AS Darnell McIntosh describes it, the Huddersfield Giants youngster has “kicked and screamed” to get a starting spot with his hometown club so he is going to make sure he does everything to keep hold of it.
Having scored 14 tries from the wing last season, ending as their top-scorer, you would think he would already be fairly well set.
However, the arrival of Fiji star Akuila Uate – once voted the world’s top winger – from the NRL placed McIntosh’s place under threat for 2019 given England international Jermaine McGillvary already resided on the other flank.
Still, Huddersfield coach Simon Woolford had other ideas for the home-grown product who, at 21, is one of Super League’s most exciting young talents.
With Lee Gaskell confirmed in the halves, and fellow full-back options Jake Mamo (Warrington) and Jordan Rankin (Castleford Tigers) to be moved on elsewhere, Giants needed a new No 1.
With his electric pace, ability under the high ball and defensive quality, McIntosh has always preferred that role and he duly prepared all off-season to make the switch.
During the West Yorkshire club’s final warm-up fixture at Wakefield Trinity, however, McGillvary strained a hamstring, forcing him out of Super League’s opening two rounds.
Woolford made the decision then to draft in Scott Grix, the veteran full-back, who had rejoined from Wakefield during the winter, but primarily to help coach the club’s outside backs.
It meant McIntosh played the opening two games back on the wing before McGillvary’s return to fitness last week saw him revert to No 1 for the 32-20 loss against Warrington.
McIntosh should retain his place at full-back for tomorrow’s home fixture with Hull FC – Huddersfield are bottom after losing all three games – and is looking forward to making his mark while continuing to learn from the 34-year-old Grix.
“I knew Grixy was coming from the off-season,” McIntosh told The Yorkshire Post. “Simon asked me what my thoughts were about it and I explained how he was here when I was 17.
“He was great back then – his talk, his knowledge of the game was one of the best – so I thought to get the opportunity to work with someone who knows the game and my position so well was quality.
“To have Grixy mentor me and try and teach me as much as he can is great; I’ve just been like a sponge this whole pre-season.
“Obviously we thought he would probably jump in and play at some point, too.
“It probably happened a bit sooner than everyone expected, but I didn’t mind that. I said for the team I was more than happy to play on the wing again and it’s just good to watch how he reviews his own game.
“He watches his own performance and that’s what I’ve been able to do with him, which is insightful. I can look at my strengths, what I need to work on and kick on from there.”
Grix went back to sideline duties for the defeat against Warrington when McIntosh – quite slight compared to some custodians – was put under an early aerial bombardment. He handled everything confidently, though, and looked assured throughout, coming up with an assist for McGillvary’s try.
“I noticed that,” said McIntosh with regard to Warrington continually kicking at him.
“Whenever Jez (McGillvary) plays and these big wingers, they are going to rather cage me and bomb me rather than them.
“But I prepped for that. I just tried to keep my nerve. You hear the crowd screaming, though, and think, ‘oh no’.
“I enjoyed being back at one, though. Obviously, it was tough and disappointing to lose and I can take some areas I need to improve on.
“But I like to express myself with the way I play and get involved a lot more; I feel it is a lot better for me there.”
Hull had lost their last 13 games before finally winning at champions Wigan on Sunday, Marc Sneyd hitting the crucial drop-goal in ‘golden point’ extra-time.
Huddersfield’s losing run has stretched to eight games and, ironically, their last win was a 26-6 victory over Hull at the John Smith’s Stadium in August.
McIntosh added: “They’ve not been too dissimilar to us. They’d not been far off. They’ve looked really good in spells and just had little moments and injuries that stopped them winning.
“They did then get that win at Wigan on Sunday, but we’re just going to focus more on ourselves, build our own game and go for that 80-minute performance.”