Huddersfield Giants' Eorl Crabtree ready for Super League opener
Ahead of Super League XIX's opening game between Wigan and Huddersfield, Fraser Dainton meets one of the Giants...giants
Last Updated: 08/02/14 2:57pm
Make no mistake, this is one of the biggest season's for Super League for many years. On the back of an enormously successful World Cup, with a new sponsor, and the return of relegation, it's an opportunity for the game as a whole to make big strides. It's only fitting then, that I have a chat with one of the sport's biggest characters. And they don't come much bigger then Eorl Crabtree.
The enormous 6 foot 8 figure has to crouch down as he comes through the door of a local farm coffee shop. "This place is becoming a regular haunt for us. They have the ultimate challenge breakfast here, it's massive. Perfect for the big boys in the team." Although on this occasion he opts for just a pot of tea!
We talk about pre-season, and whether it's really been as hard as some of the stories I've been hearing. "It's literally sickening how hard we work - there have been moments when people have been throwing up on the field.
"I quickly look round to check none of the other customers are being put off their bacon sandwiches. Then I remember we're in Yorkshire, and these folk are made of sterner stuff.
"You have to be at your physical peak, you've got to get yourself to a level of fitness that you're hoping is superior to anyone else you might be up against. It's without doubt the toughest sport in the world, and I don't believe any other sport comes close really."
But that toughness takes its toll. "This year I've had an operation on my left elbow, and one on my right ankle. But I've been able to get back from them, and now I'm lifting weights in the gym again - something I haven't been able to do for the last four years.
"I suggest to him he must have had plenty of other injuries over his 13 year career at Huddersfield. He points at his nose, the bridge of which runs in three different directions, and jokingly replies "I don't know what makes you say that!"
But Big Eorl wouldn't have it any other way. "I'm so in love with the sport, and I'm so passionate about it, I think it's the best sport in the world by far. I'd love to be a part of its future, no matter whether it be on the field or off, I want to be part of rugby league. But I'll take the playing days for now."
And anyone involved with Super League would love to be part of the opening game, as Crabtree's League Leaders Shield winners travel to last season's Grand Final and Challenge Cup winners, Wigan. "The experience we now have in the squad, the new signings we have, it's the best opportunity we have to pick up something this year. It's going to be a tough one to start the season, but at least we'll know where we are."
It's a mouth-watering start to what should be a wide open and hugely exciting season, both at the top end and the bottom. Get ready for another nine months of terrific tries, massive hits, and nail-biting drama. Personally, I can't wait.
You can see more from Eorl Crabtree from 6pm tonight on Sky Sports News' Weekend Warm-Up