Waiting finally over for Giants but success leaves them wanting more

Danny Brough and coach Paul Anderson.
Danny Brough and coach Paul Anderson.
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Huddersfield Giants head coach Paul Anderson tells Dave Craven about his hopes for the 2014 Super League campaign.

IT is a sign of the significant strides Huddersfield Giants have made that they deem a trophyless season in 2014 as disastrous.

Saying that 12 months ago would have drawn bemused looks of incredulity given their regular positioning on the periphery of Super League’s elite.

However, finishing top for the first time in 81 years has changed all that, not only how they are perceived by others but how the West Yorkshire club looks at itself, too.

When Paul Anderson affords himself time to look back on their achievements in 2013, there is undoubtedly an enormous amount of pride.

In his first campaign as a head coach, he guided Huddersfield to the League Leaders’ Shield playing an exciting brand of football that won heaps of praise.

But Anderson told the Yorkshire Post: “If we don’t win silverware next year it’s a failure.

“That’s what we did this year and there is now a level of expectation.

“We’ve added to our squad again and there have been changes made behind the scenes too so we’re all hopefully pushing on to what we want.

“We need to build on it now.”

Of course, what they ‘want’ is the Super League title; though Huddersfield finished in that rarity of pole position, winning 21 of their 27 regular rounds, they failed to actually reach a maiden Grand Final, losing 30-22 in their qualifying semi-final at Warrington Wolves.

As Anderson prepares them for 2014, raising that gleaming trophy in Manchester remains their ultimate endgame.

“One of the things we said straight after the loss at Warrington was that we felt we had unfinished business with this group and the Giants story has a way to go,” said the ex-Bradford Bulls prop, who was only promoted from Nathan Brown’s assistant in July 2012.

“We always knew with the people we’d brought in we were capable of a lot of things. We fulfilled that to a certain extent and righted a few wrongs but, ultimately, we fell short.”

Bridging that gap is upper-most in Anderson’s mind for 2014.

Having retained the bulk of a squad that impressed so vividly, he has has also added some players of true calibre.

Hard-hitting prop Antonio Kaufusi, 29, and back-row Chris Bailey, 31, have both signed from London Broncos having each previously played State of Origin for Queensland and represented Australia.

Furthermore, England Knights’ Jodie Broughton arrives from Salford City Reds as one of the quickest and most respected wingers in Super League.

“We’ve brought some size and speed in,” said Anderson, who won Super League Coach of the Year for his transformation of a side that always threatened to scale the heights but always stumbled.

“With the three you see – up to now – we’ve the size and experience of Antonio Kaufusi, the sheer speed of Jodie Broughton, who has been playing for some time too and brings real competition for places out wide with four going for the wing spots, and then Chris Bailey who adds experience, quality and a lot of subtlety with what he can do.”

Huddersfield’s current stock has grown further, too, given the eye-catching performances of some of their stars in the recent World Cup.

Captain Danny Brough, 2013 Man of Steel for his brilliant half-back displays, led Scotland with similar levels of brio while Leroy Cudjoe was rated the competition’s finest centre along with Australia’s Jarryd Hayne according to OPTA stats.

Uncapped second-row Brett Ferres wrote his own World Cup script too, only arriving in England’s squad after Gareth Hock’s sacking on the eve of tournament but going on to be an ever-present for the host nation, scoring three tries along the way.

Anderson was not surprised.

“They are all good players, aren’t they?” he said. “Everyone knows what Broughy can do while for Brett, it’s the first time this year he’s been consistent throughout.

“Being healthy helps but Brett, more than anyone, really bought into the way we wanted to do things at Huddersfield this year and he’s reaped the rewards.

“As for England, he’s not a bad 25th man is he?

“We always knew what Leroy was capable of and he’s finally got the stage to do it now.

“The challenge for us as a group now is to back up what we’ve done not just in Super League but at the World Cup too.”

Anderson, as well, has to make sure he does not suffer any second-season syndrome.

That is unlikely for the 42-year-old Castlefordian who had served a long apprenticeship, first under Jon Sharp and then Brown before coming out of the shadows to stamp his own mark.

“I learned plenty in this first year but probably some more stuff about myself rather than anything else and how to handle certain situations,” explained the former Great Britain front-row, touted by many as potentially England’s next coach.

“It’s stuff that you sometimes take for granted as an assistant but it opened my eyes as a head coach. We all have to make sure we learn from these experiences and do not make the same mistakes again.”

Their first game of the new season, meanwhile, is at the side that achieved what Huddersfield and everyone else want to achieve – victorious Grand Final winners Wigan Warriors on Friday, February 7.

It was 1962 the last time Huddersfield were crowned champions.

Anderson sees no reason why that long wait should not be over soon.