05th October 2018


Andy Kelly reflects on the U19s Academy season

Foster Care

The Huddersfield Giants U19s Academy enjoyed a stunning campaign as they finished the season with a top four-finish.

Despite being defeated in the semi-finals by eventual Grand Final winners Wigan Warriors, Head of Youth Andy Kelly spoke to about the successes of the season and the progress that has been made:

“As much as I can play it down, I love winning and hate losing but I look at both being a challenge. There has to be a dignity of winning and losing and you have to learn from each occasion. I think we’ve instilled that in our players. It’s nice to win but what we have to understand as a Club and as supporters of a Club, it’s cyclic and is a three-year turnover. Your players come into the academy having done two years in the scholarship and as you go in the academy through the three-year process it keeps rolling around. Each season can be very different, you can finish fourth in one season and just miss out on another. I think what’s going to be a real measure for us next year and the year after is that we’re competing around the top four for the whole season, whether we get in it or not we need to be around that place. We don’t want to be in a semi-final for the Grand Final and find ourselves at the bottom the year after. A mark of progression now would be that we’re consistently competitive around the top four.

“There are many things that culminate into a successful season and I think it’s always worth mentioning the people that recruit who are looking at talent on weekends to recommend players to us as well as scholarship coaches who volunteer their time. It’s probably very close to being five years that I’ve been at the Club and you’re starting to see a bit of a turnaround in the academy values and performances. The next thing we’ll look for is consistency, repeating that and being able to flirt around the top four and make it into the top four on a regular basis. To me that would be a real measure of progression. In terms of the smaller picture, which is this season, it’s been fantastic. We’ve had so many different types of success, whether it’s academy internationals, academy Origin, finishing in the top four or players playing in the first-team, there have been so many highlights this season and a lot for everyone to be proud of.

“We showed the awards night video to the incoming scholarship players and their parents at their induction night and we were trying to count the number of academy produced players on that and there were numerous. There are players further forward like Leroy Cudjoe, Jermaine McGillvary, Michael Lawrence as the statesmen of academy production, but then you bring it back to more recent times and there is Tyler Dickinson, Sam Wood, Darnell McIntosh, Matty English, there is a whole host of players there that you can be really proud of that the Huddersfield Giants academy have produced. With each year that goes by I’m hoping that the robustness and the longevity of each academy player is there, and they are around us for a long time.

“I think Luke Robinson has been fantastic for the academy. Since taking over from Chris Thorman and finishing as a player I guess he was a little bit frantic at times when he first came in last season, but he’s shown this year the quality of coach that he’s going to be. The lads have taken to him, they enjoy his methodology and like the way he sets his team up on a gameday, he’s proved this year that he’s going to be a very good coach in the future.”

When asked if he had a highlight from the 2018 campaign, Kelly struggled to pick out one moment:

“You could look at the first game of the season when we declared an intention by drawing 13-13 with Wigan who ultimately won the Grand Final. A home victory against Hull who perceivably were perennial top four finishers was also good. There’s lots of things that have stood out, but I think the highlight of the season is that we pretty much beat all the teams below us and to be in the top four consistently that’s what you have to do. At the end of the day there’s been lots of different things, the debuts of players in first-team, watching some of the lads play in Origin so it’s hard to point at one occasion or turning point in a season as I think it’s been a gradual progression with lots of victories and enjoyable moments in it.

The Huddersfield Giants Supporters Association (HGSA) have played a prominent role in helping to promote and run academy home fixtures this season, and Kelly thanked all the members for their continuous support:

“The HGSA have become as valuable as the players because they’ve generated support for the academy, they’ve stood there with the home guard collecting money as cars have rolled up and they don’t miss a penny on those gates. They have followed us everywhere and have given the players a big match feel to what they do, and we look forward to having them there next year. Charlotte Goodwin has been fantastic, baking something for the lads on the bus to make sure they have something as a treat, there are so many things they’ve supported us in. Generally, it’s having a crowd there, getting people in who appreciate what the academy are doing, and they’ve shown that’s exactly what they are, they’re there to support the Club and that’s what they have done.

“I’d just like to finish by saying a massive thank you to everyone that supports the academy and scholarship, I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate your contributions.”


Heikki Kovalainen




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