Huddersfield Giants boss Ian Watson highlights potential Jermaine McGillvary replacement as he demands ‘better mentality’ from squad in 2024

Ben Olawumi
Ian Watson Huddersfield Giants Alamy

Huddersfield Giants coach Ian Watson - Alamy

Huddersfield Giants head coach Ian Watson has picked out youngster Sam Halsall as the man to potentially replace Jermaine McGillvary, with a need for a ‘better mentality’ amongst their pack in 2024.

The club confirmed that stalwart McGillvary would be departing at the end of the season on Monday, and since then it’s been revealed by the veteran that his exit has been handled woefully by the Giants.

After 16 years at the club and what will be 312 appearances in the Claret & Gold following tonight’s final game of the season against Warrington Wolves, he was informed he no longer had a future at the club over the phone by Watson just a few hours before the news became public knowledge.

When quizzed about why McGillvary – who has this term scored six tries in 12 appearances in a struggling side that will finish no higher than 8th – had been let go, boss Watson was more focused on the long-term futures of younger players like Halsall.

Huddersfield Giants boss Ian Watson explains decision to let club legend Jermaine McGillvary go

The Giants head coach said: “The option was there to be able to keep Jermaine, but we’ve got some good players in those positions and some good young players coming through.

“If you look at the development of Sam Halsall this year, it’s about not holding players like that back. It always becomes everyone’s time at some point where somebody comes and takes your spot or takes over your position going forward.

“I think we’ve got ourselves in a really good position this year in seeing Sam Halsall come through and develop that way. We’ve got younger players as well that will come through the system and will join our first-team squad next year.

“It’s about developing them to make sure that Huddersfield are in a good place not just for one year, but continually going forward.”

Halsall, who turned 22 last month, made the switch from Wigan Warriors ahead of 2023 on a three-year deal alongside teammates Jack and Jake Bibby.

His transfer was part of a swap deal that saw Jake Wardle head the other way to the DW Stadium. Halsall has gone on to score nine tries in 16 appearances for the Giants, including a hat-trick in their 28-0 win at Castleford Tigers in August.

Consistency is the key where mentality is concerned, says Watson

Ahead of tonight’s final game, the Giants have lost 15 of their 26 Super League games this term, following on from a 2022 which saw them reach the Challenge Cup final and the play-offs.

It’s clear to see that Watson wants his more youthful players to step it up a level next year, highlighting another Sam he’s been impressed by in 2023.

Watson added: “The mentality has to be better, that’s the main thing I was really pleased with last weekend against Hull. The effort, the desire and the attitude we turned up to the game with was first class, perfect. That’s got to be week in, week out.

“One thing we do have at Huddersfield is a hell of a lot of younger players who are coming up, and they’ve got to learn that level of consistency. We talk about Sam Hewitt, and he’s all of a sudden now starting to show a level of consistency after two or three years of being sent out on loan, coming back and playing a few games for us, then being sent back out on loan.

“Young players, they are inconsistent until they find their feet and they really understand what the game’s about. Sam Hewitt’s coming into that stage now, and some of our other younger players have come into that stage too.

“The choice will be theirs really. They’ve got to make that choice that they’re going to be consistent on and off the field week in, week out, but that’s what we’re striving for. We want to make sure they can become better players, better people and understand how they go about things the right way.”

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