Experience of versatile Gilmour is crucial for title-chasing Giants

Huddersfield Giants' Lee Gilmour in action against London Broncos in the Challenge Cup.
Huddersfield Giants' Lee Gilmour in action against London Broncos in the Challenge Cup.
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Now, as a proud veteran of 450 career games, Huddersfield Giants’ Lee Gilmour knows just what to expect ahead of tonight’s Super League summit meeting with leaders Wigan Warriors.

Among that long list chalked up includes an astonishing seven Super League and six Challenge Cup finals so his name will be one of the first pencilled in when Nathan Brown begins the difficult process of selecting his best 17 for their biggest examination to date.

It has become a weekly occurrence to guess which star names will miss out but there is no substitute for sheer experience and, if the double-chasing Fartowners are going to push on and lift some long-awaited silverware, the versatile 34 year-old will undoubtedly be integral.

That versatility is remarkable; a player who represented Great Britain on the wing in 2002, causing New Zealand all manner of problems, reached his most recent milestone while ruggedly battling down the middle as a prop in Sunday’s 50-14 Challenge Cup win over London Broncos.

He starred with Bradford Bulls at times as a centre, where he spent much of last year with Huddersfield until youngster Joe Wardle was ready to step up, while in another sign of his longevity Gilmour won the first-ever Grand Final in 1998 as a raw 20-year-old Wigan second-row.

As he faces his former club this evening, looking to knock them from the top of Super League, that famous victory over Leeds will not be far from his thoughts as he plots to take Huddersfield to Old Trafford for the first time.

“They are brilliant memories and it was a fantastic night,” he recalled to the Yorkshire Post.

“I was only a young lad so just wanted to play and hopefully make it in the game.

“It was the first Grand Final but I wasn’t old enough to think about whether it was a good concept or not from the RFL.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable though and, after the disappointment of losing to Sheffield in the biggest Challenge Cup final upset ever, to lift the Super League trophy really finished our season on a high.

“Obviously, Wigan are currently in outstanding form winning eight on the bounce so it’s going to be good to test ourselves and see where we’re at.”

Dewsbury-born Gilmour, in his third season after a trophy-laden career at St Helens and just one try short of a ton, believes the progressive West Yorkshire club is ready to fulfil its potential.

An archetypal Yorkshireman, he is known throughout the sport as someone who does not mind having a little whinge and perhaps could still find something to moan about after winning the Lottery.

He is not, though, complaining now, even after finding himself in that unaccustomed prop role.

“It’s probably one position I thought I’d never play,” he ceded.

“But you do what you can and we were short at front row at the beginning of the season so I played there and things went reasonably well.

“I was a loose forward as a junior but played centre for Yorkshire Under-18s. That’s actually when I got spotted and Wigan signed me as a centre after seeing me for BARLA Under-18s.

“But they had Gary Connolly – obviously a legend – and had just signed Danny Moore, who’d played for Queensland and Australia, so, at 19, I found it very difficult to get in in front of them.

“John Monie switched me to back-row and I’m glad he did although for around six years I still didn’t know what my position was. I think a lot of coaches were in two minds too.

“I got stuck in that utility tag which benefited me at times but I eventually found it a hindrance. I could end up in three different positions in one game – second-row, loose and, if we were really struggling, out on the wing.

“But then the opportunity came to join Saints where Ian Millward said he wanted me to play left back-row to replace Chris Joynt.

“Alongside Sean Long, Keiron Cunningham, and Scully I was never going to turn that down.

“I do prefer back-row and would love to get back out there.”

Still able to break the line while cutting angles in trademark style, there seems no reason why Gilmour’s fascinating career cannot go on for a while still.

As durable as ever – he shrugged off a dislocated finger against London – he has always been praised for his professionalism.

“It seems quite a while since my debut but not as many as 450 games,” he reflected.

“I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get to 500. I’ve got next year contracted so hopefully I’ll play another 15 or so this year and I shouldn’t be too far away from the big five hundred.

“But I certainly think I’ve got a few more years left in me.

“It depends on how you look after yourself and, sometimes, how the club looks after you.

“I can’t quite train as hard as some of the younger blokes but I’ll be looking to extend my deal and carry on after next year.

“That’s up to Paul Anderson to decide, though, as he’ll be head coach then.”

Gilmour’s former Saints pack colleague steps up from assistant to replaces Brown at the end of the year. Whether Giants have ended their 50-year quest for a title by then remains to be seen but this evening will be a real test of those credentials.