Sunday's battle of West Yorkshire sees top of the table Huddersfield Giants taking on Bradford Bulls. As the first Sporting Memories Super Leauge game approaches, Giants players, coaching staff, and fans have shared favourite memories of the club in support of fans living with dementia. Robbie Hunter-Paul, who played for both sides, shared one of the greatest memories of his career, walking out wearing the clubs colours in the Challenge Cup final.
“Nothing compares to the rush you get when you step over the threshhold between the changing room tunnel and into the light of the stadium. All at once 80,000 supporters see you and scream, that energy tumbles off the terraces and slams into you at a million miles an hour. Your heart beats uncontrollably, adrenalin courses through your system and electricity floats across your skin. It is the most exhilarating feeling in the world and at the same time the most frightening. It is hard to explain it in words and needs to be experienced to be understood but the emotion of that memory will stay with me forever and it is what playing at the highest level is all about."
Huddersfield is, of course, the birthplace of rugby league and with a town steeped in such history that it’s little surprise the love of the game has been passed down the generations.
Jean Horne is one such supporter. “In 1947 my dear Dad, recently demobbed from the Army, took me along to my first match at Fartown. I would be ten years old, knew nothing about rugby league, but some recently signed Australians were hitting the headlines and Dad thought we’d go along. I was into rugby league from the start. The excitement, the sheer strength and skill of the players: I was hooked, and at the age of 75 rugby league still remains a huge part of my life.
“One of my biggest disappointments was not attending the Challenge Cup Final in 1953 at Wembley, again because we couldn’t afford to go, but I remember being glued to the radio commentary, and then going into Huddersfield to welcome the team home on the Monday night. My favourite players were Lionel Cooper and Billy Banks. In fact I always said if I ever had a baby girl when I married I would call her Lorraine after Lionel Cooper’s daughter. I kept my promise and named my daughter born in 1963 Lorraine.
“As I grew into a teenager and then wage earner I went to away games on Wards Coaches from Lepton, donned in my claret and gold scarf with the players’ names hand embroidered, knitted and embroidered by myself (no club shops in those days). I recall in the 1950s as I waited in Lepton for the bus from Wakefield to take me to Huddersfield Tommy Smailes and Brian Briggs would be sitting on the front seat of the upper deck. They were travelling from Featherstone and Wakefield to play at Fartown – not many players owned their own car back then. I missed out on Wembley in 1962 because I was pregnant, but I vividly remember the exciting game against Wakefield at Odsal to win the Championship the following week. I always remind my daughter that she was there for that great game, and yes, she has learned to love our great game.”
Current players have added some of their own highlights. Leroy Cudjoeshared his greatest memory for Huddersfield Giants, winning the play off game at Warrington in 2010, scoring a 90metre interception in the final moments of the game. Michael Lawrence chose his debut for the Giants against Warrington Wolves back in 2007 as a 17 year old, and Chris Thorman's greatest memory of his time with the Huddersfield Giants was captaining the side to its first Challenge Cup final in over 40 years.
The Giants currently sit top of the Super league having won four out of four to start the season. Hopefully plenty more good memories will be made on Sunday