Simon Woolford optimistic for Huddersfield Giants as he looks long-term

Huddersfield Giants' head coach, Simon Woolford. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Huddersfield Giants' head coach, Simon Woolford. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
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HUDDERSFIELD Giants head coach Simon Woolford is keen to extend his deal with the club as he believes his work there is “only half done.”

The Australian signed a two-and-a-half year deal having replaced the sacked Rick Stone in April 2018.

Huddersfield Giants coach Simon Woolford, right, talks with London Broncos' coach Danny Ward last season. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA

Huddersfield Giants coach Simon Woolford, right, talks with London Broncos' coach Danny Ward last season. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA

It was Woolford’s first appointment as a first-grade head coach having previously worked in assistant roles at both Canberra Raiders and Newcastle Knights.

He helped stop the rot in his first season, safely negotiating the West Yorkshire club not only out of trouble but all the way up to fifth spot.

However, while they hoped for further progress this year, it proved more difficult as Huddersfield – beset by injuries – laboured, only securing safety on the final night and finishing 10th just two points above relegated London Broncos.

With that in mind, Woolford approaches the final year of his contract eager to still bring the best out of his squad which has , admittedly, been augmented by some stellar signings.

I feel like the job is only half done. We’re slowly getting a squad together that we think can compete but there’s some more work to do yet.

Huddersfield Giants’ Simon Woolford

“I definitely want to stay (after 2020),” said the 44-year-old.

“I feel like the job is only half done.

“We’re slowly getting a squad together that we think can compete but there’s some more work to do yet.

“There’s a lot of guys off contract next year – not only the coach – so I’d like to think they’d all be putting their best foot forward to earn a new deal.

KEY MAN: Aidan Sezer runs with the ball during this year's NRL clash between Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

KEY MAN: Aidan Sezer runs with the ball during this year's NRL clash between Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

“There’s nine in total and that can only be good for the club and leave Huddersfield in a healthy position as we look ahead to the new season.

“We made some real progress in those last six months. I know things got a bit hairy towards the end with our position on the ladder.

“But if you break down the season we lost a lot of close games – a couple we really threw away – and if we’d have won those it would have looked totally different.

“Some of our young kids got a lot more games than was ever expected, people like Jake Wardle – who played the last 14 games straight which was really great – and Olly Wilson.

“With those sorts of players getting more experience and the players we have coming in, expectations within the group are quite high.

“We need a little bit of luck along the way and to stay healthy but if we can get that then who knows where the season will end up?”

Clearly, the main piece of business that has given Woolford and Huddersfield fans hopes about a potential return to the top end of the table is the capture of Canberra Raiders’ half-back Aidan Sezer.

He should form a potent pairing with Lee Gaskell and offer invaluable advice to young scrum-halves Olly Russell and Tom Holmes

“Seze has only been here just under two weeks and already he’s had a real influence on the group,” said Woolford.

“He’s 28, in the prime of his career, has 160 NRL games under his belt, is coming in off a Grand Final appearance and has a lot of things going for him.

“We felt we needed that dominant number seven; the sevens at our club were all young and it was hard to expect them at that stage of their development to run the side.

“We thought Seze was the man to do that for us.

“What made things more complicated last season was Gasky having some injuries so that meant quite often our halves were aged 23 and 20 which is very young.”

Woolford added: “Aidan is a really key signing for us moving forward and Olly Russell and Tom Holmes have really embraced him being here.

“They’ll be like sponges learning everything they can from him for the next couple of years and no doubt their games will improve over that time.”

With Samoa prop James Gavet recruited from Newcastle Knights, Catalans Dragons second-row Kenny Edwards and Leeds Rhinos full-back Ashton Golding, Huddersfield have obviously strengthened.

The late departure of England Knights hooker Kruise Leeming to Leeds Rhinos is a loss but Woolford insisted: “No player is irreplaceable and we’ll move on.

“Kruise decided his future was elsewhere and we wish him all the best – there’s no grudges – but we don’t want to keep someone here who doesn’t want to be here. That would only stagnate us.”

The coach says there are no plans “as yet” to replace Leeming.

“Obviously, we’ve got Adam O’Brien there at hooker – and some other things that we’re working on,” he said.

Widnes Vikings have signed former Wigan Warriors, St Helens and England hooker Matty Smith, 32, on a one-year deal after he was recently released by Catalans.