Dave Craven: Why troubled Jake Connor still gets my vote to be a starter for Great Britain

Castleford Tigers' Jake Trueman tackles Hull's Jake Connor.' Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe'.
Castleford Tigers' Jake Trueman tackles Hull's Jake Connor.' Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe'.
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IT’S probably not a good time to discuss it in light of his recent antics – and pitiful performances – but Jake Connor would still be a starting centre in my Great Britain side this autumn.

Granted, he was far from his best on Thursday as abysmal Hull FC shot themselves – and their play-off chance – in the foot.

Hull FC coach Lee Radford. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Hull FC coach Lee Radford. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Indeed, he’s not been near his best for some time and it is understandable why question marks are now being raised about both his pedigree and, of course, his temperament.

The manner in which Connor got himself sin-binned yet again at Castleford was pretty pathetic.

The reaction of his own team-mates illustrated that; they showed they had had enough of his petulant, unnecessary backchat with what they said to him as he left the field.

It was almost embarrassing for them and the club who had already been utterly embarrassed by their opponents.

Currently, though, he is not doing it on the field and, if Jesse Sene-Lefao’s domination of him is anything to go by, is actually falling into the same trap that he normally lulls opponents into.

Dave Craven

When you are losing 44-12 with your season on the line, you are expected to go down with a bit of pride, not get yourself an early bath with two minutes to go for mouthing off at a referee.

Similarly, where Connor has wound opponents up, got under their skin and been a general irritant before, he has done so largely on the back of playing well himself; he has almost earned that right to be given some leeway for his unorthodox attitude.

Currently, though, he is not doing it on the field and, if Jesse Sene-Lefao’s domination of him is anything to go by, is actually falling into the same trap that he normally lulls opponents into.

Connor spent large parts of Thursday’s game moaning at the Castleford forward who, while admittedly sailing close to the wind himself with some of his own physicality, acted like the perfect silent assassin.

Yet why does all of this leave me believing Connor should start for the Lions against Tonga in Hamilton next month?

In essence, Great Britain simply don’t have enough players of similar ilk – that ability to create something out of nothing – to not select him. He remains gifted, a game-breaker and could be dynamite on the biggest stage but increasingly the key is to ensure it does not all go to waste.

England coach Wayne Bennett said last year that he sees Connor eventually being a Test stand-off.

I thought the same yet recently he has not even been able to command that position at club level. Connor was handed the opportunity to claim the role he craved when Albert Kelly was out injured for three weeks yet he failed to take it with a series of inept displays where his decision-making, among other attributes, came into question.

Maybe for now, at least, he should concentrate on centre – and not getting sin-binned.

Hull coach Lee Radford looked despondent when asked what he can do to curb Connor’s dissent.

It is becoming an issue. Apparently, the club has already tried hitting him in the pocket. It has not worked. The worry is, for all his obvious talents, such deficiencies could drag down a player who – at the age of 24 – potentially has the world at his feet.

Perhaps Connor does simply need to start maturing. On a night of The Two Jakes, he would do well to take a leaf out of Jake Trueman’s book.

Remarkably, the assured Castleford stand-off is still only 20 but already looks a safer bet to be a Lion for years to come.

Perhaps he should take the other Jake under his wing.