THERE was a phone call that Jake Connor dreaded making to Lee Radford – but it ended up proving invaluable for the rising Hull FC star.
He will line-up against NRL club St George Illawarra in Sydney tomorrow having won the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup with the Black and Whites last year and now being rated as one of the sport’s most gifted talents.
However, Connor’s switch to Hull from Huddersfield Giants almost never actually came off.
The versatile back had already signed a deal with FC in readiness for 2017 but, a couple of months before his contract was due to begin, he started having second thoughts.
Connor called Radford to explain his decision – the 21-year-old wanted to stay at the club where he had made his breakthrough – only for the FC chief to say he had suffered the very same problem when he left Hull for Bradford Bulls in 1998.
Back then, Bulls told the 19-year-old back-row it was too late to back-track and it paid off as he went on to win Super League, World Club Challenge and Challenge Cup trophies in a stellar Bradford side.
I’ve loved every minute. The weather’s treated us well and it’s good to experience something different to what England throws up. But we’re here to do a job as well and we’re focusing now on leaving with a winJake Connor
Similarly, Hull’s top-brass refused to let Connor change his mind unless Giants paid a transfer fee – and the player is now glad they did given his career is rocketing.
Connor told The Yorkshire Post: “That’s exactly what we spoke about; Radders said he went through the same (with Bradford) and he didn’t know what to do either. It was nothing against the club, it was just what I was used to and comfortable with at Huddersfield.
“But Rads just told me to get out of my comfort zone and push myself a little bit deeper. That’s what I have done and I’ve become a better player for it.
“He’s helped me through those times. He’s been there and done it himself. I’m not going to lie – I was having second thoughts – I was just used to what I had and comfortable there in the first place.
“A few things broke down at Huddersfield and that’s when I looked elsewhere and had the first conversations with Radders.
“But he probably was panicking when I rang him back!
“I’m glad he persuaded me to come, though, as it’s probably been the best move I’ve ever made in my life. He basically just said give it a try.
“I did that and haven’t looked back yet. I’m here to win silverware as well and in the first year we won the Challenge Cup. Now I just want to win more. It’s a great club and I’m just glad to be here.”
Connor featured at centre as Hull lost 24-10 to Wigan Warriors at Wollongong on Saturday – the first Super League game outside of Europe.
He struggled with a knee injury in that game but says he will be fit for the final leg of their New South Wales tour tomorrow.
“It’s been a great experience,” said the Halifax-born player, who quickly signed a new deal until the end of 2020 in October.
“I’ve loved every minute. The weather’s treated us well and it’s good to experience something different to what England throws up. But we’re here to do a job as well and we’re focusing now on leaving with a win.”
Dave Craven is on tour in Australia with Hull FC in association with Ladbrokes.com