sezer's debut try at Catalans was as good as anything you'll see from our skipper, and Lee even picked up a spectacular try of his own in the Hull KR game, where he was my Man of the Match
We've kept the same pack and bench every game this month, and while players like Wilson and Walne will no doubt be ready to step in and take their chance when it comes, they're up against 10 players who are looking very hard to drop. While we've really improved our attack this year, our defence has been even better for me, and you have our forwards to thank for that. They're working so hard for each other, and it shows, having conceded an average of just over 8 points per game this year - the best of anyone in the league. For context, St Helens have the second-best record, with 15 points per game.
Adam O'Brien was faced with a big challenge ahead of our 2020 season. With no direct replacement for Leeming, AOB is expected to play bigger minutes with a lot more responsibility on his shoulders. Three games in, and you have to say he's absolutely nailing it. He's our top tackler and has been getting involved all over the field, plus he's shown he can perform for 80 minutes, which really helps our bench.
After years of getting bullied up the middle, this year we've got a good mix of props who look really up for a battle. But there's more to this than just putting some hard blokes on the field and hoping for the best, you have to look at how the front row has been utilised. Matagi and English are two great all-round props in excellent form, they're exactly the kind of players you want starting in your side. Gavet, however, is exactly the kind of player you want to bring off the bench. Like Suaia and Matty, he's an out-and-out prop, but rather than being relied on for big minutes, he's brought in to shake the game up. He'll come out, cause some damage in big, brief bursts, while giving one of our starters a little rest. Our other benched props (Clough and Ta'ai) can - between them - also cover any spot in the pack. That versatility is worth its weight in gold in a sport as tough and unpredictable as rugby league.
Elsewhere in the pack, Edwards has more energy than anyone I've ever seen in a Giants top and, like Gavet, is a great option off the bench. Our old left-edge of Jordle and Murphy might be in the back row now, but they remain two of the toughest players you're likely to see on a rugby league pitch. Joe has the best metres-per-carry of any Giant and we're all still feeling his big hit on Sarginson (how he failed to get any Man of Steel points against Salford is beyond me).
And rounding out the pack is our very own Michael Lawrence. We know Bruno has always been one of our most reliable defenders, but I can't remember the last time he's looked this good with the ball in hand. As well as being our second-biggest tackler (with the second-best efficiency), he's the top metre-maker amongst the forwards.
The Top 5
The idea is to try and make this a monthly feature and end it with our top 5 players of the month. One month in, and it's already a difficult task, but we gave it a go anyway. With Matagi, Jerry and Bruno in particular unlucky to miss out, here's our Top 5 Giants players for February 2020
Make sure you let us know your top 5 for the month. You could arguably make a case for anyone in the squad, so it will be interesting to see who you all pick!
By the way, if you're interested in any of the stats we've mentioned in this article, be sure to keep an eye on our Player Stats page to keep track of who's tearing up the leaderboards!