Lunt grateful for Leeds spell
Huddersfield Giants hooker Shaun Lunt says he will return to Headingley a better player tomorrow night as he prepares for a reunion with his Grand Final-winning team-mates.
The former England number nine enjoyed a glorious seven-month loan spell with Leeds Rhinos last season which culminated in October’s 26-18 win over Warrington Wolves in the Super League title decider at Old Trafford.
It also got his own career back on track and, despite returning to the Giants for the start of the new season, he says he will be always be grateful for the chance to rub shoulders with players of the calibre of past and present England captains Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield and seasoned forwards Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
“I know it sounds cheesy but I feel I’ve matured more as a person,” he said.
“Being around the likes of Kev, JP, Kylie and Jonesy at Leeds brought the best out of me and gave me the confidence to be who I am.
“I had the pleasure of travelling to training with Kev and I used to pick his brains every day. It’s going to be good to go back and play there.”
Lunt, 26, spoke of his desire to extend his stay at Leeds in the immediate aftermath of their Grand-Final triumph but he still had three years left on his Huddersfield contract and Giants coach Paul Anderson was delighted to regain his services.
“He’s a quality player,” Anderson said. “We have arguments in our office about who brought him to the club from Workington and I’m definitely claiming that.
“I understood Lunty’s position at the back end of last year. When you’ve won a Grand Final with a team you want to stay there, don’t you?
“We made a decision and he’s just rolled his sleeves up and got on with it.
“He has come back a better player from the spell he had away from the club.
“We’ve a Grand Final-winning player wearing nine in our team who knows how to win big games and he’s transferred his form from last year into the Giants shirt this year.”
Huddersfield, who are aiming for a third consecutive win at Headingley, go into their clash with the champions as league leaders despite suffering their first defeat of the season at the hands of Bradford Bulls last Sunday.
But it is congested at the top and the Giants could even find themselves dropping to sixth tomorrow if results on a busy night go against them.
Either Wigan Warriors and Catalan Dragons, who meet at the DW Stadium, will take over at the top if Huddersfield lose while Warrington, also only a point behind the pacesetters, can leapfrog them if they beat St Helens.
The Catalans, who have won only one of three away games so far this year, have chartered a 49-seater private jet to more than halve the journey time and enable them to travel on the day of the match.
Saints have picked up just five points from their opening five matches under new coach Nathan Brown but they have won both away games so far and Wolves coach Tony Smith expects them to be challenging for honours.
“They’re similar to most teams in the comp,” Smith said. “They probably haven’t quite hit their straps but I think most teams have been like that.
“They’ve also had quite a few injuries, which is disruptive to anybody’s campaign, and they’ve a new coach who has some slightly new structures and ideas.
“I think Saints will be there or thereabouts. Their form will get better as the season goes on.”
In tomorrow’s other games, Widnes Vikings and Bradford will be looking to post back-to-back wins for the first time in 2013 when they meet at the Halton Stadium while Hull FC and Castleford Tigers will be looking to get back to winning ways at the KC Stadium.