Season Preview: Huddersfield Giants
A year which began with excitement and promise soon turned to disappointment for Huddersfield Giants during Ian Watson’s first year in charge last season. The Giants won just three of their opening 14 Betfred Super League fixtures in 2021 – injuries, Covid-19 and a lack of consistency all contributed to their underwhelming campaign.
All was not lost, however. Watson was forced to put his faith in Huddersfield's youngsters - blooding new, exciting talents and exposing them to life in the topflight. The emergence of youngsters such as Will Pryce alongside the development of the likes of Oliver Russell and Owen Trout gave the Giants a new lease of life, and left Watson with plenty to be optimistic about heading into the new season.
Now, after further changes in personnel within their squad and the inclusion of seasoned campaigners such as Chris Hill, Tui Lolohea, Theo Fages and Danny Levi – the Giants look well balanced in 2022 as they look to create a refreshed buzz at the John Smith's Stadium this year.
Ins & Outs
Theo Fages (St Helens), Tui Lolohea (Salford Red Devils), Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves), Nathan Mason (Leigh Centurions), Danny Levi (Brisbane Broncos), Innes Senior (Wakefield Trinity, loan return), Seb Ikahihifo (Salford Red Devils, loan return), Oliver Roberts (Salford Red Devils, loan return).
Lee Gaskell (Wakefield Trinity), James Cunningham (Toulouse Olympique), Joe Wardle (Leigh Centurions), Aidan Sezer (Leeds Rhinos), Kenny Edwards (Castleford Tigers), Nathaniel Peteru (released), Sam Wood (Hull KR), Darnell McIntosh (Hull FC), Nathan Peats (Albi), Ronan Michael (York City Knights, loan).
Ones to watch
The Giants struggled to gel as a collective last season. A host of new signings took time to settle and the side – which on paper looked hugely competitive – struggled for consistency. The acquisition of Theo Fages into the halves is certainly a step in the right direction for Huddersfield.
Fages joins the Giants from a club that breeds winners and have done nothing but win over the past three years. Fages has been integral to that success – both on and off the field – with his selfless attitude and hard work. He is a smart attacker who will create chances close to the line for the Giants and is a reliable player whenever he steps foot on the pitch. And importantly, Fages is tough. He defends well above his weight and is an all-round asset. Expect him to shine at the Giants this season.
When Huddersfield snapped up centre Ricky Leutele ahead of the 2021 season, the club had every reason to be excited. The Samoan international is an NRL Premiership winner and a devastating threat on the edge. However, a dream move for the Giants began in nightmare fashion when Leutele broke his hand during their opening round match against Hull FC, limiting his time on the field last year.
After a disrupted season, Leutele has a chance to start fresh in 2022. He will likely have a new half-back on his shoulder and plenty of fire power down the middle, giving Leutele every time and space to cause problems out wide. If that is the case, he will thrive in the centre position and will be a must watch attraction at Huddersfield this year.
Who else but Will Pryce? The youngster lit up Super League last year after making his debut from the bench against Catalans in July. His fearless and confident displays were a breath of fresh air during the second half of Huddersfield’s season, with Pryce demonstrating his freakish potential in the halves. This year, he has been handed the number one shirt – a real vote of confidence from head coach Ian Watson, particularly given the options Huddersfield have at the back.
Pryce made his debut for England Knights during the off-season - the cherry on top of an impressive debut year. His move to full-back will undoubtedly present a new challenge to the youngster, but he’s more than capable of tackling it head on and continuing his rise in 2022.
Huddersfield are the first Super League side to venture out to Toulouse, facing the newly promoted side in Round One on Saturday 12 February, live on Sky Sports. Ian Watson's side are up against a Toulouse club that will be determined to start their journey in the topflight with a win in front of their home fans. The Giants, however, were successful the last time they travelled to France in the opening round of Super League, defeating Catalans away from home in Round One two years ago.
The Giants toughest run of fixtures comes in the summer months, when they face last season’s top three in consecutive weeks. They begin with an away trip to the home of the Champions, St Helens, on Friday 15 July, followed by a trip to the South of France to face the 2021 League Leaders, Catalans Dragons. The Giants finish the run of games with a home tie the following week against Warrington Wolves on Friday 29 July.
1. Will Pryce, 2. Jermaine McGillvary, 3. Jake Wardle, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Ashton Golding, 6. Tui Lolohea, 7. Theo Fages, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Michael Lawrence, 11. Josh Jones, 12. Chris McQueen, 13. Luke Yates, 14. Matty English, 15. Joe Greenwood, 16. Jack Cogger, 17. Owen Trout, 18. Sebastine Ikahihifo, 19. Adam O'Brien, 20. Oliver Wilson, 21. Leroy Cudjoe, 22. Louis Senior, 23. Olly Russell, 24. Ollie Roberts, 25. Innes Senior, 26. Nathan Mason, 27. Jack Ashworth, 28. Robson Stevens, 29. Sam Hewitt, 30. Jon Luke Kirky, 31. Olly Ashall-Bott, 32. Fenton Rogers, 33. Aidan McGowan, 34. Kieran Rush, 35. George Roby, 36. Chester Butler.