There’s always something magical about returning home. When the Beatles returned to Liverpool, they were given a royal reception. When England returned to the new Wembley there was a sense of relief from the country as their national side stopped their tour of club stadiums… well, there wasn’t, but the FA will make you believe it so.
The most recent major return home – which of course has been widely publicised in the national media for weeks – is Huddersfield Giants’ homecoming. After being forced to play at Halifax’s Shay Stadium as the turf got relayed for an apparently more important football season, the Giants returned to the Galpharm Stadium with a bang.
The PR and marketing boys were up for this one, with a family fun day not seen since the Chuckle Brothers hosted the 1994 Rotherham harvest festival.
The massive inflatables were up outside the stadium, offering fans the chance to kick a ball at a canvas. Kids got in free. There was even a flutter of red and gold balloons as the players came out. Serious stuff.
The best gimmick however was when a chubby fan officially kicked off the ‘homecoming game’, which basically involved a rotund account manager in a replica shirt scuffing a mock conversion six yards wide of the sticks.
The festivities continued at half time, with Giants chairman Ken Davy sweeping onto the pitch, microphone in hand, to confirm slashed ticket prices. This was greeted with delirious cheers from the stands. Nothing says Yorkshire like a heavy discount.
The players seemed infatuated by the festivities too. KR had brought a decent number of fans from Humberside, giving the Galpharm an atmosphere livelier than most weeks.
KR really pulled their finger out, bringing a full team of staff including a keen-looking water boy. Now, Playitlong isn’t sure why a water boy needs a headphone set, maybe so the opposition water boy doesn’t steal his tactics?
Both sides appeared determined to prove they were having the most fun; fumbling, kicking, prancing, dancing, shouting, gobbing, arguing, running. The one thing neither side bothered with was defending.
The game was fairly even – although it finished 46-26 to the Giants – with some spectacular tries that made you think wherever the opposition was even attempting a tackle.
Hudersfield’s Scott Grix scored what was the most entertaining try, latching on to a Jermaine McGillvary kick over the last defender to finish off a rapid counter attack – to be honest, what kind of counter attack isn’t rapid? It’s just an attack otherwise.
Jake Webster for KR had earlier managed to score with the age-old tactic of “run round ‘em!” Webster picked the ball up fairly centrally, and left the Giants men for dead as he trotted round the right side of the line, in a looping run a high jumper would be proud of.
More things happened. The crowd shouted ‘forward!’ every few minutes. The boos rang out when the referee gave successive TV replay decisions for Giants touchdowns – both dismissed. But what was most interesting was that even Eorl Crabtree managed a try.
Quite literally a giant, many teams put three or four players on Crabtree when he gets the ball. His try proved just how lacklustre the KR defence had become as the clock ticked down: big Eorl lunging through to score easily.