Will Pryce | Player's Perspective
Huddersfield Giants 2021 season has been anything but perfect. They currently sit third from bottom in Betfred Super League and have contended with constant disruptions caused by injuries, suspensions and Covid-19.
Head Coach Ian Watson has been unable to field a consistent line-up throughout the year and has more recently put his faith in younger, less experienced players.
In doing so, several of the Giants next generation of stars – players still learning their trade at the top level – have gained invaluable exposure in the first team.
And the Giants impressive ecosystem of young talent has once again proved its worth, particularly from the emergence of 18-year-old Will Pryce.
Son of former Bradford Bulls, St Helens and Great Britain star Leon, Will was perhaps destined to follow in his dads footsteps.
From starting out as a 5-year-old at West Bowling, to moving to the South of France at 8 when Leon signed for Catalans, Will’s life has firmly revolved around rugby league.
Like father, like son 👏
Welcome to #SuperLeague, Will Pryce#SuperLeague #SLHudCat pic.twitter.com/HBDzMpTT8Q
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) July 1, 2021
Despite that, the youngster found himself at a crossroads in his rugby league journey that almost came to an abrupt halt.
“Coming through at amateur level I didn’t get many scholarship offers. I got one from Wakefield when I was 14 and didn’t get offered anywhere else.
“Different players were getting six or seven offers from different clubs, but I was sort of getting brushed aside.
“I got a chance to do a six-month trial at St Helens and train with the scholarship team. I didn’t play any games but trained with them two or three days a week – that was really enjoyable but it didn’t work out.
“I had a chat with the coaches at the academy and they told me there wasn’t really a pathway for me there at that time."
Thankfully, all was not lost. A phone call from Andy Kelly – the Head of Youth at the Giants – whilst Will was playing rugby union gave him a life line and a chance to chase his dream at the Giants.
After impressing during his second year of scholarship at Huddersfield, Will signed with their academy at 16.
A confident and evidently talented youngster, even Will had some doubts. The comparisons to his dad – who was a highly revered youngster that starred in a Grand Final at 18 – were constant.
But an innate desire to achieve his lifelong goal and pave his own way in a sport that is deeply engrained into his family name, spurred him on.
“Obviously there’s always a bit of worry. My dad was a well talked about youngster when he was coming through and quite a few teams wanted him. When he was coming through he was a good player but for me, I was a bit of a late bloomer.
“I was a small kid when everyone else was growing and getting bigger, I wasn’t ridiculously fast and I wasn’t smashing anyone so I really just had to back my own rugby ability and focus on different parts of my game like my kicking and passing game.
“I had to make sure that my rugby knowledge was in tip top shape so that when it came down to it, if I didn’t have those ridiculous athletic skills that some players did, I could play using my rugby ability.
“I always knew if I just kept my head down and kept cracking on with it and give it everything I could then in a couple of years’ time I could be in a position I’m in now.”
Will began this year's pre-season with the academy, but was called up to the first team in the New Year after a shortage of players due to Covid-19.
Although it was a period of adversity for the Giants squad early on in Ian Watson's tenure, it was an opportunity for Will - one that he intended to grab with both hands.
“I didn’t know whether it was going to be long term or short term. I tried to take my chance to train and impress as much as I could.
“I’d grown in confidence from the first team training and getting the help from the likes of Aidan Sezer, Leroy Cudjoe, Jermaine McGillvary, Kenny Edwards – world class players that have played international level and played against the best players.
“The experience I had around me and the amount of help those boys gave me, I couldn’t ask for much more. It’s been really good for me.”
Role models have never been hard to find for Will. His uncle Karl had a hugely successful stint in Super League, and of course his dad has been a massive influence on his career so far.
Comparisons between Will and Leon are never too far away, but Will is determined to make his own name in the sport.
Will Pryce, dummy and step 🤩👏
The @Giantsrl half with a quality try in the win #SuperLeague pic.twitter.com/0vop8O4wPt
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) July 23, 2021
”I’ve been compared to my dad my whole life. I always knew that I had to be my own player – if you look at the way me and him play, there’s obviously similarities but there’s also a lot of differences as well.
“The comparisons there and there’s always going to be a bit of pressure with that, but I knew that once I got onto that pitch there’s nothing he can do and nothing anybody can say that he’s done.
“I’ve been told the only reason I am where I am today is because of my dad - but as soon as I get onto the pitch it’s a chance for me to express myself and show my own individuality and try to do that confidently. That’s what I’ve tried to do straight away."
Nevertheless, Will appreciates the invaluable guidance his dad has given him to this point – not just as a former player himself, but as a dad who wants his son to succeed.
“I see him everyday and we talk about loads of stuff, but rugby’s the main thing we have in common so we talk about that all the time.
“He tries to give me as much advice as he can – whether that’s on or off the field – like any dad would, not just because he’s an ex-rugby player. Any dad wants to make sure their son has the best chance they can.
“After every game he’s the first person I’ll ring or speak to about it. He’ll always tell me what I’ve done well but makes sure that I know what I’ve done bad and what I can improve on.
“We’re always talking about improving and how I can get better, adding more strings to my bow and making sure I can be a complete player in years to come.”