Having already looked into our Outside Backs and our Forwards, in the third and final part of our off-season series, we're looking at the Giants spine, seeing where things went wrong in 2023 and where we can hope to see improvement in 2024

2023 - Almost Spineless

Almost certainly the biggest concern for the Giants in 2023 came from the spine - be it through injuries, inconsistent line-ups, or simply just not being clinical enough when it counted. The odds seemed stacked against us from the beginning: a disrupted preseason campaign left us short on gametime, Danny Levi's unexpected departure left a huge hole in the squad and star signing Jake Connor was set to miss preseason and the first few months of fixtures as he recovered from major knee surgery.
In the early rounds there was clearly something missing from our playmakers - we were dominating most areas of the field but just couldn't get over the line and turn it into points. This was maybe best exemplified in our season opener against Warrington. Looking at the match stats below, we came out on top in almost all the key areas. We fell behind in only two stats....unfortunately, it was the most important two: Tries and Goals
Things didn't look much better the following week. Sure we picked up the win, but it was less a hard-earned victory, more a "thank christ we were only playing Wakefield". The now-relegated side would concede an average of 28 points per game in 2023, and we managed to score just one try - and that came from Joe Greenwood barging over at short distance rather than any creative playmaking.
This would go on to be the story of the season - that's not to say we'd dominate every game we played in (far from it) - but even in the games we did, the scoreboard very rarely reflected how we were playing. We occasionally picked up big wins against the bottom three, but up against the other 8 clubs, our biggest victory margin was just 12 points.
After those first two games, it seemed clear our spine just wasn't clicking, and needed time to gel and find its feet, but that wasn't an opportunity we'd be afforded. Theo Fages limped from the field in Game 3 and his replacement Olly Russell joined him in the injury ranks a few weeks later. Suddenly we were without a recognised scrum half, and were forced to call Jake Connor back into the side, despite the fact he was clearly still suffering with his knee - never mind the fact he'd also picked up a broken thumb.
Fages and Russell would eventually return to the side, though Theo would only manage 7 Super League appearances, bringing his time at the club to an end. In the end, we fielded 13 different starting spine combinations in just one year, with players powering through injury all too common a sight. The end result was the third worst attack in the league, scoring just two thirds of the points we managed in 2022.
So what comes next?


  • Will Pryce (Newcastle Knights)
  • Theo Fages (Catalans Dragons)
  • Nathan Peats (Retired)
  • Adam O'Brien (Halifax)
  • George Roby (Swinton)


  • Adam Milner (loan deal made permanent)
  • Adam Clune (Newcastle Knights)
  • Tom Deakin (Sydney Roosters)
  • George Flanagan Jr (Bradford Bulls)

2024 - Reasons for Optimism?

While some question marks remain over our spine, there's certainly grounds to think that we could see a marked improvement in 2024.
Flanagan has almost certainly been signed as a replacement for Pryce. A young but incredibly impressive performer, George can play fullback or in the halves, and while he's unlikely to be a first-choice pick in this season, he'll no doubt be given opportunities as the year goes on and will be one to watch for the future.
Fages for Clune is another pretty straightforward swap. Theo is a terrific player and really showed his class when he was on the field, but between injuries and personal issues, the sad truth is he missed far more games than he played. While I'm sure Giants fans will wish him the best at Catalans, our focus now turns to Clune. Having overcome offers from the likes of Leeds and Hull, the former St George and Newcastle half will be looking to bring some composure and control to the side, allowing the likes of Tui and Connor to play a little more off the cuff and take on the line.
Speaking of those two, Giants fans will hopefully be able to see the benefits of a spine having trained through a full preseason. Tui joined the camp late last year following a world cup and a honeymoon, and as mentioned, Jake's introduction into the side was chaotic at best. While both players had their moments this year, neither one came close to hitting the heights of their 2022 efforts, which saw them finish as the top two try-assist providers. Purely from a fitness perspective, they looked like totally different players against London and Castleford in preseason. Jake was returning kicks with force after spending most of 2023 finding a winger to pass to, and Tui seems to be in his best shape in years.

Inside Our No. 9s

There's a lot of skill in that 1-6-7 line-up, but if there's anything to be concerned about in our spine, it's likely at hooker. We only have one out-and-out hooker in the side and he's yet to play first-grade rugby league, and while our other two options are more experienced, they're arguably more utility players than natural 9s. Danny Levi was a huge part of what made our 2022 squad so successful, and it's hard to point to one person in the squad and say they're ready to take on his role. Looking over the side, we have three options to round out our spine:
  1. Adam Milner - despite having spent most of his recent years at Loose Forward, Adam took over as starting hooker following his mid-season loan and looks set to continue in that role into 2024 after being awarded the #9 shirt. While he's certainly a defensive workhorse, he feels like more of a Peats than Levi, lacking the spark, pace and distribution that we grew used to in 2022. There's certainly value in that sort of player - there's nothing wrong with a hooker who can play 80 minutes without missing a tackle, and in fact this could prove to be a useful trait with our top tacklers Hill and Yates likely to miss round 1 - but whether that's the type of 9 that Huddersfield need in the long-term remains to be seen.
  2. Thomas Deakin - almost certainly the biggest unknown quanitity in the squad. He's the only natural hooker in the side and seems to have that exciting quality Levi brought last year. But he's still just 21 years old - and as such it's hard to determine how strongly he'll feature in Watson's plans, certainly in the first half of the season. He may force his way into the side, but it could also be one season too soon for the youngster
  3. Ashton Golding - as mentioned, more of a utility player than a typical 9, but given our depth in other positions you'd expect him to be getting most of his gametime at hooker in 2024. Going into his fifth season with the club, he's been plagued with injuries, but has always performed when given the chance. His effort is second-to-none, his enthusiasm is infectious, and I don't think it's a coincidence the one season where he played more games than he missed was the season we made the top 3 and the cup final.
Given his utlility value, Golding will be more likely to come off the bench than be a regular starting hooker - so all in all this feels like a two horse race. If one of either Milner or Deakin can find form and prove they're ready to nail down the starting 9 shirt, we could be looking at a very strong spine in 2024. If not, we may find ourselves once again struggling to get over the line.