28 Oct 2020

Cudjoe reflects on stellar career

Giants centre looks back over 299 career games head of his 300th appearance

Leroy Cudjoe is a Huddersfield legend, and if selected will play his 300th game tonight against Warrington Wolves. As a Huddersfield-born former captain of the club, he's been surrounded in Rugby League in the town for nearly his whole life. He recalled the first time he started playing, and how the Giants were always a part of his life. 

"I first started playing in school my Grandma and Grandad are big Giants fans have been for a long time, they use to take me to games when I was younger so I always watched the games from a young age, but it wasn’t until I attended a training session put on by the giants at school that I started playing and from there I joined Newsome Panthers Under 11s"

Cudjoe signed his first contract with the club during Jon Sharp's tenure as coach, and it was a dream come true for the young outside back.

"I was in a small office in the stadium with Stuart Sheard, Jon Sharp signing my first contract, it was something I always dreamed of. I don’t think I stopped smiling and wearing the training kit for a whole week!"

He made his debut in 2008 against Leeds Rhinos, playing at full-back in front of a record crowd of 14,000. Cudjoe got a taste for the action and knew that he enjoyed it. He would go on to make 16 appearances that year, scoring 4 times and kicking 8 goals.    

"I knew 10 days before the game I was getting my debut as a reward for a good pre-season, I was only allowed to tell my parents, My Grandma and Grandad. I was excited all week, playing against Leeds first game of this season at home in front of 14,000 it was a bit surreal. I started on the bench and came on at full-back, the game was so quick and physical but I loved every minute of it."

While Sharp would leave the Head Coaching role in 2008, he would be replaced by Nathan Brown who would transform the club's fortunes, culminating with a Wembley appearance in 2009 after a historic win against St Helens in a legendary Semi-Final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. He remembers that Semi-Final as his favourite game of his 300 in his career so far. 

"I made my debut in 2008 and played a fair few games but it wasn’t until 2009 I really got my chance to play regularly that year we got to the Challenge Cup Final which was a massive occasion, I was gutted to lose but enjoyed the whole experience that week something I'd love to do again and win before I finish."

"I always dreamed of been a professional rugby player as a young kid but I didn't think I'd go on to have the career I’m currently having, to play 300 games for my hometown club and country is a proud moment for me and my family."

"My favourite game is Challenge Cup Semi-Final win over St Helens that we everything clicked into place in training and the game, few days before we played Jamahl Lolesi looked at me in training and said we will win this week just the feeling amongst the group and the quality of training I don’t believe anyone would have beaten us that week. In a way, we probably played our final in the semi-final."

In addition to a stellar club career, Cudjoe also represented England in the 2010 Four Nations and the 2013 Rugby League World Cup on home soil, and looks back on his time in an England shirt with pride, especially playing in his hometown against Ireland in the 2013 World Cup. 

"I always enjoyed my time with England it was an honour to play every single time, my favourite moments was my debut against Australia in Melbourne, every kid dreams of playing for there country against the best and to do that in my first game down there was a dream come true. I also loved been apart of the World Cup, playing in Huddersfield for England against Ireland was an amazing experience and the semi-final at Wembley even though it was hard to take the loss I'll never forget that experience."

The emergence of Leroy Cudjoe was accompanied by a Huddersfield revolution: Michael Lawrence and Jermaine McGillvary, fellow Huddersfield men, emerged around the same time (with Lawrence making his debut in 2007, McGillvary in 2010) inspiring the current generation of youngsters breaking through. Their relationship and friendship are well known and Cudjoe hopes that they'll be able to achieve more in the future. 

"I'm proud and honoured to of been able to represent Huddersfield Giants for such a long time and to do it with Jermaine and Michael make it even better our journeys to get where we are have been different but our up brings were quite similar so it's special to be able to achieve what we have and hopefully will go on to do achieve more with Huddersfield."   

"We had that partnership from the very first time we played together as centre and wing, it was against Bradford Bulls away and Jermaine scored two. We've been good mates for a long time we have that respect for each other and also demand a lot from one another a lot of people think we argue all time but it's our way of communicating. We seem to bring out the best in each other and are always there to help each other whether that be a kick up the backside or a boost of confidence."

Cudjoe's re-emergence into the Giants lineup has been one of the stories of 2020, with his nearly two-year layoff leaving many asking whether he would pull on the shirt again. He insists that he always knew he would line-up for Huddersfield again, and loves 'every minute' of being back on the field. 

"I get asked that [whether he thought he would play again] a lot and my answer is always no. I always believed I'd get back out on the pitch. The surgeon who did my last surgery was very positive and had that same belief as me which helped give more confidence and made me more determined through my rehab."  

"I’ve loved every minute of being back playing, I missed the game so much when I was out injured and it certainly made me appreciate the game a lot more. You can get into a cycle of taking it for granted when games are coming thick and fast and your just looking at one game to the next."

"Been out for so long you miss out on a lot that feeling of putting in a shift to good performance and winning, the feeling of just competing each week and the pressure of having to perform and the buzz of being around the boys you miss it all when your out injured. Even though we haven’t had the results we wanted I’ve still enjoyed been back out there."

When looking back on his career, one famous moment always comes to mind - an interception try in the 2010 Playoffs against Warrington. Unsurprisingly, this is his favourite moment in a Giants shirt and remembers the celebrations from the then Giants coach, Nathan Brown. 

"My favourite try was the interception against Warrington away. Just the timing, the pressure we were currently under, it was a playoff game and Nathan Brown on the sideline just made the whole experience."

Finally, Cudjoe wanted to mark his 300th appearance with a message to all who have played a part in his Giants career. 
"I'd just like to thank everyone who has played a part in me been able to achieve this milestone, its a proud moment for me and my family."