EVERY game is now a bonus for relieved Jake Connor who continues his unexpected return from injury hoping to end Hull FC’s miserable run and play himself into England contention.
When the gifted back was stretchered off with a painful hamstring problem against St Helens in mid-July, he was told that his season was essentially over given the severity of the tear.
It was a significant blow not only for the club given his importance to them but also the player who – on the back of a successful debut against New Zealand in Denver – fully envisaged playing a part in England’s home series against the Kiwis this autumn.
However, to the surprise of everyone outside the Black and Whites camp, Connor was passed fit to face Saints again in the Super 8s last week.
Granted, he was unable to prevent a ninth successive defeat but will continue his comeback when Catalans Dragons arrive at the KCOM Stadium this evening.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, the 23-year-old said: “I am delighted to be back out there.
“And it is a lot sooner than expected. It was a 12 to 14 week injury but I just got my head down working hard straight away.
“After only a couple of weeks the hamstring started to feel a lot better.
“I did some light jogging and it kind of went from there. I cracked on and got back four to six weeks earlier which is a real bonus.
“I owe the medical staff a big thanks really and it’s just great to get that Hull FC jersey on again.”
Wearing the England shirt once more, however, is also high in his thoughts.
The former Huddersfield Giants star made a quality debut, coming off the bench at half-back to help create two tries and score a spectacular one of his own during the 36-18 win in Colorado.
Halifax-born Connor’s stock certainly rose after that but he knows his chances of a second cap in the imminent Test series would have ended if he had not now proved his fitness.
“If I’d have missed all those Hull games I wouldn’t have given myself a chance,” he explained, having been maned Hull’s Players’ Player of the Year earlier this week.
“Getting back in time for the last three matches means I’ve definitely got a chance for England selection.
“But I still want to get us a win at Hull as well; we haven’t won since June and we need to get one to pick the camp up.”
Indeed, their last victory was a 31-24 home success against Widnes Vikings on June 29 although tonight’s opponents have had problems of their own.
Although Steve McNamara’s Catalans lifted the Challenge Cup they have lost their last six Super League games, three either side of that Wembley glory.
Connor, who helped Hull win the Challenge Cup last season, said: “They have had that dip after Wembley but we know that can happen.
“Catalans have been really good in the second half of the season to get into the Super 8s.
“They probably don’t have anything to play for now. People will say the same about us.
“But I never go out to lose and I don’t think anyone else does either. I’m looking forward to getting out there, hopefully catching them off guard and getting this win at last.
“We’ve been training well and it’s just getting that onto game night, cutting out the individual errors.”
Connor left the field against Saints last week with a hand injury but is fit to start at stand-off against Les Dracs knowing a rare victory would confirm seventh spot ahead of their eighth-placed opponents.
Meanwhile, with England stand-off Gareth Widdop needing shoulder surgery after St George-Illawarra fell out of the NRL play-offs, Connor realises that spot will be up for grabs with the first Test against New Zealand at his home ground on October 27.
“I just want to get in the squad firstly and be a part of it all again; I enjoyed it so much in Denver,” he said.
Hull hope to have Carlos Tuimavave, Danny Houghton. Mickey Paea and Jamie Shaul returning from injury this evening.