Nathan Brown, the Huddersfield Giants coach, has started the mind games ahead of this weekend's Super League semi-finals by claiming his own team and Wigan Warriors have the advantage over Leeds Rhinos and St Helens, last year's finalists. The Rhinos and Saints, who have contested the last four Grand Finals, had last weekend off after winning their opening qualifying play-off ties to earn home semi-finals.
However the Giants and the Warriors are both battle-hardened and buoyant after gaining impressive sudden-death wins. Huddersfield, who had never won a play-off tie until this year, aim to follow up their surprise win at Warrington Wolves by toppling St Helens at Knowsley Road on Friday to reach their maiden Grand Final, while defending champions Leeds host Wigan on Saturday. Brown said: "Two weeks ago, if someone had said you could have the week off, you'd take it obviously but I think you have an advantage if you play and win and come through injury-free because you keep your momentum going.
"There is nothing like playing and I think for us and Wigan we have a clear advantage over the other sides this week." The contrast could hardly be greater as Brown looks to guide the Giants to their first championship success for 48 years, 14 months after taking them to Wembley for the first time since 1962. Although they have lost in each of the last three Grand Finals, Saints have been Super League champions five times in the summer era and have also lifted the Challenge Cup seven times.
Brown believes the Saints are in danger of becoming victims of their own success. He added: "Over the years they've built up a tradition of winning and so there is a lot of weight on a lot of people's shoulders, whereas we're going there as underdogs to have a good shot at it." * Press Association