THE road that eventually leads to Coventry this evening has been an eventful one for talented Scotland hooker Liam Hood.
He will line up for the Bravehearts in their first-ever game against England – the country of his birth – having ventured via Queensland, Swinton, Leigh and, most recently, Hull KR, in 2016.
The former Leeds Rhinos player, who hails from Bradford, has packed plenty in so far and will look to round it off by helping Scotland perform what would be one of the biggest shocks in international rugby league history.
Hood, 24, moved to Australia at the end of last year after being released by Salford Red Devils and signed for part-time outfit Burdekin Roosters in Townsville.
However, disappointed by playing standards, he swiftly returned home with Championship side Swinton Lions in January and soon exercised a clause to return to full-time football with their rivals Leigh Centurions.
“(Former Scotland half-back) John Duffy offered me a contract over here, I came back and signed for Swinton before, in a couple of months, joining Leigh,” Hood told The Yorkshire Post as he prepared for this evening’s Ladbrokes Four Nations contest. “It’s been a rollercoaster year and one I’ll definitely not forget but it’s been a great one, too. We’ve been promoted to Super League with Leigh and I’m now playing in the Four Nations, too, v Australia and England.”
He caught the eye in Scotland’s opener against the Kangaroos at Hull KR when, despite losing 54-12, the gritty No 9, among other things, produced a stunning tackle on star full-back Matt Moylan.
“With that hit, I thought I had a chance of getting him and I just caught him right,” Hood recalled.
“It did look like it winded him a bit but it makes a change me doing that to someone rather than having it done to myself.
“It was a tough game. We know we could have been better but we were bossed around the ruck and, with two smart half-backs like Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, they took control.
“We were gutted afterwards as we didn’t feel we did ourselves justice; we thought we could have offered more.”
They will look to make sure they do that tonight as Steve McCormack’s side, who qualified as 2014 European Nations Cup winners and could be described as a motley crew, face illustrious rivals for a second week running.
“This Saturday is probably the biggest game for us given England are our neighbours; New Zealand have Australia, Scotland have England,” said Hood.
“We’re flying and have had a real good week’s training so the boys are confident of performing.
“We’re not dwelling too much on that last match and have had 24 players all desperate to get into this side. We’ve spoken about the old Scotland-England rivalry and and being the first fourth-ranked country to actually win a Four Nations game. Wales, France, PNG and Samoa all tried and failed. It’d be nice for us to be the first to do it.”
The ex-Hunslet Hawks No 9, who played five Super League games for Leeds having come through their academy, added: “My mum’s Scottish and my grandparents on her side. She moved to Bradford when she was about five but still speaks proper Scottish with them.
“Sometimes, growing up, my mates just couldn’t understand what she was saying! One of my really close friends is (England second-row) John Bateman.
“We’re both from Bradford – I’m from Greengates, he’s West Bowling – and we grew up together at Dudley Hill although he’s a couple of years older.
“When I played for Salford against Wigan last year he caught me with a decent shot so I’ll be looking to get one in on him now.”
Meanwhile, Hood has learned from one of the sport’s finest-ever hookers – former Australia captain Danny Buderus.
“Beddsy was my mentor when I first signed for Leeds,” he said.
“He was fantastic. When he spoke, everyone listened as you knew he knew what he was talking about. Some of the skills he showed me, and the time he put in with me – extra sessions after training and talking to me about my game – really helped me develop. I’ll be forever grateful.”