Today we move back west to the John Smith’s Stadium and get the views of 2 Huddersfield Giants fans.
We have Nathaniel Wood, a season ticket holder at the Giants – who helped us out with last years’ preview – and @FeeFiFoFum who provide Huddersfield Giants news, updates & opinions at www.feefifofum.co.uk.
Our thanks to them both for finding the time to give us their opinions…
First of all tell us a little about yourself…
FF: About a decade ago I started casually following the club, keeping an eye on scores here and there, mainly because my dad has watched Huddersfield for decades. Around 2012 I started watching a few games, in 2013 I got my first season ticket and I’ve had one every year since!
NW: I’m Nathaniel , 28 years old who follows Huddersfield Giants home and away. I have done for 10 years now and I also work with our Academy, voluntary updating the social media.
Sum up last season as a Huddersfield fan.
FF: On the plus side, I liked the kit and we didn’t get relegated. Everything else was a huge disappointment. After years of being plagued by fitness issues, things were starting to look up for us this time last year, then suddenly we started the season with 9 players out. The whole year felt scrappy, like we were trying to build a team as we went. There was no consistency in the line-up or the performances: for example, we absolutely demolished Hull FC at Magic Weekend, but we’d lost 6 of our last 8 games leading up to that, with two frankly lucky wins at home to KR and London. It was so frustrating. There was one big positive for us though, the efforts of our younger players. Matty English, Jake Wardle, Oliver Wilson and the Senior twins were instrumental in keeping us in Super League.
NW: Last season nearly turned into a nightmare season. As the season started I was optimistic for a good year. It nearly ended up in relegation but luckily we managed to stay up. It was also frustrating at times, as we had 3-4 games where we lost by a point and if they’d have turned into wins then the season could have been different.
We welcome Toronto into Super League for the first time, meaning we now have 2 teams from outside of the UK taking part in Super League.
So in three parts: a) What are your thoughts on Toronto’s promotion, b) would you welcome more expansion teams from across Europe and/or North America and c) what would your ideal ‘domestic’ Rugby League competition look like in 20-30 years (e.g. Toronto to still be part of the Super League structure with other expansion teams, all expansion teams to be in their own strong domestic leagues, UK only super League etc.)
FF: a) For me, it’s easily the most exciting thing to happen to the sport in decades. Considering we’re always lamenting the lack of media coverage outside our own bubble, it’s the exact kind of thing we should be aiming for. A sports-mad, major North American city, who bring with them one of the most recognisable athletes in either code. It’s getting people talking, which is exactly what we need
b) I’d welcome more expansion teams provided they’re sustainable, but as we welcome more in we should see it as an opportunity to expand the league. If clubs can’t get by on just home and away fixtures in a 12 team competition, I’d take a few exciting new clubs over loop fixtures any day
c) Even though I believe expansion is crucial, ideally Toronto in Super League would be a short-term solution. In 20-30 years if we could have a competitive league in North America, and maybe even one in mainland Europe with Catalans, Toulouse, Valencia, etc, then that can only be good for the game. It would then open things up for a massively revamped World Club Series with the best of all leagues. Whether that’s attainable in 20 years is questionable, but I can dream!
NW: a) I don’t really have an opinion on Toronto being promoted. It’s just another team we have to play for me. It’s good to see them getting players like Sonny Bill Williams who I’m looking forward to seeing
b) From a selfish point of view then no, I wouldn’t like more expansion, as means less games I can get to, however if it’s for the best to make rugby league better than I am all for it.
c) if I’m honest it’s something I’ve not really thought about.
How do you think the Giants will go in 2020?
FF: I’ve got high hopes for this season. We’ve made some really smart signings, the addition of a Head of Rugby is allowing Woolford to really focus on the task at hand, and by all accounts our new Head of Conditioning is getting the boys fitter than they’ve been in years. With all that considered, I’m amazed at how many are backing us for the drop. Could we get relegated? Of course, I think almost anyone in the league could. But I’d consider finishing anywhere near that end of the table a major disappointment. We’re flying under the radar this year, so I know some will laugh at this, but I genuinely think we could surprise a lot of people, get a good cup run and, if we keep key players fit, even challenge for a play-off spot.
NW: I think we will have a better year than last year. I will be looking for a top 8 finish. We have had some quality in with Sezer and Edwards and our youngsters like the Seniors and Wardle are just getting better and better. I would like a good cup run as we haven’t had one for a while. Minimum expectation is to not be battling relegation at end of the season and advancing into last 16 of the cup.
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve?
FF: Our 2020 recruitment is the best I’ve seen in years, pretty much everything the fans were calling out for has been addressed. We needed an experienced fullback, and we got one. We needed more aggression to stop being bullied in the pack, we got Edwards and Gavet. But the main thing we needed was a General, to fill the hole left by Brough. And for me, while there’s been a lot of good signings in the league this year, Aidan Sezer is right up there. Admittedly, there is some concern about our depth at hooker with the late departure of Leeming, but O’Brien looked fantastic in our opening friendly, and we have cover if we need it.
NW: Very happy with our recruitment. Sezer is an outstanding signing who will bring loads to the team. Edwards will bring quality and aggression to our pack as will Gavet. Golding is a solid signing for the full back. I would ideally want another hooker if we could as an injury to O’Brien and we could be in trouble.
Golden point was used in Super League last year – what are your thoughts on the system?
FF: I’m really not a fan, it feels gimmicky. Half the time it’s going to come down to a coin flip, as the first team to get possession has a huge advantage. Hull KR effectively got relegated on that 50/50 chance. I’d have Golden Try in play-off or cup games, and just let a draw be a draw in the league.
NW: I like golden point. I think it adds drama and adds to the spectacle for newcomers to the sport would could want to see drama. Maybe they could bring a system in where you get a point for a draw and an extra point if you win in golden point.
Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?
FF: Sezer feels like too obvious an answer. It is, however, the correct answer. Watching him in Jerry’s testimonial, he’s a very vocal player and will give us some much-needed leadership and direction (which, in turn, will allow Gaskell to relax and be at his best). His kicking game will be as good as anyone else in the league, and it really feels like he’s passionate about achieving something over here, not just turning up for a payday.
NW: My player to watch out for is Darnell McIntosh. He had a solid season last season at full back but he has been moved back to wing for this year and I think he will find his feet and become the player we all know he can be. Sezer would be another one.
Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?
FF: I think Dom Young will have his breakout year in 2020. So far he’s only played in one Super League game, against you lot, and was registered as a first teamer hours before kick-off. It wasn’t a great game for the Giants. But he’s a very promising young talent, and will develop hugely this year. In terms of really making a name for themselves, Matty English is the one to watch. He’s only 22, and doesn’t have the build of your average prop, but he’s got what it takes to go all the way.
NW: Jake Wardle is the young player to watch out for. He has everything you need to be a top class centre. If he stays injury free then this could be his breakthrough year.
What are your predictions for 2020…
FF: Last year the league was so close that the 2nd placed side was as close to the bottom as it was to the top. I have zero confidence in any predictions I’m about to make, but here goes. Saints and Wigan are the only clubs I feel are nailed on for the top 5, so I’d maybe back them for the Grand Final. Of those two, I’d back Saints to win it. I’m expecting Salford, KR and Toronto to make up the bottom three, but I honestly believe any three of the remaining seven clubs could make up the rest of the top 5. I also have a funny feeling the cup will be one by one of those seven clubs, but likely one who’s not a front-runner for the play-offs. A side who know they’re safe from the drop but unlikely to make the top 5 will be able to put more effort into getting to Wembley. As for relegation, like I said above, it could be almost anyone, but gun to my head, Hull KR seem the clear favourites
NW: Top 5: Saints, Wigan, Hull FC, Warrington, Leeds; Grand Final: Saints v Hull FC; Champions: Saints; Challenge Cup: Wigan; Relegated: Hull KR.
Who will be Man of Steel? Do you agree with the way the votes are given out?
FF: I don’t love the current system, but to be fair I don’t have a better solution. It rewards you for being the star man, and punishes good players in good sides (you’re not telling me that Williams or Fifita had a better 2019 than Lomax or Thompson). So with that in mind, my expectations for Saints and Wigan make me think it’s very unlikely they have the next Man of Steel in their ranks. You need to look for a stand-out player at a club. If Toronto do well, Sonny Bill is in with a shot. If Catalans do well, James Maloney will be key to it. If we have a strong season? I’d be lying if I said I haven’t stuck a fiver on Sezer!
NW: Man of steel to be Daryl Clark. He is crucial to the Warrington side. I like the way they do it now as some players used to do it as a joke so it used to make the award a mockery.