HUDDERSFIELD Giants second-row Jason Chan believes the squad can be proud of their achievements this year despite missing out on a maiden Grand Final.
The West Yorkshire club lifted the League Leaders’ Shield after finishing top for the first time since 1932 but, vitally, fell just one step from Old Trafford when they lost 30-22 in Thursday’s tense play-off semi-final at Warrington.
There was no disgrace in that performance, though, as Paul Anderson’s side pushed last season’s beaten finalists – who had caused a stir by going against convention and selecting the highest-ranked team at ClubCall – right until the end.
“I wouldn’t say it was a great game as we didn’t win but we tried to dig in there,” Chan told the Yorkshire Post.
“We didn’t get the bounce of the ball and we made a few bad decisions on kick plays – they got three tries and 18 points from those and we’re better than that.
“Overall I thought we played all right, though, and we held our own.
“We just need to defuse those kicks but we are improving,” he said
Anderson transformed Huddersfield from a seventh-place finish in 2012 to top in his debut season as a head coach after being promoted from assistant and there is a real belief they will go further again in 2014.
“We’re retaining most of our squad and Baloo (Anderson) has got Stuey (Fielden) coming in on the coaching staff so he’ll fix up a lot of our wrestling and defence,” added Australian-born Chan, with Warrington’s pack crucially winning the ruck too often at Halliwell Jones Stadium.
“We’re going to just keep on improving. I think we have over the last couple of years let alone thinking about how strong we could be next year.
“We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the squad, we’ve got the coaching, the fans and the backing of (owner) Ken (Davy) and the club.
“I think we’re going to be fighting at the top.”
Losing their first play-off at home to Wigan Warriors, which cost them ClubCall and a home semi, could be seen as the critical point in their downfall.
It meant – after vanquishing Hull FC 76-18 in a sudden-death tie – they were at the mercy of going to the only side they have failed to defeat this term, a confident Warrington who have now beaten them in their last nine meetings.
But Chan, 29, insisted: “I preferred how it happened.
“I hated losing to Wigan and what not but I think a week off wouldn’t have done us any justice. The Hull win gave us a bit more confidence and ironed out a few errors in our game.
“We’d ironed them out in training and took Hull down really convincingly.
“I thought we then played okay against Warrington but we just didn’t come away with the win.”
The strong-running former Crusaders forward was impressed by Huddersfield’s rookie full-back Jake Connor, the 18-year-old who acquitted himself brilliantly in only his second senior appearance after Scott Grix failed a fitness test.
He scored a well-taken try and was authoritative throughout especially given the magnitude of the contest.
While Huddersfield are soon set to announce the capture of Salford City Reds winger Jodie Broughton and London Broncos’ Australian back-row Chris Bailey for 2014, Connor’s display pointed at the rich homegrown talent being nurtured too.
“I really rate him,” admitted Chan, who is now preparing to head to Papua New Guinea for the Kumuls’ World Cup training camp.
“I knew he was going to go well. He’s just one of those natural players who looks like he’s not even trying.
“He eats up the ball when it’s up in the air. I don’t know how he does it.
“He’s safe as houses,” added Chan.
“He took his eye off one near the end – one of the easier kicks – but I think he was already looking at a gap or something!
“Jake ate up all the hard bombs though and before the game I told him to talk.
“He was ripping in to the boys talking from the back and that’s what a young full-back needs to do.
“He’s got plenty of potential; he’s going to learn and be a great player in the future.
“It was touch and go with Grixy. He was running around during the week and I didn’t even really know (if he was going to play),” he said.
“He was trying to train with us and I think it was Baloo’s call at the last minute with the physio.
“But Jake came in and held his own.”