IT has been a strange and unexpected start to life in the UK for Huddersfield Giants’ Australian signing Tom Symonds.
The second-row faces Super League leaders Hull FC with his new employers tonight, only his third game since joining from Manly Sea Eagles.
However, it has been a difficult transition given the sacking of the man who signed him – head coach Paul Anderson – and, of course, the tragic death of Huddersfield academy player Ronan Costello.
“I guess it probably was a bit of a crazy time to arrive,” said Symonds, who also played with Sydney Roosters in the NRL.
“But at the same time the tragedy with Ronan is much bigger than myself arriving.
“It was totally understandable how the club dealt with that and I thought they did so really respectfully.
“With the coach leaving it was a bit of a spanner in the works.
“The first day we were going to train together that happened so it was a bit of a shock. But at the same time it was a change for all the other boys as well.
“So I guess, in that way, we were all thrown in the same boat and I wasn’t the only one who had to get used to a few new things.”
Symonds, 27, debuted that week in the win at Salford Red Devils – Huddersfield’s first in four games – and made his home debut in the Challenge Cup quarter-final loss to Wakefield Trinity last Thursday.
A replacement for Brett Ferres, the England second-row Giants sold to Leeds Rhinos in January, he concedes he was a little confused by some of the Yorkshire accents when he first arrived.
“I have to admit the first day I walked in, we were in the sheds together, there was a lot of noise and I wasn’t taking in too much of what was being said!” said Symonds, who has joined on a three-and-a-half year deal.
“But I’m getting there. The boys have got a lot of good banter. I enjoy that and it’s good fun.”
He added: “They have been awesome helping me fit in and adjust.”
He maintains he is undaunted by the challenge ahead, Huddersfield destined for the Qualifiers.
“I was certainly aware of where the boys were sitting when I came over and part of me accepting to come here was to help get us out of that so that wasn’t a surprise,” insisted Symonds.
They face a Hull side chasing 11 successive wins tonight and one which includes many familiar faces from the NRL including Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu.
“There’s quite a few from there isn’t there?” he said. “Mark Minichiello’s been going well for them as well and a couple of backs have played NRL in Mahe Fonua and Carlos Tuimavave so I know what to expect from some of those guys.
“But Hull are first and first for a reason; they’re doing a lot of good things and we certainly have to improve on last week’s display.”
Symonds, though, is used to battling at the wrong end of the table; he left a Manly side who have lost 14 consecutive games.
He had been there since 2013 and, asked if he was disappointed with how it ended, explained: “I was probably a little bit disappointed the way the timing came.
“I had an awesome time there so probably can’t complain – it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me going to Manly.
“I made some lifelong mates and probably played some of my best footy at the club while they gave me my chance, too.
“So, as a whole, I’d some really good experience there.”
Meanwhile, Giants caretaker coach Andy Kelly will depart on the England Academy tour as planned next week.
Huddersfield will appoint another interim coach from within, Chris Thorman being a likely candidate, as they then whittle down their “good rosta” of candidates as Anderson’s replacement.