England make Giants step forward
Eighteen months ago, I sat down to write a feature about Huddersfield's new £250,000 youth development programme and the club's commitment to bringing through British rugby league talent.
This week, the Yorkshire club were celebrating having more players in England's Four Nations squad than anyone else. Half a dozen players from the Giants will fly out to Australia and New Zealand to compete against the co-hosts and Papua New Guinea. A couple of years ago, such a scenario would have appeared ludicrous.
England coach Steve McNamara told BBC Radio 5 live this week that he found it "quite difficult" to settle on his final 24 - and he certainly caused a stir with the number of Huddersfield players he picked.
Scrum-half Luke Robinson, cast aside by Wigan after struggling to fulfil his early promise, marks his impressive return to prominence with a selection so surprising it has derailed his own marriage plans.
An October wedding seemed a safe call for a player whose only international experience came in 2002 when he played in the England Academy side that toppled the Aussie schoolboys. But his form and - as he will admit himself - injuries to the likes of Danny McGuire, Kyle Eastmond and Kevin Sinfield prompted logistical chaos as he was handed a place on the England plane.
Fair play to the 60 relatives who will still fly to Cyprus to enjoy a holiday rather than the sunshine ceremony for which they had signed up. "A few family members are a bit miffed at paying for a wedding and just getting a holiday," said Robinson, who said the rearranged do will now take place in the more earthy environs of Halifax when he returns.
Robinson's rise, or indeed his second coming, epitomises the project put in place by Huddersfield chief Richard Thewlis, who sat me down in April 2009 to put right what he saw as some of the media misconceptions of the way Giants structured their squad.
Thewlis, the club's managing director, was frustrated, angry even, at the way he felt the press criticised his club for failing to nurture home-grown talent, opting instead to splash big cash on big-name Aussie imports. "The best way to predict the future is to create it ourselves," he told me that day.
You could forgive Thewlis for turning up at the airport to proudly wave the England squad off from the runway as Robinson, Leroy Cudjoe, Shaun Lunt, Eorl Crabtree, Darryl Griffin and Kevin Brown jet off to arm wrestle with the best in the world.
Cudjoe is in the squad on merit and fans will hope he will add a powerful spark to the traditionally thin-looking England backline. Brown, like Robinson, is a resurgent former Wigan Warrior, thriving across the Pennines. Griffin and Crabtree provide real bulk in the pack, while young hooker Lunt is the unknown quantity.
I like the look of the England pack. In fact, I reckon we could prove formidable up front. In Gareth Ellis and Sam Burgess, we have two Australian-based forwards who have not just proved themselves in the NRL but have been two of the best players in the competition in their debut seasons.
Steve McNamara caused a stir with the number of Huddersfield players he picked
But the England forwards are rarely an issue because we have such an abundance of quality in the pack. The age-old problem is a lack of depth in the backs and, as loathe as I am to voice concerns before we have even locked horns with Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, I do worry.
With every respect to St Helens-bound Michael Shenton - a terrific but still relatively raw prospect - my pal Ryan Atkins, who has had an excellent season at Warrington, Harlequins' Tony Clubb, Wigan winger Darrell Goulding and Robinson himself, these are not names you can imagine filling the Aussies or Kiwis with dread.
So does McNamara worry about the lack of depth in this area?
"It's not a problem but I do think we could have more," he said. "That's a long-term project and we have got to bring through more quality backs. I'm not too concerned about it and am happy with the squad I've got."
With Sam Tomkins sparkling this season and really relishing the chance to prove his class against the world's best, McNamara does have match winners. He would have loved to take Eastmond but the Saints player has become worryingly injury-prone.
One of Eastmond's club-mates told me the half-back was like the team's Ferrari. He needs looking after and can often stay in the garage for weeks on end but when he emerges for a spin you stand back and say "wow" as he flashes by, oozing class at full throttle. But then it is not long before he is back in the garage for some more bodywork.
A year ago, you would have expected Warrington's Richie Myler to be on the plane, too. He is another cocky young star with that je ne sais quoi. Yet it is Myler himself who is asking "pourquoi?" after a season in which he has gone from England international to a player who cannot even make his club team.
So England head down under with a powerful, experienced pack and a young, new-look backline. They will need time to establish themselves but, as fans, we are impatient. I have hosted a few events over the last few months with coaches, like McNamara, and lose count of the amount of times I ask them how close we are to bridging the gap between ourselves and the southern hemisphere super powers.
In truth, we are big outsiders to topple Australia and New Zealand this autumn - McNamara will tell you that himself. He has picked young players on form and we have to applaud him for that and afford the squad the time it needs.
If you examine McNamara's selections, you can find all manner of reasons for concern if your England pint pot is half empty rather than half full. For example, back-up centre Clubb, while having bags of power going forward, is Super League's leader in missed tackles on 92, more than Keith Senior, Kirk Yeaman and Martin Gleeson combined, none of whom are in the squad.
I offered out that stat on Twitter and got accused of undermining players' confidence before they had even had a go. Perhaps rightly so. We have tried the likes of Senior and Gleeson and it has not worked for us. Senior's international days are gone anyway.
Darrell Goulding could not stop scoring tries for Wigan this season, his 25 touchdowns second only to Man of Steel team-mate Pat Richards. But how much did he rely on his in-form centre Gleeson? The cynics may argue the same could be said of Saints winger Ade Gardner, who gained international recognition after running in hatfuls of tries outside Jamie Lyon and Matt Gidley. Goulding, of course, has not had his chance yet and fully deserves it given the fruitful season he has had.
But what can we hope for from England and realistically what can this squad achieve? I am excited about what is possible. But the worrier in me thinks we could get walloped. "Continued improvement is the goal," stated McNamara. "That is the only target. If that happens we will enjoy ourselves."