GIVEN he scored two tries inside the opening 10 minutes against Wakefield Trinity, Huddersfield Giants rookie centre Sam Wood has put himself in a decent position to step up again and face Hull FC on Thursday night.
Admittedly, if captain Leroy Cudjoe is passed fit for that Super League clash after a knee complaint kept the England international out of the 24-16 win, the teenager may end up missing out.
However, once more, and especially given the way he angled onto Danny Brough’s smart pass to cross for his first, Wood demonstrated he has plenty of ability to succeed at the elite level.
Recalling Friday’s tight victory, the 19 year-old told The Yorkshire Post: “I only found out I’d be playing at the last minute.
“Obviously, you want to give someone like Leroy as much time as possible to play as he’s one of our go-to men and he’s skipper as well this year.
“So, if he’s out on the paddock we back ourselves and it gives us a really good chance of winning.
“But I did enjoy it out there.”
Academy product Wood’s early double put Giants 8-0 ahead but, initially, they failed to build on that positive start and were 16-8 down by half-time.
It was not until the final quarter that Rick Stone’s side actually clicked into gear again, Alex Mellor gaining the crucial try, and picked up their second win from three outings so far in 2017.
“The tries are nice but I’d have liked to have been in a bit more of a comfortable position where we weren’t defending our line all the time,” continued Wood, whose opening score was also the first of his Super League career.
“It was alright scoring like that but we dropped off a bit afterwards.
“We still need to look at and think about completing sets, getting to a kick and grinding teams like that down as we feel like we could have really got them after that first 10 minutes.
“We fell off them, though, and it became difficult.”
The tall centre impressed when, aged only 18, he made his unexpected debut for an injury-hit Huddersfield against Wigan Warriors last February.
He was still just part-time then, but, after quickly following up with another solid display against Widnes Vikings was soon offered a full-time deal by then coach Paul Anderson.
Wood featured in the Challenge Cup win over Leeds Rhinos but was restricted to just two more Super League appearances, the 22-12 win over Hull at the end of June and the 20-19 loss at Hull KR a week later.
However, he spent time on dual-registration with Oldham, scoring two tries in five games, and is clearly building confidence all the time.
On the switch to full-time training, Dewsbury-born Wood admitted: “It was always going to be tough – the physicality.
“They’re grown men I’m playing now, not facing 16, 17-year-old lads up at Lockwood Park (Huddersfield RUFC’s ground where Giants academy feature).
“But it’s something you have to take into your stride and be accountable for. If you make mistakes put your hand up, if not then it’s happy days. Luckily I’ve got people helping me through that transition like Leroy which is a massive help.
“It doesn’t actually feel like 12 months ago now; I was looking the other day and I made my debut a year ago last week.
“It doesn’t feel like that at all. We’ve had a tough pre-season and I’m glad to be back out playing.”
Wood – who has signed a deal until the end of 2018 – featured with Oldham on dual-registration again before being recalled for that Wakefield win, scoring twice in a narrow 20-18 defeat to London Broncos.
But he hopes to be retained in Super League action this week when Challenge Cup holders Hull – beaten at home by Catalans Dragons on Thursday – arrive at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Lee Radford’s side, looking to reach their first Grand Final this year since 2006, were disappointed by the ineffectiveness of that performance.
Wood admitted: “They’ll be coming out all guns blazing and looking to move up the ladder as they are a top-four team.
“They’ve got a really good side and a squad to do that.
“We need to be prepared for everything they throw at us; be tough through the middle, composed on the edge and that will be down to this week in training.
“We’re looking for a really good week to prepare for Hull.”
Meanwhile, Stone directed praise at Wood for his performance against Wakefield where he was lined up against the experienced former NRL centre Bill Tupou. “It was a big physical jump for a 19-year-old lad but he came up with some real big plays,” he said “It was good to see some of the younger players grow. Him and Alex Mellor were good for young players; you can see them growing with every game.
“We had a good hard look at ourselves at half-time. We had a good chat and a few of the senior guys spoke up.
“Defensively we needed to improve. It took a while for us to get it right but they stayed at it.”