‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with Stephen Wild in 2007. Wild signed for Salford at the end of the 2010 season.
You’ve recently signed a new deal at Huddersfield.
My new three-year contract starts next season. I’m 26 now and I’ve played my best stuff in a long time. Hopefully I can improve on that and hit my peak.
Do you ever think how things would be going if you were still at Wigan?
Sometimes but I got out at the right time. They’ve had some ups and downs over the last few years and it was affecting my career. I didn’t know where I stood with new coaches coming and going and I’ve got some stability at Huddersfield which is coming out in the rugby I’m playing. Wigan breed a lot of youngsters and it’s tough to keep hold of them I suppose. Teams offer good contracts to young players and players want to play first team rather than stay on the outskirts of the Wigan side. A lot of the young players released from Wigan are now playing regular Super League and probably don’t have any complaints.
You played for Mike Gregory and alongside some great players which must have given you the grounding you needed in the game.
It certainly did. I played in the 2004 Challenge Cup final against St Helens which was my first major final. It was also a very emotional occasion for everybody because we knew that Mike was heading off for treatment after the game. Mike coached how he played. He was tough and he told you what he wanted from you without pussy-footing around. We all had so much respect for him and he was a good bloke who we felt we could talk to if we needed to. In the squad, we had some great players and it was a real honour and a boyhood dream to play alongside Faz, Denis Betts, Mick Cass, Radlinski, Dave Furner, Craig Smith and Adrian Lam. But the club lost so many great players in a short period of time so it was no surprise that a bit of a crisis followed. Adrian wasn’t replaced and he was such a good player.
How did you feel when you left?
Gutted. They were my hometown club and I was a big supporter of the team when I was young. I went to the Wembley finals and to Central Park regularly so it was a dream to play for them. I played for Lancashire and Great Britain while I was a Wigan player. But even though I was gutted at the time, Huddersfield has been a superb career move for me and I love it here. I didn’t know too much about the Giants when I first joined them but I knew Jon Sharp from the Great Britain camp and I enjoyed his coaching. He was the main reason I came here.
Are you happy with the progress of the Giants in the two years you’ve been there?
Yes, definitely. We’ve achieved a lot in the last couple of years and now the club are making some top signings in order to remain a top six side which is great to see. The Challenge Cup semi-final in 2006 at Odsal against Leeds has been the highlight so far, especially given that we’re a club who aren’t tipped to make finals, which was a new experience for me having played for Wigan.
What about this season?
Making the top six this season is also a career highlight, especially after the start we made, losing seven in a row. After a couple of months of Super League, a lot of our fans would have probably been happy to just finish a couple of places off the bottom so to finish fifth was a big achievement. We proved this year that your season isn’t over just because you go through a bad patch and the club deserve a lot of credit for staying loyal to Jon. A lot of clubs take the easy option and get rid of their coach but they stuck by him and everything worked out fine.
Is making the top six at last a monkey off the club’s back?
It is. They’ve been so close for the last few years, always finishing seventh it seemed and just missing out by a couple of points. With the quality we have in our side and the quality players we’re adding to the squad, fans and the media are now starting to notice us and the expectancy is increasing. If we carry on with what we did last year, it’ll see us good. Our defence was the third best in the competition last season, only behind the grand finalists. We still need to improve, of course. We didn’t score enough points at the beginning of the year which was a problem but guys like Paul Whatuira, George Gatis and Luke Robinson are great signings.
How good a coach is Jon?
He’s very similar to Mike Gregory. He’s honest and he gets on with the players. If training isn’t going well, or if things need to be improved then he’ll sort it out. He works hard, he’s in the club for about 12 hours a day and he listens to the players which is important. The players respect him which is a big thing for a coach to have. We listen to him and he’s done a great job here.
You’re a versatile player but which is your favourite position?
I’m not too bothered where I play. There’s not much difference between loose forward and second row and I like playing centre too. There’s more decision making in the centres, particularly defensively but I really don’t mind where I’m picked.
You’ve been part of the Great Britain set-up since 2004.
I’ve played in a couple of Tests and I’ve also been a part of squads but not played. It’s always disappointing not to play but it’s still great to be picked in the squad alongside with some of the best players and coaches in the world. It improves your game and every time I’ve come back from a Great Britain squad, I’ve come back a better player with something new in my game. I made my debut at Manchester City’s ground in 2004 against Australia when we lost 12-8 to a last minute try. I’ve also played against France and in the All Golds game this year.
What are your future ambitions?
I want to carry on playing well for Huddersfield and stay in the top six and make more finals. Hopefully my form will get me into the England side but playing well for your club should be a player’s first goal.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
It’s got to be back at Wigan playing alongside Andy Farrell and Denis Betts. They were always the first at training and the last to leave, setting a great example for everybody else. They were in their late 20s or early 30s but they just never stopped. It’s easy to just look at what they’ve achieved in the game but I saw at first hand that it was down to the effort that they put in every day.
There are a few clubs outside Super League attempting to win a franchise. Do we need more clubs in the top flight?
Yes, I think so. Widnes have got themselves back on their feet which is good to see but, to me, we need to have the right number of teams in the Super League so we’re not playing some clubs three or even four times. The fans might love to watch a relegation battle but we need to start concentrating on what’s positive for the game and who is pushing for honours, not who is struggling. I’ve seen quite a bit of National League football recently and there’s definitely enough talent in the game now for a Super League of at least 14 teams.