Written by Callum Walker
It appears as though Simon Woolford’s time in England is over. With his contract running out at the end of the season, the Australian is “probably” going to head home as he explained in his pre-match press conference this week.
That is not exactly what Huddersfield fans were hoping of hearing; after joining midway through 2018 with the club in dire straits at the bottom of the table, Woolford helped turn the Giants around, steering them away from relegation.
And, although 2019 was a difficult year for the club – they finished just two points above relegated London Broncos – the Giants started the 2020 season like a house on fire. Four wins from a possible five – including the defeat of champions St Helens on their own patch – had them in the top four until lockdown struck.
Form hasn’t been as good since then with three losses on the spin, but injuries have been mounting and even this week, forwards Ukuma Ta’ai and Jon Luke Kirby have had their seasons cut short with an ankle ligament problem and an ACL injury respectively.
But, the work that Woolford has done in transforming Huddersfield into a potential play-off threat cannot be understated. The blooding of youth, not least regulars Darnell McIntosh, Matty English, Olly Russell, Sam Hewitt and Jake Wardle, has been impressive to say the least and the Giants are certainly in a better position now than when the 45-year-old took over.
The #SuperLeague table after this week's fixtures at Headingley 💪
Who makes the play-offs? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/jI0Su92dcY
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) September 5, 2020
Not only has Woolford’s focus on youth enamoured him to the Huddersfield faithful, his signings prior to 2020 have all played a major role in the Giants’ improvement. Ashton Golding, James Gavet, Kenny Edwards and Aidan Sezer – the latter in particular – have stepped in seamlessly and put in performances that have warranted their signatures.
Sezer has struck up a stellar partnership with ex-Saint Lee Gaskell in the halves which was more than evident prior to lockdown, although both have struggled with injury since the resumption. Golding has taken on the number one role with ease whilst Gavet and Edwards have formed the cornerstone of the pack.
Although initially only planning to stay for three or four years, Woolford has had just two full seasons so far. But, in that time, he has left a lasting legacy that the next head coach can take on and continue to propel the Giants further up the Super League table.