HUDDERSFIELD Giants star Jermaine McGillvary has hailed the appointment of new captain Aidan Sezer but warned his team-mates: “He cannot do it alone.”
The West Yorkshire club announced yesterday that the Australian scrum-half – their ‘marquee’ signing from Canberra Raiders – would replace Leroy Cudjoe as captain in 2020.
Former England centre Cudjoe had led his hometown team for the last three years but has spent most of the last two campaigns battling a persistent knee injury.
He is still not fit enough to resume when the new season kicks off next month and head coach Simon Woolford – with Cudjoe’s backing – has instead put Sezer in charge.
The 28-year-old makes his debut in England winger McGillvary’s testimonial game against Halifax tomorrow as Huddersfield – who narrowly escaped relegation last term – look to start making strides forward.
McGillvary told The Yorkshire Post: “Last year we had a couple of captains and since Sezer came in you can see his qualities.
“That’s not just on the field but off it as well, how he gets around the boys and has his talk.
“He has those leadership qualities so I think it was always going to happen. Leroy’s been out for a long time now. He needs to concentrate on himself and get himself right which he is doing and he’s looking a lot better.
“Hopefully he is better for it. It’s a good appointment and we’re all right behind it.
“There’s a lot of us senior boys, too, who are around to support him all the way.”
However, captaincy aside, there is huge pressure on Sezer to deliver on the field.
Optimism is rightly high and there is the sense that the gifted half-back – who helped Canberra to their first Grand Final in 25 years last season – is just the type of player Huddersfield need to bring everything together and rid them of their inconsistencies.
Could Sezer be the crucial missing link as Giants strive to get back to the quality that saw them lift the League Leaders’ Shield in 2013?
McGillvary, who debuted for his hometown club in 2010, said: “All I can say about him is he is a quality player.
“His kicking game is class, his skill is outstanding and he’s a brilliant player but if he’s the ‘answer’ I’m not sure.
“It’s a team game. Everyone has to start stepping up to the plate as we didn’t do that last season.
“If we came back and tossed up the same rubbish as last season it wouldn’t matter who we had in our side, it’s not going to change anything.
“We need to support Sezer; the quality is there to see. We’ve seen it, everyone has watching him in Australia so we know we have a player on our hands.
“When he first came in you could see those leadership qualities; things that aren’t quite right he’s been there to help fix them.
“For me he’s the total package but it means nothing if we don’t support him now. It’s up to us to support him as a team and get those results.”
Woolford explained the reasoning behind making Sezer his captain.
“He’s our on field general and that’s what we brought him here for,” said the fellow Australian.
“Since we brought him in, the impact on the group has been amazing and has made him the natural candidate.
“He’s a leader on and off the field – which is vital when considering your captain
“I had a good chat with Leroy and he supports the decision. He wants to focus on getting fit to play and recovering to make an impact in 2020 and we both felt that he didn’t need the distraction of the captaincy.”
Sezer, who starred alongside England internationals Josh Hodgson, John Bateman and Elliott Whitehead as Canberra surged to that Grand Final, has captained before although only on an ad hoc basis at his former club Gold Coast Titans.
He is looking forward to the prospect and said: “I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to captain the Giants and have the belief from a great bunch of lads and the coaching staff.
“I feel being a good captain takes selflessness and performance. With these two attributes you can lead effectively.
“I’m now excited about the year ahead, relishing the prospect of being halfback and captain at the Giants, hopefully I can do the badge proud and we as a club can have a good 2020.”
Meanwhile, McGillvary, who has scored 169 tries in 245 games for Huddersfield since making a belated Super League debut at the age of 22, has created plenty of memories so far in his remarkable career.
As he prepares for his testimonial game, asked about the highlights, he said: “Obviously winning the League Leaders’ Shield was one but also playing and scoring for England against New Zealand here at the John Smith’s Stadium was another.
“My debut over at Bradford Bulls is another I remember well. It’s been a hell of a journey and something I never ever imagined.
“All I wanted to do was play Super League and make a career out of the game yet I’ve done some fantastic things, been a part of some great teams – whether Huddersfield or England – and travelled the world, something I’ve never been able to afford but got to do playing a sport.
“It’s crazy; rugby league and Huddersfield have done so much for me.”