Club legend Jermaine McGillvary’s unsavoury exit from Huddersfield Giants has left him rueing the loyalty he’s shown over the years, confirming he’s rejected interest from some top clubs.
The winger, who recently scored the 250th try of his career, has spent 16 years with his hometown club. Off-contract come the end of 2023, his future remained unclear to the public until Monday night when Huddersfield confirmed he’d be leaving in an article released on their website containing no quotes from the player himself.
Breaking his silence on the departure yesterday in a press conference arranged by the club, the 35-year-old sensationally revealed that he was only informed of the news a few hours before it was made public knowledge via a phone call from boss Ian Watson.
That phone call was only prompted by McGillvary’s interaction with the Giants’ welfare officer earlier that day, who – out of the blue – asked if he was going to be retiring.
The answer to that was a firm ‘no’, with the veteran confirming he wants to play on in a full-time environment in 2024. He will make his 312th and final appearance for Huddersfield tonight against Warrington Wolves, and says the way it’s ended makes him wonder whether he should have left of his own accord a long time ago.
Jermaine McGillvary reveals he rejected interest from top clubs out of blind loyalty to Huddersfield Giants
Speedster McGillvary signed his first professional deal with his hometown club in August 2008, spending time on loan at Batley Bulldogs and Barrow Raiders before making a senior bow for the Giants in June 2010 against Bradford Bulls, scoring a brace of tries.
Internationally, he made four Great Britain appearances and turned out 17 times for England before announcing his international retirement last season ahead of the delayed World Cup.
It was after the 2017 World Cup where the winger was at the peak of his powers. Heading into the tournament, he’d scored 19 times in Super League for a struggling Huddersfield side which only avoided having to be involved in The Qualifiers by a single point.
The flier then crossed the whitewash seven times in the tournament for Wayne Bennett’s side as they reached the final, beaten only by a magnificent Australia side on their home patch.
After that tournament, McGillvary had clubs globally queuing up for him, as he confirmed. He said: “I’ve had a couple of opportunities to move the other side of the Pennines to other clubs, and I’m looking back now with the way that things have been done wondering whether I should have done it.
“The Australia thing, that was a possibility, but the main thing I stayed over here for was because I think it would have been a two-year deal, I was 28/29 at the time, and my eldest son (Isaac) was at Manchester City doing well.
“That was my biggest concern because football isn’t a big deal out there, and I didn’t want him to fall behind. Looking back now, I think I’ve made the right decision because he’s doing well, but I reckon if I look back now with everything happening as it has done and how things have been dealt with, I do regret not taking up an opportunity when I was a little bit younger.
“Family comes first, and I didn’t care how much it was or where it was, if it didn’t benefit my family, it was something I didn’t really want to do.”
Winger bows out with fond memories, but a tinge of sadness at lack of silverware
All three of McGillvary’s sons are now involved in prestigious football academies. Elijah is in the other half of Manchester with United, while youngest Ezra is in the Red Devils’ School of Excellence.
Unfortunately, though their dad has achieved a lot on a personal level, his near two-decade-long association with Huddersfield hasn’t resulted in the litter of trophies it once promised it would do.
McGillvary senior lifted the League Leaders’ Shield in 2013, but Huddersfield were then beaten by Warrington in the play-off semi-final. They also exited the competition at the same stage in 2015, and last term were runners-up to Wigan Warriors in the Challenge Cup as well as falling at the first hurdle in the play-offs, nilled by Salford Red Devils at the John Smith’s Stadium.
There are plenty of happy memories to look back on regardless, says McGillvary, though he admits the club not reaching the heights it could have done is another big frustration as he prepares to walk through the exit door.
The 35-year-old added: “I’ve enjoyed my time here, absolutely loved it and loved playing here. It’s probably the early days that stand out for me, winning the League Leaders. There’s been so many good nights, especially way back. Recently, there’s not been that many, for me anyway.
“I think we’ve got certain things in place, but we just haven’t kicked on, whether that be off the field or on it. It has been frustrating, but there’s no reason why they can’t do it in the future by growing the fanbase.
“We’ve got a group of loyal, loyal fans, but you’ve got to grow that and it needs to be better on the field first to get new fans in. It is a bit disappointing, but I’m hoping they can actually grow and kick on in the future.
“I’m definitely going to miss it, but I’ve not really had much time to reflect. I’ve not even released anything myself officially, I’ve not done any interviews, this is the first one I’ve done about it.
“It’s just crazy, finding out on Monday and then getting time to process it, I’m actually gutted to be leaving.”