HULL FC head coach Lee Radford admits it has been “worth the fight” seeing full-back Jamie Shaul turn into a potential England international.
The 23-year-old is proving one of the stars of this Super League season with his speed, dynamism and try-scoring form.
Shaul scored his 11th try of the campaign with a sensational finish during Friday’s stunning 30-16 win at Wigan Warriors that sees the Black and Whites joint-top of the table.
Radford was a big advocate of Shaul’s when coaching him in the club’s academy before he made his debut three years ago with a two-try blast at Wakefield.
At that point, the youngster was struggling to even get a game due to the lack of a reserve side.
“I was frustrated at the time,” recalled Radford. “As assistant coach I was ringing around clubs hoping they’d take him on loan.
“Leading up to that Wakefield game, he’d not played for 13 weeks and I was saying it’s just not right. But he came into that match and scored two tries on his debut. It was definitely worth the fight. He’s obviously in fantastic form. He’s working very hard to improve his game and he’s done that all season.
“What he’s doing for us at the the moment is coming up with these game-changing plays which is always a sign of quality.”
Shaul sidestepped his way past Sam Tomkins – the England full-back making his first appearance in Super League since 2013 – on his way to scoring Hull’s fourth try on Friday.
It prompted further talk about whether he will get an international call-up come the Four Nations.
“I’m not sure if he will or not,” said Radford, with Tomkins clearly hoping to resume the role which was filled by Leeds Rhinos’ Zak Hardaker while he was injured against New Zealand last autumn.
“I don’t know who’s selecting it, whether (England assistant) Denis (Betts) will be involved or not, so you’d have to ask them, but he’s definitely playing some great rugby.”
As are Hull. They head into Sunday’s derby with Hull KR at Magic Weekend on the back of nine wins from 10 games, the victory at Wigan underlining them as genuine title contenders if the previous week’s Challenge Cup thrashing of St Helens still left anyone unsure.
Radford said: “I don’t think Friday was the best win of the season, but what was really pleasing was that we’d not defeated them in three years.
“I’d never beaten Wigan as coach so, to get a result like that, I was over the moon and, after the Saints performance, it was a double whammy.
“I knew we had a good squad and as this season went on we’d only get better. We’re one of only four teams to run a Reserve Grade side which was a brave call from the owner but it’s proving a good decision.
“I think you’re seeing other clubs looking to do it now.
“The key for us now is that we maintain this level of performance.”
Ahead of the derby at Newcastle, Radford added: “We’ve got to make sure don’t take our eye off the ball.
“We have to turn up with the right attitude but we’re looking forward to it for sure.”
Winger Fetuli Talanoa, meanwhile, completed the Wigan win with a spectacular finish, just as he did against St Helens.
“It’s really pleasing because in the Widnes game and the Castleford game he’s putting the ball down with his right arm,” explained Radford.
“We’ve worked on finishing with his left arm and making sure you’re nowhere near the touchline and to see him executing that is really pleasing as a coach.”