Jake Connor freed by Brett Hodgson to express himself with Hull FC

JAKE CONNOR says he has never felt happier in his career after switching to full-back and being “freed” again by new Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson.

The England international has been handed the No1 jersey with Jamie Shaul ruled out for much of the campaign after suffering a major knee injury in October.

Gifted Connor has spent much of his time at Hull flitting between centre and stand-off, both positions in which he has represented his country.

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But he shone when filling in for Shaul at the end of last term and, since Hodgson– the former New South Wales State of Origin full-back – took over in November, says he is now better prepared to flourish further.

Asked by The Yorkshire Post, if he thinks it could be his long-term position, the 26-year-old said: “Yes, probably. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I would, with all the running about, but I’ve got a different feeling about this year. It’s probably the happiest I’ve felt as a player; I just feel like I’ve got the freedom to go do what I want again.

“That was a massive part for me. Hopefully I can have a good year this year.”

Connor insisted: “I still think I can play half, no problem. But it was probably more the focusing on other stuff; getting the plays on and focusing on other people.

“At full-back, I don’t need to do that; Marc Sneyd does all the talking, and Josh Reynolds. I can just get on the back of things, do what I do and create opportunities which they allow me to do.”

Finding his feet: Jake Connor feels liberated by the move to full-back under new Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson. (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWPix.com)

Australian Hodgson, who won Man of Steel with Huddersfield Giants in 2009, has made the transition easier.

Connor admitted: “He’s been massive. He’s probably benefited me more than other player obviously being a full-back himself,

“I’ve not had really a run of games at full-back in the past. I’ve played it a bit but I’ve kind of got the hang of it now with the things he’s taught me. There’s still loads to improve on but I feel he’s getting the best out of me. Under Brett, it’s not the same as playing full-back last year.

“He has different opinions: when to do things and when not to, when to put myself in the line, being smart and it’s more about using the brain rather than other things. I’m getting the hang of it and I’m sure Shauly will, too.”

Jake Connor, right, joins the celebrations as Hull FC's Mahe Fonua scores a try against York in Thursday night's friendly (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWPix.com)

Hodgson got a first look at his team with Thursday’s 28-22 win at York City Knights, their only friendly before Super League starts against Huddersfield Giants a fortnight tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Connor says he has had “no contact” with Shaun Wane since being left out of the new England coach’s plans last year.

“I aren’t too focused on that,” said the former Huddersfield player, who had been a regular under Wayne Bennett and toured with Great Britain in 2019.

“Obviously the World Cup is at the end of the year but if I have a good year and put some performances together, performances will get you in that team anyway.

Hull FC's Jake Connor (Picture: SWPix.com)

“I’m just going to focus on playing well and having a real dig this year.”

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