Huddersfield Giants captain Luke Yates chases validation fuelled by 2020 Challenge Cup heartbreak

When Luke Yates eventually returns home to Australia, he will not feel satisfied unless he has some silverware to go with the lasting memories created on these shores.

Luke Yates during the press event at Elland Road. (Picture: SWPix.com)
Luke Yates during the press event at Elland Road. (Picture: SWPix.com)

The 26-year-old has been a revelation since touching down in England ahead of the 2019 season, with Hull FC hooker Danny Houghton the only player to have made more tackles than Yates during his time in Super League.

The forward’s phenomenal work rate made him Ian Watson’s number one transfer target when he swapped Salford Red Devils for Huddersfield Giants.

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After following Watson to the John Smith’s Stadium at the end of 2020, Yates is now preparing to lead Huddersfield out in a Challenge Cup semi-final at Elland Road.

Luke Yates, left, and Shaun Kenny-Dowall pose with the Challenge Cup trophy. (Picture: SWPix.com)

As good as he has been in this country, Yates does not want to return home empty-handed.

By the same token, he is determined to ensure local lads Jermaine McGillvary, Michael Lawrence and Leroy Cudjoe have a major honour to their name once they call time on their careers.

“When you come over, you want to be playing in Grand Finals and Challenge Cup finals to make your mark on the sport,” Yates told The Yorkshire Post.

“This is a great opportunity to do that. You don’t want to be the dude that played in a heap of games but never won anything. That’s a little bit of validation on your own personal career.

Luke Yates leads Huddersfield out against Barrow. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“The boys from Huddersfield like Jerry (McGillvary), Bruno (Lawrence) and Leroy deserve that. That’s what we’re going for.”

Yates flirted with success during his time with Salford, coming off the bench in the 2020 Challenge Cup final when the Red Devils were edged out by Leeds Rhinos courtesy of a late Luke Gale drop goal.

The pain of that Wembley defeat will act as fuel when he runs out to face Hull KR on Saturday.

“It’s one you obviously want to get back but I’m with a different team now,” said Yates.

Luke Yates enjoys the win over Castleford. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“It’s an awful feeling to lose a final and be sitting in the losing sheds where it’s dead quiet. I know which shed I’d rather be in.

“That’s what we want to do with Huddersfield. We feel like we’ve got a good enough squad to go all the way.”

After a period of adjustment in Watson’s first season in charge in 2021, Huddersfield are a different beast this year.

The Giants are known as a hardworking, gutsy team that are hard to beat, qualities that were on show in last week’s narrow win over Wakefield Trinity.

Huddersfield celebrate Luke Yates' try in the league game between the sides in February. (Picture: SWPix.com)

One week out from a semi-final, it was the right performance at the right time for Huddersfield.

“We had a tough Easter period with a couple of disappointing results,” said Yates.

“There was a lot of pressure on us going into the Wakefield game because we were all going, ‘You can’t go into a semi out of form’.

“Wakefield at Wakefield is never an easy game. I think it’s the first time we’d won there in seven years.

“It was a great win for us and the way we won with the defensive mindset. Our attack was a little bit off but to grind out a win there was pleasing.

“That’s put us in good stead for the semi. We understand we lacked a bit of attacking polish and you obviously need to score points to win games.

“But that defensive steel is definitely what we’re going to try and carry into Saturday.”

While the Giants warmed up by winning the type of arm wrestle usually associated with knockout games, Hull KR were nilled on a nightmare night at Headingley.

As well as suffering a first defeat in seven matches at the hands of Leeds, the Robins lost Lachlan Coote and Sam Wood to injury, while Albert Vete picked up a ban.

But Yates has refused to read anything into KR’s most recent performance.

“They’re a hard team to play against,” he said.

“They’ve got so many good attacking players with the way they shift the ball and offload. It’s always a tough game against them.

“If you let their middles and outside backs find the floor, [Matt] Parcell and [Jez] Litten are jumping up and carrying the ball through the middle of your ruck and you’re asking each other what’s going on.

“You’ve got to put in the work early in the sets to try slow down the ruck to give yourselves a chance.”

It is set to be a special occasion at Elland Road with a crowd in excess of 20,000 expected.

After running out at an empty Wembley in 2020, Yates plans to savour the atmosphere.

“It will be crazy,” said the Giants captain.

“With it being the last game, I imagine everyone will stick around to see who they’re playing against.

“Hopefully we’ll get a good turnout from the Huddersfield supporters and whoever else is here. It’ll make for a good atmosphere.”