Jermaine McGillvary keen to prove Huddersfield Giants can ditch ‘chokers’ tag

All 12 Super League teams are represented at Thursday's official launch event. Picture: James Hardisty.
All 12 Super League teams are represented at Thursday's official launch event. Picture: James Hardisty.
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IT wounds Jermaine McGillvary to hear Huddersfield Giants being written off as a team who ‘choke’ in big games.

But what really hurts is the fact he can’t argue with that assessment.

Since shaking off their tag as Super League’s whipping boys, Huddersfield have become the British game’s nearly-men.

Over the past decade they have reached the Challenge Cup final twice, topped the Super League table, qualified for the play-offs for seven successive seasons and regularly featured in semi-finals. But they have yet to win a major trophy.

“It does hurt, but it is true,” McGillvary said at yesterday’s Super League launch in Manchester.

“We get to these big games and we do choke.

“We need to find a way out of that and break this vicious cycle, because it is not just one year, it has happened for three or four years now.

“Hopefully, the coaching staff can help us, but I can’t put my finger on why we do it.

“We don’t mean to, but it is a problem. What we did last year is not good enough, it is not where I want to be and it’s not where the rest of the team want to be.”

Huddersfield’s end to 2015 highlighted what they have to overcome.

They went into the final round of the Super-8s as one of four teams with a chance of finishing top of the table, along with Leeds, Wigan and St Helens.

At home to Leeds, they led by eight points with as many minutes remaining, but were on the wrong end of an incredible finale as the visitors drew level with less than a minute to go and snatched victory, plus the league leaders’ shield, with a try after the final hooter had sounded.

Shell-shocked Huddersfield, who had been heading for second place and a home semi-final against the same opposition, had to settle for third and a trip to Wigan.

Giants went down with barely a fight, suffering a crushing 32-8 defeat. Almost a year’s work was wasted in 80 embarrassing minutes and, for McGillvary, it overshadowed what had been the best season of his career.

The winger raced in for 27 tries, topping Super League’s chart and earning him his first England call-up.

He said: “Last season was an amazing year for me.

“I could not have wished for any more in an individual sense, although it was disappointing how it finished in the end for the team.”

McGillvary’s try tally was two more than closest rival Tom Lineham, who is now at Warrington Wolves after an off-season move from Hull.

He was one of only five players to break through the 20-try barrier, but rugby league is a team sport and McGillvary admitted he would have swapped “every single one of them” to appear in a major final.

“I want to be known as a player who has won the Challenge Cup or won a Grand Final,” said the 27-year-old, who is preparing for his seventh season in Super League.

“My idol is (former Wigan and Great Britain winger) Henderson Gill – he used to live around the corner from me when I was growing up and I used to go to school with his son.

“I watched him winning trophies and doing so many great things in his career and that’s what I want when I finish; I want to have medals and to be able to tell my kids and my grandkids what I have achieved.

“Last year was a big season, but there are bigger things to be achieved, Challenge Cups and things like that. I want to be a part of that.”

McGillvary was one of three Huddersfield players in last year’s Test squad, alongside Leroy Cudjoe and Brett Ferres.

Allegations over his personal life led to Ferres moving to Leeds last month and Giants’ season could hinge on how well they use the money that transfer brought in, but McGillvary believes their crop of highly-rated young players could come of age this year.

“We have lost a lot of senior players, but we have got a young and enthusiastic squad,” he observed.

“These boys want to play and they are working hard.

“In our trial games against Hull KR and Catalans the young forwards stepped up massively.

“It has taken me by surprise how well they have done, but I can’t say how far away we are from winning something.

“You can have the best squad in the league or you could spend the most money on the salary cap, but it doesn’t mean you are going to win anything.

“You have to be a close team and you have to have that winning mentality, which we are trying to build at Huddersfield.

“It is not easy and I am not saying we are going to do better than last season. All we can do is try our best.

“It is up to us more experienced players, who have played quite a few games, to help the young boys.

“If we can help them, they will help us.”

On a personal note, McGillvary’s feats of the past 12 months, which earned him a place in the Super League Dream Team, have ensured he will be in the spotlight when Huddersfield kick-off away to St Helens in a week’s time.

“As for this season, I am not going to put any added pressure on to myself,” he stressed.

“I am not going to say I want to get more than 27 tries or I am going to do this or do that.

“I will try my best and if it is not good enough I will work even harder to get better.

“That is all I do, I don’t set any targets, I just try my best every week.

“If it is good enough, it’s good enough – if not I will forget that week and go again.

“I am a laid back person and I don’t need any added pressure.

“People probably want me to fall after last year and that’s pressure already, I don’t need to add to it.”