Next year looks set to be a huge one for Huddersfield. A new coach and backroom team, a major shake-up on the field and a whole new league structure to play with. Here's 5 reasons to be excited about the Giants in 2019
1. The Tanks on the Flanks
You'll be hard-pressed to find two more dangerous wingers than Jermaine McGillvary and Akuila Uate in Super League next year. While almost every other starting position in our squad is up for grabs, you'd expect these two internationals to take the wing spots for the majority of the 2019 season. Their kick returns will be lethal, and their tryscoring speaks for itself.
McGillvary has been an outstanding finisher for both club and country over the past few years, and needs no introduction to Giants fans. And while Uate is yet to play in Super League, his credentials in the Southern Hemisphere make for very exciting reading. He's the all-time top-tryscorer for both his country (Fiji) and for his former NRL club (Newcastle Knights), he's a three-time Dally M Winger of the Year (the Austrailian answer to the Man of Steel Awards), and he's even picked up tries in State of Origin games, and for the Australian national side.
2. A New Era. And a half
The loss of Broughy is arguably the most significant change at the club in the past decade. He's broken records, been crowned Man of Steel and lead us to silverware, all in the Claret and Gold. He's been the cornerstone of our attack for as long as many fans have been watching the side. But with Gaskell, Frawley, Holmes and Russell, there'll be plenty queueing up to fill his boots.
3. The Youthquake
The quality of young players coming through the ranks at Huddersfield is as good as I've ever seen, and as good as anywhere else in the league. Despite the excitement around Uate, in our end-of-season awards, Jake Wardle was voted the most exciting "One To Watch" in 2019, and it's not hard to see why. His limited game time so far has shown off some huge potential, and the same can be said of the Senior Twins, Sam Hewitt and Olly Russell. Even the more established 'young' players - such as Darnell McIntosh and Matty English - still have a lot to learn and will only get better as they play more games. And the production line is showing no sign of stopping, following our Academy side reaching the 2018 play-offs. Expect to see promising young prospects like Jon-Luke Kirby and Dom Young stepping up to the first team, and starting their development into Super League players
4. Fighting Fit
By the end of 2016, the Giants had established themselves as genuine Super League contenders with Top 3 finishes becoming the norm. The past three years, however, have been much less positive for the club. Since narrowly avoiding the Million Pound Game in 2016, we've left it to the last minute to secure the top 8 in subsequent years. Myriad factors have contributed to our poor performance, but none more so than fitness. We've thrown away leads due to fatigue, and we've had an awful time with injuries.
2019 promises to be a much better year for the Giants in that regard. When you talk about our fitness, you can't look past Mark Andrews. His arrival this year was instrumental in our return to form. Not only did he work tirelessly to get players back from injury, but he kept them fit throughout the games. Mark - or Bumper, as he's better known - has now signed up for a new deal himself, and has reworked our backroom team ahead of the new season. The addition of Dave O'Sullivan and Adam Rowlands (head physios for England RL and England Knights RL, respectively) is a huge statement of intent and the Giants will be one hell of a physical side in 2019.
5. Woolford Unleashed
If Bumper is the pack, Woolford is the spine. As Mark brings a new level of physicality and fitness to the side, it lays the platform for Simon to come in and change our direction and structure. Upon joining the club he was given one goal: build up enough form for us to survive the Middle 8s. Instead, he took a team who sat bottom of the league, with 2 wins in 13 games and a -249 points difference, and lead them to win 12 of their next 13 outings. Not only did we avoid the seemingly inevitable Qualifiers, but with three games left in the Eights we were still in with a shot at the play-offs
That's what he achieved when thrown in the deep-end. With a decimated squad. With no opportunity for transfers. With no time to prepare.
Imagine what he's capable of with a full preseason and a few shrewd signings.
With our poor start and quiet finish to 2018, it's easy to forget just how good Huddersfield were for the bulk of Woolford's time in charge. They were not only a winning side, but an entertaining one. While fans elsewhere may scoff, there's good reason to be quietly confident that Germ could be the man who'll eventually lead us back to the top