WITH a streamline appearance, Jordan Abdull looks like a new player for Hull FC.
In fact, in more ways than one, not just due to the fact he has shed some pounds, he actually is.
Having spent a season-long loan with rivals Hull KR last year, operating at stand-off as they battled in the Championship, many thought Abdull’s days at the Black and Whites were numbered.
However, if his performance in their opening game against Huddersfield Giants is anything to go by, coming off the bench with real impact at loose-forward, it seems that is far from the case.
Attacking the line with added zip in the 38-12 victory, making half-breaks and offloads, he looked razor sharp.
Head coach Lee Radford traditionally operates with an extra back-row at 13, like inspirational captain Gareth Ellis before his retirement and, on Thursday, the returning Dean Hadley.
But Abdull offers a new dimension with his ball-handling ability, too. Creating some smart links with halves Marc Sneyd and Albert Kelly, he proved a constant concern for Huddersfield.
Last year, he spent his 21st birthday playing for Hull KR against Bradford Bulls and contemplating trips to Rochdale Hornets and Swinton Lions.
However, 12 months on – he turns 22 on Monday – Abdull boarded last night’s flight to Australia ready to face Wigan Warriors in a week’s time at Wollongong and then St George-Illawarra in Sydney.
He admitted: “It’s definitely not something I expected 12 months ago, having gone away from my parent club and to their biggest rivals. But I feel I really adapted well and earned my place to go to Australia. Physically I’m a lot better off now and Radders seems to be happy with the way I’m going.
“I’m half the shape of what I was 18 months ago but the year away was what I needed.
“It was the kick up the backside and the game-time was massive for me as well. (Hull KR coach) Tim Sheens did a lot of work with me and made me a more confident player. I’ve come back to Hull FC as more of a changed player. I’ve changed position as well, coming off the bench.
“It wasn’t something I was doing at KR but I felt like I adapted well (against Giants). I was just happy to be in the 17.”
Keeping his spot will be a constant challenge given the depth of talent at Radford’s disposal – “you have one bad game and you know you could be out for eight weeks” – but Abdull looks better placed than ever to shine.
In his early days at the KCOM Stadium, he had obvious talent but looked unfit at times and was too sporadic.
Now he is more of a threat in possession and he admitted: “Physically, I think the speed with which I can play with the ball now is a lot different to what I was doing two seasons ago.
“In my opinion, it gets a couple of defenders worried and that’s why we seem to be getting some space on the edges.
“I think it’s more down to physically being able to play at pace rather than having the bravery and confidence to do it.
“I enjoy it at loose-forward as well; I don’t have to wait to get the ball. I can go in and – not do what I want – but I get a lot more touches than what I do at half-back when you may not get it for a few minutes or so.
“I try and get a touch per set and defensively maybe two three tackles per set so I feel lot more involved and I feel I can express myself more in the middle.”
He could soon face one of his biggest challenges – facing England captain Sean O’Loughlin, the esteemed Wigan No 13.
“Yes, and also at St George, there’s James Graham, vice-captain of England,” added Abdull.
“It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to. The focus is more just to get into the 17 next week and do the right things recovery-wise and buy into what (conditioner) Paul Hatton is telling us to do for the next 48 to 72 hours.
“It’s going to be a really good experience over there and be good for the squad now that Rads is taking more people (26 players).
“If we go in with the right attitude, hopefully, we get both wins.
“But really it’s good to showcase what English rugby league is all about and Hull as well, put us on the market to show English players have talent and potential just as much as NRL players.”