Rugby League star and hometown hero Michael Lawrence is hoping his Huddersfield Giants team can beat Hull FC this weekend to make it to a Challenge Cup semi-final for the first time in 10 years.
The Giants have made it to two Challenge Cup finals since 2005, losing both, the first being in 2006 and then again in 2009. They made it to a semi-final in 2012 where they lost to Warrington Wolves 33-6. They haven’t reached that stage of the competition since then.
However there is much hope that the Giants can beat Hull FC on Saturday (5pm KO) and make it through. The team has started the season very well, they currently sit 3rd in the Betfred Super League after seven games, winning five of them. They are just two points behind the league leaders St Helens.
Huddersfield-born Lawrence is a one-club-man and has played for Huddersfield for the past 15 years, making his debut in 2007. Now 31, he has played well over 300 games for the club.
However, with the Giants’ great start to the season, he has found it difficult to break into the side, only appearing twice so far this year.
On the 2022 campaign and how well it’s going, Lawrence said: “The boys have started really well and that has meant I haven’t really featured so far this season.
“The squad is so much stronger and different to what we have had for a few years now. There is competition for places in every position which is keeping people on their toes. I’m very hopeful that this is going to be a successful season.
“Last year we were a strong squad on paper with a new coach and it takes a while for that new coach to get his ideas across. You have to get the players to buy into those ideas and last year I don’t think we had a buy-in from the whole group, whereas this year we have and that’s made a difference.”
On what the club hopes to achieve this year, he added: “We want to win trophies, that’s always the aim. We aren’t here to make up the numbers and just finish mid-table. There are three trophies on offer each season – the league leader’s shield, the grand final and the Challenge Cup. We want to win all three, that is always our ultimate goal.
“It’s my 15th season at Huddersfield and Super League is just getting better and quicker every year. There are lots of great young talented players in the league at various clubs and the overseas players have definitely helped the competition improve too.
“It’s going to be close this season, you can’t call it, but hopefully we’ll be up there and challenging come the end.”
After last year’s difficult campaign head coach Ian Watson will be looking for the Giants to really improve this year and Lawrence has been impressed by the former Salford boss.
He said: “He knows what he wants, he knows how he wants his teams to play rugby and he knows how to win rugby league games. The lads believe and have great confidence in him as a coach. We know that if we buy into his ideas it’s proven we can win games and I think as the season goes on we’ll just get better and more consistent.”
When asked if Lawrence had any thoughts on becoming the Huddersfield Giants’ head coach in the future, the multi-positional player was clear with his answer.
He said: “I’ve got this year and next year to go on my contract which will take me up to 16 years at the club. If I’m still playing well, and my body is healthy and the club still wants me, I’ll keep going until I can’t play anymore.
“If it ever gets to the stage where my performances aren’t where I want them to be or I am not enjoying going into training and mixing with the lads, then I’ll call it a day.
“It is definitely something that I might look at in the future, but it isn’t a huge aspiration of mine at the moment. I would like to explore the education side a bit more and possibly become a PE teacher. I’d be interested in becoming a coach in an academy set up and working with players that way, but as for leading the first team it’s not in my thoughts.”
Back in February 2021 the Jamaican international forward was made a member of the RL Inclusion Board. The board is part of a drive within the sport to tackle issues of diversity, inclusion and discrimination. A year on and Lawrence is still enjoying his role.
He said: “The World Cup is going to be huge this year for rugby league and it’s a big opportunity to show the world how inclusive the sport of rugby league here in England is.
“I am proud to work with the RFL and speak on behalf of the players to try and improve our sport going forward.”