Huddersfield Giants exclusive: Key man makes ‘healthy competition for places’ claim as pre-season training ramps up

Drew Darbyshire
Olly Russell Huddersfield Giants Alamy

Olly Russell (centre) in action for Huddersfield Giants in 2023 - Alamy

Huddersfield Giants half-back Olly Russell believes that competition for places will only ‘bring the best’ out of Ian Watson’s side heading into next season.

Despite being Challenge Cup finalists in 2022 as well as reaching the play-offs later that year, the Giants endured a disappointing 2023, finishing ninth in the table at the end of the regular campaign, ultimately missing out on a place in the end of season play-offs.

But Watson’s side have enjoyed a heavy recruitment drive ahead of 2024, with seven new faces arriving at the John Smith’s Stadium in the shape of Thomas Deakin (Sydney Roosters), Adam Swift, Andre Savelio (both Hull), Elliot Wallis (Castleford), Hugo Salabio (Wakefield), Jack Murchie (Parramatta Eels) and Adam Clune (Newcastle Knights).

The Giants released their 2024 squad numbers last month, with Watson’s side naming a 33-man strong squad for next season, something in which Russell believes can only be a good thing for the team.

“We’ve been in training and we’re all looking good together,” Russell told Love Rugby League.

“Obviously we don’t know the team for Round One yet, but we’ve got good competition. It’s always healthy (to have) competition, it brings the best out of four or five of us that can play (in the halves).

“I think big raps (goes) to Rushy (Kieran Rush), the youngest one of us all, he’s training really well at the moment so when you’ve got a young lad pushing you, it makes it even better.

“There are negatives and positives from having a good squad. The bigger your squad and the better players you’ve got – it’s a long season and you get injuries – the competition brings the best out of players.

“The forward pack looks really young and physical and we’ve got competition in the outside-backs which brings the best out of all of us.”

Olly Russell details Huddersfield Giants mindset heading into new Super League season

There was much hype around Huddersfield‘s squad heading into the 2023 season, but instead of making the same mistakes they did last term, Russell insists Watson’s side play better when they have a week-by-week mindset rather than looking ahead of what faces them months in advance.

“I think everyone put a lot of expectation on us last year and so they should have with the squad we had,” Russell told Love Rugby League.

“But I think this year we are going to take it a bit like we did at the back end of the year, just one game at a time.

“Obviously our aim is to get into the top six and go again from there but I think we are one of those teams that play better when it’s week-to-week rather than looking ahead.

“I don’t think we’re a big enough club or team at the moment to be saying, ‘we are going to win a Challenge Cup‘. We’ve got to take it week by week and (we) play better like that, like we did when we got to the Challenge Cup final and the play-offs, we just took it week by week and enjoyed it.

“If we can get back to that this year and get back to what we did well in 2022 by strangling teams, putting them into corners, enjoying tackling for each other and doing the little things well… Jake Connor, Tui (Lolohea), we’ve got some speed on the wings, scoring tries will take care of itself.

“But if we can defend for each other and want to defend for each other, then I think we can do whatever we want.”

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