ALTHOUGH he does not hold the same gravitas as a Konrad Hurrell or Blake Austin, Huddersfield Giants head coach Simon Woolford is still expecting new NRL recruit Matt Frawley to make a significant mark of his own in 2019.
The Australian half-back is 24, but was a latecomer Down Under, only making his first-grade debut with Canterbury Bulldogs barely 18 months ago.
However, fellow countryman Woolford has already seen enough to believe he can be a hit in Super League when the West Yorkshire club start against Salford Red Devils on February 1.
“I only had a little bit to do with Frawls when he was coming through the (Canberra) Raiders’ juniors,” he recalled.
“But I’ve watched him play plenty in the last couple of years as he’s been in the same (reserve grade) team as my son at the Bulldogs. He’s a pretty mature type of player, who has a good kicking game and a pretty smart passing game. He’s been in full training with us for three or four weeks now and improving every week.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how he fits into the side; we think he’s going to complement our team well.”
Giants fans will get the chance to see their new pivot in action for the first time on Sunday week after Woolford confirmed Frawley will debut in their opening friendly against Bradford Bulls in Michael Lawrence’s testimonial.
He has big boots to fill given he replaces Huddersfield legend Danny Brough, the 35-year-old former Man of Steel who has returned to Wakefield Trinity after almost a decade’s sterling service for the Fartowners.
But Woolford insisted: “All good things come to an end.
“Once Broughy left we moved quickly to sign Frawls.
“He had a couple of opportunities to stay in Australia, but he thought it’d be best for his footy for him to come and have a couple of full years in Super League and play well over here. I think he has ambitions to go back to the NRL, which is good. I think his game will be suited to over here.
“He’s a similar game to Broughy, but obviously a fair bit younger than Broughy so I think he’ll run the footy a bit more and fit in quite well.”
Akuila Uate, though, will not be ready in time to face Bradford.
The Fiji winger is the club’s big signing following his arrival from Manly Sea Eagles and is in the same bracket as Hurrell (Leeds Rhinos) and Austin (Warrington).
Woolford, back from a two-week break in Australia over the festive period, said: “Uate will hopefully play in the last trial.
“He’s back full training now, but just hasn’t got enough work in him so we’re not going to risk him. Frawls will play against Bradford and Suaia Matagi along with any other senior guys who are ready; everyone who’s fit will be playing.
“We’ve got a couple coming back into full training just from minor issues before Christmas and we’ll know more about their fitness on Saturday.
“We’ve only come back into training (yesterday), but it’s not too far away that Bulls game.
“It’s exciting that the footy’s arrived; we’ve only got three or four weeks to that first comp match.”
Woolford confirmed he expects Scott Grix, the 34-year-old Ireland full-back who has rejoined from Wakefield, to operate largely as a coach in 2019 with 21-year-old winger Darnell McIntosh taking the No 1 slot.
He said: “Grixy’s available if we need him. Darnell will start at full-back this year and we’ll see how he goes. He’s only young and we’re not too sure how he’ll cope.
“It’s a long year. Grixy’s here to coach our outside backs and Darnell and help out plus he’s coaching the 19s as well so he’s got a big year ahead of him, too.”
There was speculation that New Zealander prop Seb Ikahihifo could be moved on before the start of the season with Joe Wardle potentially returning to the club from Castleford Tigers.
However, Woolford does not feel there will be any alterations to his squad before the start.
He said: “At the moment I’d be very surprised if anything changed. I’m pretty happy with what we have and we have good depth across our one to 17.
“We’ve some good kids who have already had a taste of Super League who will be all the better after another good pre-season and the boys’ attitude leading up to Christmas was fantastic.
“They’ll definitely improve again this term – but so will a lot of teams.”