IT has been a mixed first season with ruthless NRL champions Sydney Roosters for former Leeds Rhinos star Ryan Hall but he has loved the experience – and now aims to make history of his own in a Great Britain jersey.
The England international’s debut campaign in Australia was always set to be difficult as he arrived still recovering from a knee reconstruction that ended his storied Leeds career last August.
However, Hall recovered in time to make his NRL debut in May and certainly did not look out of place, showing the sort of quality that once made him the world’s best winger.
In a cruel twist, though, he soon injured his other knee and lost his place when it came to the final run-in as the stellar Roosters defended their crown.
“There’s two sides to it, “ Hall told The Yorkshire Post, when asked about his 2019 so far.
“Obviously the onfield stuff, the way I went when I did play, I thought I played alright.
I thought I was going pretty well. I don’t know what would have happened with the team if I had kept fit. But I’d back myself.Sydney Roosters’ Ryan Hall
“I was quite pleased with how I came back from that injury and I fitted into the team pretty well.
“But then the fact that I only played six games due to injury, that’s not something I’m used to.
“I’m used to doing a big block of games – certainly over the last 10 years of my career that’s what I’ve done – so I felt like a bit inadequate in that area.
“I thought I was going pretty well. I don’t know what would have happened with the team if I had kept fit. But I’d back myself.
“Turning it around into the team, the (Leeds) team normally relies on me playing. But that wasn’t the case with the Roosters because the wingers that they had in played exceptional. And they played a quality style of rugby all year.”
Former Australia internationals Brett Morris and Daniel Tupou proved immovable on the flanks as Trent Robinson’s side – inspired by Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco – beat Canberra Raiders in the Grand Final.
Hall, who scored 231 tries in 328 games for hometown Leeds and won six Super League titles, could still enjoy the celebrations.
He recalled: “It was great. Because I have been part of it – I’ve been part of the squad, added my input into what I think we should do and all that sort of stuff – and for it to all commence into being successful, that was great.
“I wasn’t part of the playing squad on the day but was the 18th man and I got to do my part no matter how insignificant it was. I enjoyed doing my role.”
Hall’s relative inactivity with Roosters, though, should spell good news for Great Britain.
He is in the 24-man squad that faces Tonga in Hamilton at the end of the month and then tackles New Zealand twice before heading to Papua New Guinea.
Along with Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary, Hall is one of only two specialist wingers given St Helens’ Tommy Makinson – the Golden Boot holder – has pulled out injured.
“I certainly am looking forward to it,” said the Yorkshireman, who is England’s record try-scorer with a 36 tries in 38 Tests.
“Down to the amount of minutes I’ve played all year it gives me the chance to actually get on the field and do something – and represent my country.
“But also it’s something I’ve never done before; Great Britain disbanded before I came on the international scene (in 2009) so it will be great to actually pull on that Lions shirt.”
Prolific Hall missed last year’s home series against the Kiwis due to that knee surgery and his last international involvement was in the 2017 World Cup final loss against Australia in Brisbane.
Before that, of course, was the epic semi-final success against Tonga when – in front of an electric crowd in Auckland – England led 20-0 until three late tries left them hanging on.
Hall recalled: “The last time we played Tonga it was all quite hectic. Hopefully the crowd can get behind it just as much this time and make it special again.
“I’m looking forward to every game, starting with Tonga and then New Zealand twice and one in PNG. There’s some new experiences there – I’ve never been to PNG and I’ve been hearing some good things about it.”
First, though, Hall has another new experience to savour – playing for England in the World Cup Nines in Parramatta on Saturday.
“I’ve never played it but I’ll get used to it pretty quickly,” he insisted.
“It’s just like normal rugby but with fewer players! There’s some obvious subtle differences but we’ll figure it out as we go.
“It is pretty cool to be a part of especially as it’s the first Nines World Cup. I’ve had a look through the teams and there’s some good rostas there ready for the weekend.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out.”