If luck tends to even itself out over the course of the season, the good news is that we're saving all ours for the play-offs. The bad news is that if our luck doesn't improve, we won't be taking part in them. Because so far, the restart is just not going to plan. After two close but not-close-enough losses to Leeds and Warrington, there's a feeling the wins need to start coming if we're going to really show our top 4 credentials. After another week's rest, we're finding ourselves with that ever-so-familiar feeling that of heading into a seemingly must-win game with half the salary cap on the sidelines. Oh it's good to be back.
The two sides come into this fixture both in search of their first post-restart win, although not exactly under the same circumstances. Huddersfield lost their two openers by narrow one-point margins, despite playing some good rugby, while Hull FC's only post-COVID so far was a disappointing 10-try demolition by Salford
Speaking of 10-try demolitions of Hull, I'm sure we all remember our Magic Weekend exploits last year. And while that was by far our most comfortable recent win against the Black and Whites, we've actually got a pretty good record as of late, winning 4 of our last 5 encounters. The last game - exactly one month before this Sunday's fixture - was particularly memorable, as a young squad defied the odds and gave us a critical boost in avoiding the drop.
Let's start with the positives. We'll probably have a full-strength back line at our disposal. Golding at fullback, the McWingers and two out of Jardle, Turner and Cudjoe in the centres. So far, so good.
But then the injury list really starts to stack up. Gaskell, Wardle, Murphy, Ta'ai, Walne and Butler are all out for sure, Sezer and Gavet are in the squad but seem unlikely to play, and that's not to mention Clough, whose injury saw him depart the club last week.
So, not for the first time, the Giants will be relying on their younger players to carry them through a difficult period.
In the halves, Russell and Holmes will need to step up and take charge of the game. Russell's got form against Hull FC, he was voted Fans' Man of the Match at Magic Weekend last year, and he made the most of his brief gametime against Warrington last week getting a try, a conversion and more offloads than any other Giant in his 10 minutes on the field, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in what will likely be his first 80 minute stint of the year.
Despite the lack of Wardle, Ukuma and Murphy, we've got Edwards, Hewitt and Wood all in good form and ready to take to the back row. If Gavet doesn't play, a debut for both Trout seems a certainty, with Butterworth likely to make his first Super League appearance from the bench.
With Sezer a doubt and a lack of big men in the ranks, our key man will be Michael Lawrence. As our longest serving player, and very possibly our best performer so far this season, he'll need to carry on bringing defensive resillience, big runs and leadership to the side. If he keeps up his form from the last two games, we'll have nothing to worry about in that regard
Some may say Hull are disadvantaged having not trained together for most of the past two weeks, but I'm not convinced. The players will no doubt be doing their own home-workouts, and the coaches will still have been able to do their research and distribute it to the squad. They'll still have almost a full week of training together ahead of our Sunday clash and it would be foolish to take them lightly.
That said, with no Jake Connor in the halves and several forwards missing, they're in a similar situation to us, and will be relying on their depth to see them through what is already turning out to be a difficult season for the club.
Their key man will be Jamie Shaul. Huddersfield will almost certainly be fielding a halfback pairing who've only played together for 10 minutes this year, and will likely hand a debut to a young hooker, so our attacking options are a bit of an unknown quantity at this stage. Shaul's ability to react to what they throw his way could dictate the flow of the game
On August 30th 2019, these two sides faced off in a crucial game. Huddersfield needed a win to prevent their season becoming a total disaster, Hull needed a win to prevent the play-offs slipping away.
On August 30th 2020, we find ourselves almost in the same situation, only with the teams reversed. No, there's no relegation threat for Hull, and the top 4 won't be a lost cause if we fail to pick up the two points, but it will get harder and harder to claw our way back in the longer it takes us to get that first post-restart win, particularly with games against Saints and Leeds up next.
It's ultimately a test of depth for both sides. A good win, one that improves our points difference, will be a huge statement of intent for our 2020 ambitions. Champion teams win even without their star names, and if we want to be taken seriously as play-off contenders, a win here will go a long way.
1Ashton Golding2Jermaine McGillvary3Jake Wardle4Jordan Turner5Darnell McIntosh7Aidan Sezer8James Gavet9Adam O'Brien10Suaia Matagi11Kenny Edwards13Michael Lawrence14Matty English15Oliver Wilson21Leroy Cudjoe22Tom Holmes23Oliver Russell24Louis Senior26Sam Hewitt27Sam Wood30Reiss Butterworth32Owen Trout