Inside Sam Hewitt’s slow rise to the top with Huddersfield Giants

SAM HEWITT’S journey to becoming a first-team regular at Huddersfield has been a long one – but he was always confident in Ian Watson’s plan to get him there.

The forward, who has signed a new three-year deal with the Giants, made his debut at the age of 18, on Good Friday 2018, but has only finally nailed down a first-team place this season.

The most games he has played in one season for the club to date is 15 last term, while he has loan spells with Workington, Halifax and Wakefield.

But his strong run at the back end of 2023 saw him handed the number-twelve shirt for this year and he started the Giants’ first five games until suffering an ankle injury.

“I just think it’s been a waiting game for me, being patient,” Hewitt, now 25, told League Express.

“In the last couple of years I’ve had Chris McQueen in front of me, who has been a great professional, did wonderful things in the NRL and came over here and was absolutely fantastic.

“I had a lot to learn, coming through as a younger player. I feel I’m starting to get there now, starting to understand my role and my body.

“I’ve had to wait quite a bit, but hopefully now I’ve got my foot in the door I can make the most of it.”

Hewitt was given that debut by Chris Thorman during an interim spell in charge, and he also played under Simon Woolford and Luke Robinson before Ian Watson took over ahead of the 2021 season.

Watson says he always saw Hewitt as a long-term project: “I loved everything about him when I first came in.

“I saw this young kid who wasn’t scared to be physical and aggressive in the way he played the game. He played with loads of energy, which is what we liked.

“What we felt he needed – myself and Greg Brown, the conditioner – was about his development, and educating him to become a Super League player. It’s something we spoke to Sam about.

“He was developing and learning while going out to other clubs, but we were always in contact with Sam. If we felt like he was slipping off with certain things, we’d send him a message or phone him.

“He was always going to be a Huddersfield player for the long term, it was just about when was the right time to bring him through.

“Every time the year before that Chris (McQueen) dropped out, Sam came in and performed really well, and scored some tries that Chris was scoring.

“It was becoming more obvious last year that it was becoming Sam’s time, while Chris was coming towards the end of his.

“We continued to work with Sam so, this year, he’s come in a position where he’s got the number-twelve shirt now and he’s a genuine first-team player.

“I think he grasped that at the start of this year and realised it was his time now.

“Young players all come on at different levels. Everyone develops at their own speed. Sam is now primed to take this backrow spot and for it to be his own for a long period of time.”

Hewitt always kept faith that the opportunity would come: “Everything that we (him and Watson) spoke about came to fruition.

“We spoke many times and we did have hard conversations when I needed to come out because I wasn’t performing.

“I trusted Watto, I understood what he was talking about. I understood the plan and it’s working now.

“I think in the last couple of years I’ve come on leaps and bounds, so I just want to keep doing that really.

“If I can do that I’ll hopefully keep the backrow spot for many years to come.”

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,430 (May 13, 2024)

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