How did Huddersfield Giants become so good?

Super League has long been crying out for a new name on the trophy. Many have tried and failed to break the long-standing streak that as we go into 2024, which will offically be the 29th season of Super League, has seen only four teams lift the trophy.

Of those that have tried stopping St Helens, Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls, the season of 2013 promised to finally deliver that new name on the trophy, and it’s not one many were predicting to be the leading contenders to achieve that feat.

In 2001 Huddersfield were relegated from Super League. They bounced straight back to the top-flight for the 2003 season but had rarely threatened the top teams in the division, despite the best efforts of Chairman Kev Davy to invest in the club.

The 2007 season saw them bring in one of the game’s most decorated players. Paul Anderson had won every major honour in the game multiple times with Bradford and St Helens, inluding being part of two treble-winning sides. The no-nonsence prop also represented Great Britain on 10 occasions so brought a wealth of experience to the club when he was appointed assistant to Jon Sharp.

Huddersfield struggled during Anderson’s first two seasons as assistant, leading to him taking over towards the end of 2008 after the dismissal of Sharp. During his brief stint in charge, he showed his golden touch wasn’t limited to his time as a player as the Giants finished the year strongly.

Not yet ready to take the reigns as head coach, he remained as assistant when Nathan Brown came in as boss. Between the two the pair fashioned Huddersfield into a competitive side. They finished third in their first season together and even made it to Wembley. Three more play-off appearances followed as the Giants became a mainstay in the top eight.

At the end of 2012 Nathan Brown left to take over at St Helens, leaving Anderson to take charge of the Giants. It was predicted by many that Huddersfield would no longer challenge in the top half following Brown’s departure, but Anderson instantly inputted all the attributes that had seen him be so successful as a player.

The Giants became one of the most ruthless, physical and defensively resolute teams Super League has ever seen as they dominated the competition. Their opening day win summed up their brilliance as they thrashed St Helens 40-4 in their own backyard, defeating their former coach in the process.

Huddersfield, would claim the League Leaders’ Shield with a game to spare as Anderson became the first coach since 1962 to lead the Giants to major silverware. It was also the first time in 80 years that the club had finished top of the country’s major league competition.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/ – 12/09/2013 – Rugby League – Super League Playoff’s – Huddersfield Giants v Wigan Warriors – John Smiths Stadium, Huddersfield, England – Huddersfield’s Danny Brough.

Man of Steel Danny Brough, prolific winger Jermaine McGillvary and dominant forwards Eorl Crabtree, Craig Copczak and Brett Ferres were at the heart of everything Huddersfield did great that year, as were the likes of Leroy Cudjoe, Shaun Lunt and Luke Robinson. It was a team that had everything it needed to go and win the Super League title.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan in the play-offs, however, they did produce one of the best attacking displays in play-off history as the Giants stuffed Hull FC 76-18. Defeats in week one to Wigan and in the semi-finals to Warrington saw the Giants miss out on Old Trafford despite being the best team of the regular season.

Lacking the resources of many of his rivals, Anderson and his Giants continued to challenge at the top for the following few seasons. They finished in the top four in 2014 and 2015, and could have claimed a second League Leaders’ Shield on the final day had they beaten Leeds. It wasn’t to be but a third-place finish signified another impressive season for the Giants.

Unfortunately, major injuries during the 2016 season saw the Giants struggle and Anderson was harshly relieved of his position. Since his departure, Huddersfield haven’t competed at the level he took them to again, but across the majority of the time he was in charge there is no question he took the club to new heights and overcahieved on expectations.

What made the Giants so good across that time, and in particular that 2013 season, was the genuine feeling that they would win every game they played, especially with the maverick Danny Brough at the peak of his powers. They struck the same fear into the opposition that we’ve seen from the great St Helens, Wigan and Leeds teams over the years.

Huddersfield under Anderson should have won more silverware, they would have been champions in 2013 but saved their worst games of the season for when it mattered in the play-offs. But ‘Baloo’ for now will always be remembered for giving Huddersfield – the birthplace of rugby league – a team capable of challenging at the top and winning trophies. They are arguably the greatest team to never make it to a Super League Grand Final.