Stone’s Giant step forward

FORMER Knights coach Rick Stone has steered Huddersfield into the Super League play-offs – just 12 months after he saved them from relegation.
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Last week’s 26-4 win over Leigh Centurions was the Giants’ sixth in seven games and lifted them toseventh, guaranteeing a berth in the Super 8’s this year.

“We have probably used 34 or 35 players and everyone has worked pretty hard, diligently, over a long period of time this year,’’ Stone said.

“We’ve had some times where we thought that it’s a long way up from where we were.

“We stuck at it, we stuck together, and we’ve gradually found a bit of belief and the last 10or 12weeks have been good.”

Stone was sacked by the Knights 18 games into the 2015 NRL season –his second stint in the head-coaching role – and was working ina part-time assistant’s position with the Roosters before he accepted the job with Huddersfield.

He has spent much of the past 12 months on the other side of the world to his wife and three sons, who remain based in Belmont.

“My familyare still at home and I miss them every day,” he said. “I missed watching my young bloke [Knights back-rower Sam Stone] make his NRL debut,which was tough, and I certainly miss living onLake Macquarie.”

It was a sacrifice the 50-year-oldfelt he had to make to pursue his career.

“I have really enjoyed my time since I have been here,” Stone said.

“Great people, terrific fans and a good style of rugby leagueto coach, play and watch.

“The depth is a bit thinner, considering there is not as many kids playing rugby league over here as there is in Australia.

“Not having a reserve grade is something a bit different and we have struggled to get our young lads a game.”

One of Stone’s early decisions was to recruit formerKnights fullback Jake Mamo, who started late after ankle surgery but repaid the faith with 12 tries in eight games.

But in a devastating blow for the club, Mamo suffered a foot injury earlier this monthand was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

“Jake has done an outstanding job here since he got over his [original] foot injury,” Stone said.

“On and off the fieldhe has been a big part of our mid-season revival here at theGiants.”

Stone said Mamo was an example of the opportunities available for import players in Super League.

“It’s a great experience for young players to travel the world and experience another culture,” he said.

“But the criteria over here is strict .

“You must play a high percentage of NRL games over your previous twoyears to get a visa.”

PROGRESS: Former Knights coach Rick Stone has steered Huddersfield into the Super League play-offs. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

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