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Exclusive: Eorl Crabtree says Huddersfield players have put Ian Watson under pressure

Eorl Crabtree has admitted that Ian Watson is under pressure to succeed at his former club the Huddersfield Giants.

The Giants, to the surprise of everyone, find themselves in the bottom half of Super League, with a number of players, including new signing Jake Connor, struggling to adapt to Watson’s style of play.

Huddersfield had a superb 2022 season as they finished third in Super League and reached the Challenge Cup Final, where they were edged out by a last-gasp try by Wigan Warriors.

Tipped by many with one of the best squads in the league to challenge for silverware again in 2023, the Giants have failed to live up to the hype and have fallen way below pre-season expectations and the dizzy heights of last season.

Speaking about their struggles, Crabtree tried to diagnose what the problem is at the John Smith’s Stadium at present.

“They’ve got a lot of thinking to do and the coach has probably got pressure on his shoulders at the moment,” he said. “It’s his team and they’re not performing so he needs to find a way to get them to perform.

“I think the manner of the performances are what is the real worry at the moment, there was a lack of intensity against Hull FC. I see a lack of confidence and a lack of belief from the players at the moment, they’re probably going away from the gameplan a little bit as well as chasing games.”

Last season, Leeds Rhinos endured a torrid first half of the season, similar to that of Huddersfield now, before bouncing back in super style to reach the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Speaking on if Huddersfield could do the same in 2023, Crabtree admitted that at this present moment that is unlikely but he believes if the players back Watson and buy into his ideas, they have a chance.

“When you’ve not got that belief it makes it very difficult so he (Watson) has got to find that but can you do that in one week? I’m not sure.

“They have to believe in him and the system as well so it’s a tough period for them at the moment, but I think they’ll bounce back as they’ve got the players to do it.

“We’ve seen these players produce and I think many of them are out of form. Sport is all about momentum and the Giants have none of that at the moment and Super League this season is tough.”

Speaking more about the competition, Crabtree believes that barring Wakefield at the bottom, Huddersfield have been the victims of a very even competition where no team is guaranteed to win any game.

“I think many said before the season it was a hard season to call and that is how it is proving,” he said. “When the league closes up like it does, as in the top team like St Helens comes down a touch and the teams at the bottom come up, there will always be a team in danger of dropping down.

“I think we are seeing that the team that’s done that is Huddersfield, apart from Wakefield you’re looking at the fixtures and thinking they could lose the next five.

“At the same time though you’ve got to start somewhere and with the close nature of the league they could easily go on a winning run and fly up the league because it so tight.

“It’s a tough one for Watto (Ian Watson), but the players he has signed have to start to live up to the hype and those players that performed so well last season need to reach those levels again otherwise the pressure will continue to mount.”

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