HIS first season in Super League has been far from smooth but recalled Huddersfield Giants scrum-half Matt Frawley is certainly ready to finish it on a high.
Trying to replace the legendary Danny Brough would have been a tough task for any incoming No 7 so Australian Frawley, who joined from NRL Canterbury Bulldogs, always knew it would be a tricky assignment.
It has been difficult this year. It’s been an up and down season for the whole team and myself personally.Huddersfield Giants’ Matt Frawley
Still, he could rarely have imagined spending much of the campaign being overlooked as coach Simon Woolford instead opted for Academy product Olly Russell and also former Featherstone Rovers player Tom Holmes.
Having missed the opener against Salford Red Devils, Frawley started the next 13 games but had to wait four matches for his first win and tasted few victories.
After a difficult start adapting to the British game, and losing by a point to Wakefield Trinity for a second time on May 3, Woolford opted to make the change and the player did not feature again for three months.
Even then, Frawley’s recall came in a 44-0 home defeat to Leeds Rhinos, their biggest loss of the campaign. That could have been the end of his season.
However, with the young pairing of Russell and Holmes – 20 and 23, respectively – struggling in defeats at Salford and against Castleford Tigers and joint-bottom Giants increasingly concerned by the threat of relegation, Woolford opted to bring his overseas recruit back into the fold.
He and his staff made the decision to tell Frawley he would play in all their final three games, reuniting him with Lee Gaskell – who had been featuring at full-back – in a bid to bring as much experience to the equation as possible during these fraught times.
Granted, Frawley is only 24 but, having played more than 30 first-grade NRL games for Canterbury, he has more high-level experience than his rivals.
The decision yielded an instant dividend on Friday when Huddersfield delivered a crucial 22-12 win at title-chasing Hull FC.
They face another tough away fixture this Friday at leaders St Helens when Giants, in their penultimate game, could secure their Super League future.
Fittingly, it was Frawley who latched onto Gaskell’s grubber to clinch victory at Hull with just his third try of the season.
He conceded to The Yorkshire Post: “It has been difficult this year. It’s been an up and down season for the whole team and myself personally. You want to be playing every week so it has been frustrating but you can’t get too down. You have just got to continue training hard and believe in your abilities and I’ve done that.
“I’ve made sure that I don’t kick stones or anything like that. I just have to keep turning up, keep working hard and keep trusting in my processes and, obviously, results like that help the cause.
“It was good to get that try – I don’t get many so I’ll take what I can when they come.”
Frawley clearly gained confidence from the fact that Woolford put faith in him for the final run-in, Huddersfield’s last game being at home to Catalans Dragons.
He said: “We looked for a bit more experience (at Hull), especially in our starting team, which I think you need in these sorts of games. But I think young blokes on the bench did a job for us.
“We had Jon (Luke Kirby) making his debut and you can feed off that energy. You want to make nights like that special.
“I thought he was outstanding along with Sammy (Hewitt) and Olly (Wilson).
“They’re only a few games into their Super League career. They’ll learn and grow from these experiences and it’s really good for the club.”
Indeed, with such talented young forwards as well as Academy products in the backs such as Darnell McIntosh, Jake Wardle and the Senior twins, Huddersfield’s future could be bright but it is vital they now confirm their Super League place.
They are 10th, level with Hull KR (11th) and Wakefield Trinity (ninth), and two points above London Broncos in bottom.
However, KR and London face each other on Friday and Giants’ points difference is much better than both.
“We want to finish really strong; we know we’re not safe completely,” added Frawley.
“We still have plenty to play for and we’re in the same position this week and the week after.
“We have a couple of players who are leaving at the end of the year who we want to send out on a positive note – and then us go into next year on a positive, too.”
If Giants can achieve that, you sense there will be much more from them – and their Australian recruit – in 2020.