Huddersfield Giants to play with 16 - and Simon Woolford expects to leave

HUDDERSFIELD Giants head coach Simon Woolford says he will only be able to name 16 players for tomorrow’s game against St Helens - and he does not expect to be at the club in 2021.

Isabel Pearce/ - 30/08/2020 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League - Huddersfield Giants v Hull FC - Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington, England - Simon Woolford.

The Australian has been hit by a horrendous injury list ahead of facing the champions, the damage being so bad that he thinks the club will only be able to name three replacements for the Super League game.

“I’m not sure how many are missing through injury but I do know the number that are available,” said Woolford, whose side have still yet to win since returning from lockdown.

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“It’s not ideal. To get such a heavy toll so early in the season is a concern for us but hopefully we’ll get some back in the coming weeks.

“At this stage we’ve still got 16 for tomorrow. There’s one or two who we’ll give another crack (at proving fitness) tomorrow but I’m not anticipating any different.

“It is what it is. It will be a massive effort for the 16 that do play.

“We’ll just have to go with what we’ve got. We’ve still got a capable side and we just need to believe we can go well to give ourselves a chance.”

Former Bradford Bulls hooker Reiss Butterworth and ex-Leeds Rhinos forward Owen Trout will both make their Giants debuts.

Woolford, who is out of contract at the end of the season, also spoke about his future after speculation back home in Australia that he could be returning to the NRL in 2021.

“At this stage, if I was a betting man, I’d probably say I am going home,” said the 45-year-old, who was Newcastle Knights assistant before moving to the UK halfway through 2018.

“When I took this job on I always anticipated it being a three to four year job. I’ve been here just over two years now and feel like we’ve made a lot of inroads with our squad.

“We’ve had to make a lot of changes over the last couple of years.

“When I first got here it was pretty dire; the club was looking at relegation but we had a nice run of games when I got here in ‘18 and last year we were cut down by injury and it was a tough year.

“But looking at our squad now and all things being equal, it’s a squad that can compete for trophies in Super League.

“There’s still some work to do and I’m three-quarters of the way through.

“I’d like to finish it but, at this stage, it looks like that won’t be the case.”

Asked if he would like to stay, Woolford replied: “It was always a three or four year job for me and anyone who thinks it wasn’t are not looking through the same glass I’m looking through, that’s for sure.

“I’d like to finish the job I’ve started - that’s my preference - but, at this stage, if I was a betting man that probably won’t happen.

“Funnier things have happened but I’ve just got to get my head down."

Giants have lost their last four games but only fell by one point to both Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves.

Before the sport shutdown in March, they also won four of their opening five fixtures, including a win over Saints.

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James Mitchinson