THERE was a time when Ollie Roberts worried his move from Bradford Bulls to Huddersfield Giants might turn sour.
The promising second-row switched between the West Yorkshire rivals at the end of 2014 after Bradford’s relegation but did not play a single game for the Fartowners during his debut season until, bizarrely, their Super League semi-final defeat at Wigan on the final night.
Instead, he spent time in League 1 on dual-registration with Oldham and, also, on loan at Championship club Sheffield Eagles.
Fast forward 12 months, however, and the 21-year-old now finds himself as a regular in Paul Anderson’s Huddersfield side, benefiting, in part, from the surprise exit of England’s Brett Ferres on the eve of the new season, but also from some obvious hard work.
He will line up again versus Wakefield Trinity Wildcats tomorrow as Giants seek the win that will keep their increasingly faint top-eight hopes alive.
“When I came last year Baloo (Anderson) said the team was a very strong team and me, coming from Bradford, I still had to learn a lot and fit into their squad and learn the way of Huddersfield,” explained Roberts. “I had a good pre-season this year and also played for Ireland, too, which helped me a bit getting confidence in playing.
“I’ve come back, impressed Baloo and he’s put me in and given me a chance. Hopefully, I’ve took it and pushed on from there. But, yes, I was very worried it might not happen.
“Not playing is very disheartening but I talked to Baloo and he told me ‘not to worry – you will get your chance, you’re very young, bide your time, be patient and it will come.’
“I have waited and it’s paid off for me.”
Indeed it has with the player having featured 17 times so far, predominantly from the bench, and with an important education under his belt.
“It was a big wake-up call being at Oldham and Sheffield,” recalled Roberts, who signed a new three-year deal in February.
“I’m not saying they are a million miles off this – the skill and facilities are good – but, of course, being a Brighouse lad, just around the corner and coming here (Huddersfield) with all we have and the lads, it is a bit of an eye-opener.
“I think if I didn’t have this what would I do? It makes you work a lot harder for it and be very thankful.”
Roberts, who played five Super League games for Bradford after debuting in 2013, has certainly warranted his chance after being so patient.
“It got to that cut-off point last season where you had to decide to stay at Oldham and not come back or stay at Huddersfield,” he said.
“I stayed here – and I think I was 18th man near enough every week after that!
“I was knocking on the door and just not there, but this year I’ve pushed on and hopefully cemented a spot.
“I never expected to play this many games from playing almost none to this but it’s been a good experience and one I’ve enjoyed.
“It’s just a shame we’ve not been winning as well.”
Huddersfield, despite being just 80 minutes from a maiden Grand Final last term, are now second-bottom in Super League.
They had shown progress with three wins from four games only to lose at Widnes and against Castleford ahead.
Wakefield are currently eighth and eight points ahead of Huddersfield with just six games remaining. Realistically, Anderson’s side have to win tomorrow.
Roberts admitted: “It’s a bit of dog eat dog situation now and a Yorkshire derby, too. We really need to bust ourselves to get this win. Silly errors and penalties recently have killed us so we need to cut those out and really focus on getting properly into these (Wakefield).”
Ironically, the only game Roberts – who cites fellow Huddersfield second-rows Ukuma Ta’ai and Joe Wardle as big influences in his development – has missed this term was the 36-22 Good Friday loss at Wakefield, which Anderson still labels one of his lowest points since taking charge in 2012.
Trinity had been on a stunning run winning nine from 10 games before slipping up at Salford and again versus Hull KR both in emphatic fashion.
Anderson hopes to have captain Danny Brough fit again after the stand-off missed last week’s loss against Castleford with a dead leg.
He is named in the 19-man squad along with along with Kruise Leeming and Tyler Dickinson who come in for Sebastine Ikahihifo (broken jaw) and Scott Grix, the full-back set to be be replaced by Ryan Brierley.