AS LEEDS RHINOS’ first-ever ‘marquee’ signing there will be plenty of pressure on Konrad Hurrell during the forthcoming season.
Fortunately, the Tonga star has broad shoulders not only in the physical sense – in full-flight, there are few more devastating ball-carrying centres in world rugby – but metaphorically-speaking, too.
Having left Gold Coast Titans, he arrived in the UK yesterday in readiness to take up his three-year deal and help revive the slumbering Rhinos.
“I would have put pressure on myself anyway,” explained Hurrell, when asked about that ‘marquee’ label, which essentially is a player who will earn more than £175,000 for the season.
“But they have signed Tui (Lolohea) and Trent (Merrin); they are the marquee players. I am just one of the players who’s got signed.
“I am a bit nervous; it is a new challenge for me, but I am excited at the same time.
“I will do my best and see how it goes. I am excited to be here.
“I signed my contract a while ago and I just wanted to be over. I’m finally here and I’m looking forward to it.”
Leeds did, indeed, add their second ‘marquee’ player with the capture of former New South Wales State of Origin and Australia back-row Trent Merrin from Penrith Panthers and Wests Tigers stand-off Lolohea is another high-profile signing who will help load the bullets for Hurrell to fire.
Too often last season, the West Yorkshire club struggled for creativity and firepower as they tumbled into the bottom-four.
It is not going to be easy (in Super League) – it is going to be tough – but I am looking forward to the challenge.Konrad Hurrell
However, that should not be a problem in 2019 especially with England centre Kallum Watkins also confirming he will be fit for the start of the season in February after a knee reconstruction forced him to miss most of last term.
In theory, there will be few better centre pairings than he and Hurrell, offering a splendid combination of raw power and panache.
At more than 16 stone, Hurrell’s hulking frame has seen him obliterate defences both in the NRL and on the international stage.
“I love running the ball; that is my strength,” he said.
“I want to bring the strength of my attacking to the team.
“Hopefully I will bring some energy to the team and get the boys together.
”It is not going to be easy (in Super League) – it is going to be tough – but I am looking forward to the challenge.”
At 27, Hurrell arrives in his peak years, unlike many overseas imports, and Leeds fans will get a first glimpse of him in the famous blue and amber in the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge against Wakefield Trinity at Emerald Headingley on Boxing Day.
The former New Zealand Warriors star was encouraged to join the club by Leeds prop Nathaniel Peteru, a good friend and former team-mate at Titans, while he also worked under new Rhinos head coach Dave Furner with Tonga.
“Dave spoke to me about it before I signed and it is a very successful club too,” he said.
“They won the competition last year; this year wasn’t too good, but that happens. For them to be willing to get me to come here, to see a club that want you and want you to be involved in what they want to do for the future is good.”
Hurrell experienced playing in England before having featured with Tonga in the 2013 World Cup.
“I have heard some crazy stuff about the fans,” he said.
“I am excited about it; obviously sometimes it’s not that packed, but they make it sound like it’s a full stadium.
“Playing in front of great fans with a great fan base always gives you a bit of extra motivation.
“I’ve heard they make songs about the players so I am looking forward to being involved in those moments.
“It is going to be my first time wearing the jersey on Boxing Day. I know it’s going to be a big crowd and I’m looking forward to it.”
Merrin is due to arrive in Yorkshire next week as the Leeds revolution begins to take shape.
Clearly, seeing just how it all comes together under Furner’s watchful eye will be one of the most intriguing aspects of the new Super League season.