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Long Read Interview: Ian Watson

Ian Watson of course hasn’t been happy with his side’s recent defeats as Huddersfield Giants lost to Hull FC and Hull KR – the latter a dismal 28-0 defeat.

It has been a tough start to the season for last season’s Challenge Cup Finalists who are now 10th on the Super League ladder having lost six of their opening 10 matches.

Though still early days, it has been a surprising drop for the team that finished third last season, with many tipping the Giants to finish in th top two places before the season having added the likes of Jake Connor to an already strong-looking squad.

Speaking this week ahead of their game against the Leigh Leopards, a side who have done the opposite to Huddersfield and achieved above expectations this season, Watson explained what he thinks has been going wrong for the Giants recently.

“We’ve had two really poor weeks, we’d been pretty comfortable and happy with where we were before then but these two weeks have knocked us off the rails so to speak,” said Watson.

He added: “We want and need a response. It’s not been good enough the last two weeks. It’s just made us focus more on the now rather than looking forward, it’s kind of pulled us all back into check a little bit.

“We didn’t get too carried away anyway but the thing is we had one good season last year and finished in the top four, got to a Challenge Cup final but to be a top team you have to do it every year like a Catalans, like a St Helens, like a Wigan. They do it every year and show a level of consistency.

“We’ve got some of them players who show them traits and a level of consistency and we’ve got others that still show traits of inconsistency. That’s where we are.

“You look at some of our performances earlier on in the year and then look at the last two and the last two have been nowhere near where we’ve been before, that comes down to a level of inconsistency.”

Going into more detail on his side’s tough start, Watson also addressed whether the media’s expectations, which were very high before the season started, have had an impact on his side.

“You kind of like expectation, challenging teams to be better is a good thing and that’s what we wanted to be, where we want to be and what our aim is,” Watson explained.

“It probably doesn’t help with younger players because they have one good year and they kind of believe the hype and that they’re better than they are, whereas the only reason they got to where they got last year is because they bought into working hard for each other.

“They did that day in day out, this is a different team than last year and everybody is still saying ‘oh it’s one of the best squads’ and I do believe that we’ve got a good strong squad, probably one of the strongest squads but in lots of areas it’s still unproven.

“You’re not filling it out like a St Helens’ squad that has been there year in year out, these players are learning to deal with that level of pressure and expectation.

“For St Helens that level of expectation and pressure is there every year, that’s a different level of pressure. You have some teams near the bottom end of the table who have the pressure of relegation every year.

“At Huddersfield we’ve gone from kind of a bottom four team to all of a sudden having one good year and then the next year everyone is telling players that they’re going to win the competition. It’s not going to just happen by talking about it, it happens by hard work and going and getting it.

“That’s probably the bit we’ve lacked, we just thought that because we’d beat Catalans at home and we were in a good spot so it’s like we just thought ‘well we’ve got Hull now and they’ve lost seven games’, we turned up undercooked and didn’t perform at the right level.

“We then go to Hull KR and we turn up with a performance that lacks effort and energy. I know it was terrible conditions but we spoke as a group that we felt we lacked certain strengths of ours.”

After saying his side need to leave the egos aside after defeat to Hull KR, he revealed conversations with individuals to address the problems his side are facing as well as to further explain his comments.

“Yeah we have had conversations. They’ll all stay in house but we’ve had some honest conversations and the players have been really honest themselves about what they think about themselves and where they think the team is as well.

“In that way it’s been a good week but it’ll only tell on the playing field tomorrow in how we play if we’re true to our word and what we say.

“It needs to be out there to talk, you look at the competition and it’s so close with any team able to beat any team. Teams are going to have bad patches at some point, hence look at us right now, teams will also go through good patches.

“We’ve got to change the momentum and strip it back this week where it’s just about looking at Leigh and Leigh only, not focusing on anything else because what we’ve proven over the last couple of weeks is that we’re not good enough to look further ahead at the moment.”

Speaking more on their crucial clash with Leigh tonight, Watson has been very impressed by the Leopards and underlined the challenge they will face at the John Smith’s Stadium.

“They’ll present a tough challenge, I think they’ve been outstanding,” said Watson. “The way they went about it last year to get into Super League and signing quite a lot of older established Super League players, mixed with some of the NRL players they already had there.”

He also claimed that the Leopards, despite still being the competition’s newest team having gained promotion at the end of last season, have four of the best players in Super League.

Speaking on Leigh, who have won 6 of their first 11 games and currently sit in the playoff spots, Watson added: “For me they’ve got probably four of the best players in Super League at the moment if you look at Lachlan Lam, John Asiata, Zak Hardaker, Ricky Leutele.

“There’s other players you can pick out in there that have done really very well, so we need to be clear about what their strengths are so we’ve done all out homework on them so it’s going to be about how we play.

“We did that against Hull KR and we actually started really well, we won the arm wrestle then made some decisions that didn’t go for us in that game.

“We need to be resilient enough to get back to it we’ve had a chat about that this week, just about being more patient and sticking to the process and the game plan.”

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