After a winter of hype, 2021 wasn’t the season Huddersfield fans dreamed of but if their new signings settle in ahead of next year the campaign of their dreams may come, just a year late.
Ian Watson has shown some nerve over the last 12 months allowing the likes of Aidan Sezer and co to leave and building the squad he envisaged when he took over at Huddersfield. As that squad takes shape, it’s gotten tougher to predict the 17 Watson will run with next term but we’ve still given it a go.
Fullback: Will Pryce
This may surprise some of you, but according to Ian Watson himself Will Pryce’s natural position is fullback and he has all the attributes to be a top-class number one in the mould of Sam Tomkins. We’ve seen his running game devastate teams and he has obvious skills as seen by his exploits in the halves. He could still end up as a halfback, but with the arrival of two top halves over the winter, he may play the majority of his rugby at the back and he’s already shown himself to be undroppable at the moment despite the quality of Ashton Golding. That said, Pryce himself said in an interview with the Examiner Live that he hopes to learn from Golding over the course of this season so we could see the duo take it in turns as Golding, admittedly still young himself, passes on his wisdom to one of Super League’s upcoming stars.
Wingers: Jermaine McGillvary and Louis Senior
That said, Golding could appear on the wing after all he has experience in the role from his time at Leeds and the loss of Sam Wood and Darnell McIntosh has left a hole on the left flank for Huddersfield. If Watson wants to find a way to include Pryce and Goulding as well as his two new halves, this could be the way to do it. That said, he may turn to a more natural winger in the shape of one of the Senior brothers both of whom have signed new deals recently. With both coming of age this year, this could be their time to shine. Meanwhile, the at times world class Jermaine McGillvary is virtually guaranteed a place on the right wing.
Centres: Jake Wardle and Ricky Leutele
Huddersfield have two centres most teams in the league would be envious of. In Jake Wardle they have a young English centre with heaps of potential and every skill you’d want a centre to have, he’s a class act and if he can get over the injuries that made his 2021 a struggle, he could be exceptional next year. Meanwhile, Ricky Leutele is an explosive attacking unit most defences will struggle to stop. The pair could be dangerous in 2022.
Halfbacks: Tui Lolohea and Theo Fages
The biggest task for Ian Watson in pre-season is forging Tui Lolohea and Theo Fages into an effective halfback partnership. The pair have complimentary attributes and can win a game in an instant, so could become one of the best halfback pairings in the league especially with a coach as good as Watson working with them every day on the training field.
Props: Chris Hill and Matty English
Chris Hill has been one of the best props in the league since his arrival at Warrington in 2012. Although at the end of his career now, he still has definite quality that can bolster the Huddersfield pack and he’ll be a brilliant leader for Huddersfield too. Meanwhile, I believe Matty English will join him in the front row. English has been one of the most consistent and hard-working middles in Super League over the last two seasons and, now supported by Huddersfield’s exciting recruits in the pack, could hit a new level in 2022.
Hooker: Danny Levi
The arrival of Danny Levi was a major coup for Huddersfield. With over 100 NRL appearances under his belt and a New Zealand international representing them in the 2017 World Cup, he has sheer quality and could give Huddersfield another level next year. That said, he’ll have to form an understanding with the other members of Huddersfield’s new-look spine in 2022 if he truly wants to hit the heights he’s capable of.
Second-Rowers: Josh Jones and Chris McQueen
These two offer Huddersfield sheer quality in the back-row. When at Salford, Josh Jones played his best rugby under Ian Watson and showed glimpses of that last season. Now settled at Huddersfield, expect him to kick on especially now that he’s moved away from loose-forward and into the second-row where he’s at his best. As for Chris McQueen, his frame would intimidate any defence but blend that with his experience and a touch of skill and you have a very good, very trustworthy second-row.
Loose-Forward: Luke Yates
There are few forwards as beloved across Super League by rival fans as Luke Yates. There’s something about the gutsy, hard-working and tough middle that most simply have to admire. A star performer in Salford’s run to the Challenge Cup Final in 2020 under Watson, he showed in a struggling Huddersfield team the same quality that underpinned Salford’s unlikely trip to the capital. If Huddersfield enjoy a more settled season, he could excel.
Substitutes: Sebastine Ikahihifo, Michael Lawrence, Joe Greenwood and Adam O’Brien
Huddersfield have plenty of options when it comes to the pack which makes selecting a bench difficult. Michael Lawrence’s leadership will no doubt be an ideal asset to bring off the bench, whilst Joe Greenwood offers cover for the entire pack and important mobility along with size, thus I see the pair finding their way onto the bench whilst Adam O’Brien’s electricity from dummyhalf could make him the ideal sub to bring on at nine although the likes of Jack Cogger and Ashton Golding could push for that spot as well. The last call comes down to two new arrivals, although Sam Hewitt must also be in with a shout, as Sebastine Ikahihifo and Nathan Mason push for a place in the 17. Both returning the Giants in 2022, Ikahihifo’s performances at Salford and his inclusion in the 2017 Dream Team sees him edge it for me. That said, Mason and Hewitt as well as the likes of Oliver Wilson and Owen Trout can count themselves as unlucky. The two young forwards especially will be reliable back-ups and could push for a starting spot as they improve and develop over the course of the season.