KIWI winger Simon Pratt has bagged a pair of tries in his last two starts and looks more than capable of making the left-wing berth his very own as Huddersfield look to fill one of the problem spots.
James Wood with five tries against his name this term is now virtually a ‘shoe-in’ on the right flank – although he did have to come off last week against Hull with a shoulder injury which is currently being treated by the physios – but the rest of the three-quarter line has become something of a moveable feast in recent National II North weeks.
With centre Tom van Rooyen out for some time with a broken wrist, Ben Paxman out with a broken finger, his brother Lee out of the country and full-back Ian Shuttleworth also a recent injury concern, coach Dan Hyde has frequently had to ring the changes in the back division.
Tom Owen was the perfect replacement for Shuttleworth at No15, the former Academy player impressing there for most of last season, while utility back Dave Hall seems to be making a useful contribution after being moved into the centres (last week’s indiscretion against Hull being the exception), so Pratt’s recruitment last Autumn is now proving a real boon to the club.
The 25-year-old joined Huddersfield from Sheffield Tigers in late October, but prior to the Manchester game a fortnight ago he had played only a couple of first team matches against Westoe in November and Loughborough Students.
Originally from Blenheim in the Marlborough region of New Zealand (at the top of South Island), Pratt came over to England in 2008 to play with Cheshire outfit Northwich.
“I got a contract to play in the North I West with Northwich, but only played half a season before moving to Sheffield, where my girlfriend Emily lives,” said Pratt.
“Unfortunately, while at the Tigers, I broke an ankle which required pinning in three places, and couldn’t play again until January 2010.
“When I returned to action I really fancied having a go playing at National Division II level and so decided to transfer to Huddersfield in October.”
Back home he played for the Blenheim club which is a similar standard, but when he lived in Christchurch, also played for the High School side, which is probably a shade higher, and is where former All Black international Andrew Mehrtens made his name.
He made his Huddersfield first team debut in the narrow defeat against Westoe in November followed by a game against Loughborough, but then returned home to New Zealand for three weeks over the Christmas and New Year period. On his return several games were called off due to the weather, but he staked a claim for a return to first-team action when he notched four tries in a second-team game against Scunthorpe.
And coupled to the worsening injury situation, Hyde put him back in the first team for the home game with Manchester, and Pratt rewarded the coach by opening the score with his side’s first try in the nine-try rout.
Last week, the Kiwi, who back home in New Zealand mostly played at full-back, showed great awareness when he crossed to the opposite flank in support of scrum half Joel Hinchliffe’s break and was on hand to receive the final pass before scooting over in the corner for his second try in successive games.
Sadly Pratt’s efforts were not enough to ensure victory as Hull came back from 20-0 down to win 28-23 in the last five minutes.
“It was disappointing to lose, but we simply didn’t put our chances away,” conceded Pratt.
“The ankle injury took me quite some time to get over, and now I’m just looking to play and take each week as it comes. I’m now starting to get my confidence back, and hopefully I’ll be able to hit the ground running next season.”