St Helens v Huddersfield Giants - Durable Chris McQueen is Giants coach Ian Watson’s kind of player

There are certain types of players that Huddersfield Giants head coach Ian Watson particularly likes and Chris McQueen is one of them.

One better: Chris McQueen scored in the defeat against St Helens last month but is hoping Huddersfield can knock the champions out of the Challenge Cup. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The Australian back-row offers many of the characteristics his chief desires: durable, tough, a willing learner and adaptable.

All of those traits will be called upon once more tonight when McQueen – and all of his Huddersfield colleagues – will need to deliver their best performance of the season to knock back-to-back Super League champions St Helens out of the Betfred Challenge Cup.

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That the 33-year-old will continue at centre for a third successive game, despite the return to fitness of former England three-quarter Leroy Cudjoe, speaks further about just how highly Watson rates him.

“He’s killing it (at centre),” said the coach, about the ex-Queensland State of Origin star, who initially joined Giants on a short-term deal last September after being released by Wests Tigers.

“I was asked a question when I came in (in November): did I want to keep Chris?

“My answer straight away was ‘yes’. I just like everything about him: he’s a great professional, great bloke and just gets on with it and gets through it as well.

“He’s been in those big games and big arenas. His experience is invaluable for us. I like those kind of players – the Chris McQueen, Luke Yates, Matty English types. They are my kind of players: they do all the tough stuff that some of the supporters or people watching on TV don’t really see.

Admirer: Huddersfield coach Ian Watson tried to sign Chris McQueen when he was in charge of Salford. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“But I really appreciate them. Chris McQueen’s right up there as one of our best performers, ever since he came in.

“He’s a player I enquired about a few times when I was at Salford. We even contacted Wests Tigers to see what he was doing as he was playing State Cup.

“The one thing he is as a rugby player is smart; he understands situations and how he needs to react. That’s why I went for him at centre – for his experience – when we lost people like Ricky (Leutele) and Leroy (Cudjoe). He’s holding his (centre) place now on his own merits. He’ll do whatever needs to be done for the team. That’s the biggest compliment I can make: he is a perfect team player.”

McQueen revealed yesterday there is a clause in his contract – which expires this season – that if he plays 60 per cent or more of this campaign’s games, he will earn another year in 2022.

Try: Chris McQueen scores for Giants in their 18-10 loss to St Helens. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The popular player, who won the 2014 NRL Grand Final with South Sydney and earned a solitary England cap three years later, said he fully expects to fulfil that task and remain with Giants.

Firstly, though, McQueen is intent on helping the West Yorkshire club cause a shock at Emerald Headingley this evening and overcome the considerable presence of unbeaten Saints to reach the Cup semi-finals.

Their belief has been bolstered by Sunday’s 14-13 victory over Leeds Rhinos, a first Super League win of the season for Giants, but also by the fact they pushed Saints close just a fortnight ago in an 18-10 defeat.

Watson said: “We’re going to have to do things slightly better than last time; we’re looking for an improvement on what we did against St Helens.

“We didn’t come away with the result in that one but it felt like we competed for large periods of the game. We know where we need to improve and where we need to be better at dealing with them.

“Hopefully we can put that in place and get ourselves a semi-final spot.”

Asked if he had noticed an effect on the spirit of the squad after the last-second victory over Leeds, Watson replied: “It might be also because we’re playing Saints in a Cup quarter-final but the energy has been through the roof in training especially this morning.

“We tried to be really smart at the start of the week by only being really light and not doing too much work on the field because I think this one is a little bit more between the ears.

“We only played St Helens a couple of weeks ago and we just need to be psychologically and physically ready for the game. Hopefully the Leeds wins given us a real boost for this.”

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