'I'm a better man now': Hull FC new boy Jayden Okunbor out to make most of fresh start in Super League

Jayden Okunbor is ready to show Super League fans that he is a changed man during his time with Hull FC.

The 26-year-old was involved in a sex scandal with two teenage girls on a pre-season trip with Canterbury Bulldogs in 2020.

Together with Corey Harawira-Naera, Okunbor was initially sacked by the Bulldogs before successfully appealing against his NRL deregistration.

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Okunbor had his punishment reduced to a 14-game suspension and $22,500 fine.

The Sydney native plans to take any crowd taunts on the chin and prove that he has learnt from his mistake through his actions in a Hull shirt.

"It's part of footy and I've heard it all before," he told The Yorkshire Post.

"It's a part of my life I've put behind me. That part of my life was a very dark time and something I don't really talk about anymore.

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"I'm a better man now. I want to be a role model off the field but if I can just let my footy do the talking on the field, I won't have to do much else."

Jayden Okunbor has a fresh start in England. (Photo: Hull FC)Jayden Okunbor has a fresh start in England. (Photo: Hull FC)
Jayden Okunbor has a fresh start in England. (Photo: Hull FC)

Okunbor arrived in England late last month to begin a two-year contract with the Black and Whites.

The switch to Hull has allowed Okunbor to escape the NRL goldfish bowl and move out of his comfort zone.

"I'd been at the Bulldogs since I was 13," he added.

"I can't say my time there was super successful. We had a few rough years there so the best thing for me was to get out.

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Jayden Okunbor spent his entire NRL career with Canterbury Bulldogs. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)Jayden Okunbor spent his entire NRL career with Canterbury Bulldogs. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Jayden Okunbor spent his entire NRL career with Canterbury Bulldogs. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

"To come over here, it's something I've never done in my life. I've always lived close to my family so to be on the other side of the world is a lot different.

"It's a bit of a challenge but I'm really enjoying it so far."

Okunbor made 19 NRL appearances in 2023 after moving from the wing to the back row.

The versatile Australian, who stands at 6ft 5in, is confident he will thrive in Super League regardless of where he is deployed by Hull boss Tony Smith.

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Jayden Okunbor celebrates scoring a try for the Bulldogs. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Jayden Okunbor celebrates scoring a try for the Bulldogs. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Jayden Okunbor celebrates scoring a try for the Bulldogs. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

"I've been training at back row, centre and wing," said Okunbor.

"Because there are so many boys in and out of rehab, I'm just filling in everywhere.

"I feel most comfortable in the back row at the moment but I'm happy to fill in anywhere if it's best for the team, whether it's in the middle or on the wing.

"The boys have told me it's an expansive style of footy. Back home it's pretty defence-orientated. I'm not saying it's not here but here you're more encouraged to move the ball around and that's the type of footy I like.

"It should be fun."

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Much like his former club Canterbury, Hull have fallen on hard times with consecutive finishes of eighth, ninth and 10th representing a steady slide down Super League.

Jayden Okunbor, right, shakes hands with Jarome Luai. (Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)Jayden Okunbor, right, shakes hands with Jarome Luai. (Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)
Jayden Okunbor, right, shakes hands with Jarome Luai. (Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)

Okunbor is convinced the Black and Whites will come again after leaning on former players for advice.

Asked what attracted him to Hull, he replied: "The history of the club.

"There are a few guys back at the Bulldogs who have played here – Mark O'Meley and Josh Reynolds – and they told me how passionate the club is.

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"They told me there are not many towns over here in England that support rugby league and that Hull is one of the only ones.

"Coming over here, I didn't want to fade in and be in a soccer town. I love rugby league and want to be around it. They told me this is the best place for it.

"I've seen they've won Challenge Cups. Frank Pritchard was one of my favourite players growing up. It's something I'd love to do here."

Hull's first objective is to get back on top in the city after falling behind fierce rivals Hull KR.

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A round one derby at the MKM Stadium provides the perfect opportunity to show that Smith's new-look side are a different beast in 2024.

"Everyone around town has been telling me about it," said Okunbor.

"We don't really have those types of rivalries back home so to be a part of it here is going to be something special.

"We're here training with Hull KR and cross paths with them almost every day. It's all friendly now but I'm sure come that week of the game it's going to be cut throat.

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"I know Sauaso Sue from the Bulldogs and have crossed paths with a few of the Aussie guys from back home. I'll stop and have a chat when I see them walking through the city and it's all friendly now but on the field it'll be completely different."

In Okunbor's position this time last year, Tex Hoy declared a top-four finish was a minimum requirement with the ultimate goal of winning the competition and has not been allowed to forget it.

Okunbor has the same mindset as he starts out on his Super League journey.

"Honestly, to win the championship," he replied when asked what would constitute a good season for Hull.

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"What's the point of turning up if you're not coming to win it. We're not here just to make up the numbers.

"I know last year wasn't as great as we wanted it to be and am pretty sure we're going to go into almost every game as underdogs. That's kind of a good thing for us.

"Clubs are going to come up against us and think it's an easy win but they can come in a bit complacent and we put a number on them.

"Halfway through the year, we want teams to know they're playing Hull FC and it's not going to be a walkover."

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