It's a strange feeling to be coming up to February and still having no idea when the Super League season is going to kick off (summer rugby, eh?). After an unprecedented year of uncertainty for the world as much as the sport, preseason looks set to continue into at least March, as we wait for Ian Watson's new-look Giants to take to the field and show us what they can do.
With a significant set of signings across the park, choosing 17 men from our current 30-man squad will no doubt be a challenge for the new boss - so while we wait for news on when we can actually expect to see some of these newcomers in action, you can choose your dream 17 here and share it with the world!
While our season fizzled out post-hiatus, one man who thrived after lockdown was our new fullback Ashton Golding. After missing the first half of the season to injury, he quickly established himself as one of our top performers in both attack and defence. While he was absent, Darnell McIntosh really stepped up and put in some top performances at fullback, while Louis Senior was brought into the side and ended the first half of the season as our joint-top tryscorer. We could see these two in these roles again with Ash set to miss the start of the season to a shoulder injury.
Choosing two centres for the 2021 season is going to be especially tricky. Watson has recruited Samoa international Ricky Leutele to the side to replace the outgoing Jordan Turner, and while Jardle and Ricky have the 3 and 4 shirts, their role in the side is far from guaranteed following Leroy Cudjoe's long-awaited return in 2020. Leroy was back to his absolute best and after years of injury hell, earned himself a new contract with some top performances
Much like the centres, it's not clear who our go-to halfback pairing will be in 2021. While the squad numbers suggest we're sticking with Gaskell and Sezer, new signing Jack Cogger won't have flown to the other side of the world to just sit on the sidelines, and will be doing everything in his power to push his way into the side
Things get even harder when you try to pick out members of the pack, with forwards making up the bulk of Watson's new signings. Potentially in response to the new six-again rule, we seem to be aiming for more of a more agile pack rather than a "big" one, with the likes of Joe Greenwood, Josh Jones, Luke Yates, and Jack Ashworth, who are more known for their work rate than their size. It's often said that these days, a loose forward is just another prop. We've managed to reverse that trend by handing the 8 and 10 shirts to established loose forwards, with Yates and Bruno moving to the front row, but they're two of the biggest workhorses in the league and have the tackle stats to prove it and will no doubt do a good job up front. Versatility in the pack is always a good thing and expect to see a lot of our forwards playing a lot of different roles in the side
AOB will almost certainly be our starting hooker, the former Bradford 9 was on fire until his unfortunate neck injury, but the question then becomes whether we play him for 80 minutes and go for a big bench, or whether we spell in new signing James Cunningham throughout games. James can also play in the halves so will offer real options in our spine.
These are, of course, just a few of the names you'd expect to see battling for a place in the squad. But there's a real feeling no position is safe this year, which can only be a good thing. With no reserve league and presumably no dual-reg, our younger players like Trout, Kirby, Wood and Hewitt will no doubt be pushing for a place in the side and establishing themselves as Super League stars in their own right.
Choose Your Side
So with that in mind - who would your starting 17 be? On the assumption we have a fully fit squad (I know...), who's getting picked and who's getting dropped? Gaskell vs Cogger, Ashworth vs Edwards, Golding vs McIntosh vs Senior - choose your starting 17 here and share it with the world!