The Challenge Ahead: Huddersfield’s second shot at success

25 May 22, 6:25PM 0 Comments

Written by John Davidson

Photo by Huddersfield Giants

A decade ago the Huddersfield Giants appeared to be on the brink of something special.

In the 2013 Super League season they finished top in the regular season, won the League Leader’s Shield and lost just six games.

With Danny Brough, Luke Robinson, Scott Grix and Shaun Lunt pulling the strings, Jermaine McGilvary and Aaron Murphy crossing on the flanks and the likes of Eorl Crabtree, Craig Kopczak, Brett Ferres and Larne Patrick causing havoc in the middle of the field, the future finally looked bright for this under-achieving outfit.

They were a big, powerful side with guile in the halves and experience across the field. With young players like Kruise Leeming and Jake Connor coming through, and an up-and-coming coach in Paul Anderson, the Giants were in a good place.

But they made it just one game from the grand final, going down by eight points to Warrington to miss out on Old Trafford. The following season they again performed well, this time finishing third with just seven defeats, but again came unstuck in the semi-finals, this time at the hands of Catalans.

That was as good as it got for the Claret and Golds, as in 2015 they dropped to a fourth-placed finish, then in an injury-crippled 2016 they implofed – Anderson was sacked after a run of just four wins from their first 18 games. The squad was cleaned out. That year the club finished bottom in the regular season but managed to avoid relegation through the Super 8s Qualifiers.

Australian Rick Stone came in and managed to get Huddersfield back into the top eight in 2017, though he didn’t last long and in 2018 he was also axed and replaced by compatriot Simon Woolford. The club yo-yoed for the next few seasons and then in 2020 Woolford was gone too.

At the start of 2021 Ian Watson took charge. But it was anything but plain sailing for the former Salford boss. The Giants struggled for consistency last season and only won nine of 24 matches.

However, this year has been a different story. Watson overhauled the squad with 10 players departing, including Aidan Sezer and Kenny Edwards. Five players came in, key signings in the shape of Theo Fages, Tui Lolohea, Chris Hill and Danny Levi.

Lolohea has been a revelation at fullback, grand final winner Fages has given them control in the middle of the field, Levi bite at the ruck and Hill has added some grunt up front. Chris McQueen has been in devastating form this season, Innes Senior has been dynamic out wide, Luke Yates has been tackling anything that moves, while the likes of veterans Ricky Leutele, Leroy Cudjoe and Josh Jones are back to their best.

Watson’s charges had laid down a marker in Super League and are now through to the Challenge Cup final. It’s the club’s first final appearance since 2009.

Huddersfield haven’t won the Cup since 1953, a very long time between drinks. But this Saturday, against Wigan at the bright lights of Tottenham’s stadium, they have a great chance to finally claim some more silverware.

The 2022 Giants are a work in progress, but the signs are promising. An enviable mix of youth and experience, Englishmen and imports, old heads and talented prospects like Jake Wardle and Will Pryce, are there. Underpinning it all has been their academy.

A decade ago they had local products like McGilvary, Cudjoe and Lawrence leading the way. That trio are still there now but are being ably supported by the Senior twins, Matty English, Wardle, Pryce and others. These are players that came through their academy, grew up at the club and have an attachment to it.

Huddersfield are producing their own players and are much better for it. With a great young coach in Watson, the west Yorkshire side have the right man at the helm.

Once again, they appear on the brink of something special. Now is the time to turn that potential into success.

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