FORMER bricklayer Jermaine McGillvary is delighted to be cementing a future in Super League.
The 20-year-old winger was working as an apprentice with Kudos Homes of Bradford and playing District League football with Dalton Dynamoes when he was encouraged to give rugby league another go.
He played as a youngster with Deighton and also for the Kirklees Service teams, where he was a teammate of his cousin, Leroy Cudjoe.
It was Cudjoe who persuaded him to ask the Giants if he could train with the club’s Reserves and now, 15 months on, McGillvary has impressed enough to earn a three-and-a-half year Super League contract.
“I’m very, very happy to get the contract because, at the start of the season when we were asked to write down our goals, my main one was to earn a contract – so I’ve achieved it,” he explained.
“When Leroy encouraged me to go training with the Reserves in May last year I didn’t know what might happen, but after four or five weeks they gave me 10 minutes in the second team and I did okay.
“After that I got half a game and did okay again and, before I knew it, I was starting for the Reserves, which was great.
“At the end of last season I signed a two-year part-time contract and, considering this is my first full season in the game, it seems to have gone really well.
“There’s still a lot to come from me, I know that, but I think I’ve done all right, some teams have come in and asked about taking me on loan, and now with the contract things couldn’t really have gone much better.”
McGillvary – who is 88kg (13st 10lb) and 5ft 10in – did so well in his five-game loan spell with Batley Bulldogs that he was named in the National League I Team of the Month for July.
“I was pleased with the way it went at Batley, having the chance to play some senior games, and now I’m hoping I might be able to make by Super League debut before the end of the season,” he said.
“We are still in with a chance of the play-offs, so we will have to see how things go, but it would be great to get a chance in the first team.
“The coaches have been encouraging me and making it clear they don’t think it’s out of the question, so I’m just going to get my head down and work hard.
“Although I’m the same weight, I’ve bulked up a lot muscle wise and I’m feeling as fit as anyone, so if I get the opportunity I’ll be ready.
“All the players at the club have been very helpful to me, and Paul Anderson has been fantastic with his advice and encouragement.
“Leroy has also given me a lot of help and Rod Jensen has been a big influence, always helping me out.”
McGillvary used to watch the Giants as a youngster – picking up free tickets from Deighton when he got the chance! – and Paul Reilly and Brad Drew were his favourites at the time.
“It’s great to now be a full-time player with the club and I’m just hoping I can carry on next season from how I’ve done this,” he said.
“I really do feel I’ve been going from strength to strength and if I could get a couple of Super League games under my belt before the end of the season I’d be delighted.
“Everyone knows we’ve got a new coach coming next season and I can’t wait for the chance to work under him (Nathan Brown) and really show what I can do.”
McGillvray thanks his family for their backing and has no regrets about ditching the trowel for the rugby ball.
“My mum and grandparents have been a big help and they are really happy for me that it’s worked out like it has,” he said.
“When I went to the Giants last season I don’t think they were really expecting me to get this far and, even this season, I don’t think they were expecting me to become full-time so quickly.
“Anyway, they are very supportive and I’m now just hoping to push on from here.
“I’m getting fitter and stronger all the time and if I could play for the first team, it would cap off a great season.”
Giants squad – Aspinwall, Brown, Crabtree, Cudjoe, Elford, Faiumu, Griffin, Hodgson, Hudson, Jackson, Jones, Kirmond, Lolesi, Mason, Raleigh, Robinson, Thorman, Whatuira, Wild.
Catalans Dragons – Baile, Bosc, Carlaw, Chan, Duport, Elima, Fakir, Ferriol, Gorrell, Greenshields, Guisset, Mogg, Mounis, Murphy, Pelo, Raguin, Stacul, Touxagas, Wilson.
Referee – Ashley Klein.