IT IS the modern way that often a full-back plays like an extra stand-off but Wakefield Trinity’s Ryan Hampshire has still not given up yet on gaining the No 6 role he has always craved.
Although he came through in his younger days at Wigan Warriors as a half-back, for one reason or another, the 24-year-old has rarely made that spot his own at any of his four clubs so far.
Currently, captain Jacob Miller and the veteran Danny Brough are pulling the strings there for Trinity but Hampshire is, instead, looking the part at full-back where his running ability makes him an added threat.
Indeed, if ever he needed an example of how a stand-off can successfully convert, he need take no further look than at Stefan Ratchford, the elegant England star who lines up for Warrington Wolves at Wakefield tonight.
“Ratchford is a fantastic full-back, probably the in-form full-back in the league,” admitted Hampshire, who has pushed ahead of Max Jowitt to be Scott Grix’s replacement at Belle Vue.
“I take little bits from his game and all the other full-backs’ games to add into mine so I am looking forward to challenging him on Thursday.
“My pass selection has been better this year and I think I am going to improve every game as the season goes on.
“Obviously my threat is my running game and I think that kind of makes decisions for defenders itself. Then I can pick a pass off that.”
Hampshire’s distribution quality was on show when he had a hand in a couple of tries during Friday’s impressive 32-12 win at Hull FC, his natural handling skills as a No 6 proving useful for Chris Chester’s side.
However, he does not buy the argument that stand-off and full-back are increasingly alike.
I’ve never had an extended run in one position. I think when the weather picks up and it gets drier that’s when you’re going to see my best rugby.Wakefield’s Ryan Hampshire
“A lot of people say full-back is the same as playing at half, but it isn’t at all,” insisted Hampshire, who hopes to help inflict only Warrington’s second defeat this term. “Defensively it’s different; you’re returning the ball, you’re counting numbers, you challenge for kicks ... then in attack you are just turning up wherever needed.
“You’ve got to give me a bit of a free role to hang for offloads and quick balls and then I can pick my side as the game goes on.
“I don’t know if I will be there (full-back) for the rest of my career. But we’ll see what happens.”
For now, playing consistently is key to the pacey Wakefield-born player’s hopes of fulfilling his obvious potential.
“Wherever I’ve played I have never had a set amount of time,” explained the former Leigh Centurion, who had a prolific spell as an emergency winger on loan at Castleford Tigers in 2016.
“I think the most I’ve ever played in one position was eight games as full-back at Wigan.
“I may have done the same at half-back at Wakey at the back end of last year, but I’ve never had an extended run in one position.
“I think when the weather picks up and it gets drier that’s when you’re going to see my best rugby.”
Warrington, without the suspended ex-England forward Ben Westwood who hails from the same Normanton Knights amateur club as Hampshire, are a formidable side but that is not something that concerns Trinity.
“We have to turn up again like we did last week,” he said, Wakefield shrugging off the loss of injured stars Tom Johnstone and Bill Tupou to sweep past Hull.
“We seem to turn up in big games; it is the lesser games when we seem to struggle for some reason.
“It is on TV Thursday, is a big game and I think we will turn up. We’ve just got to play our game in attack, throw the ball about and challenge them in our plays and broken play.
“Their attack is fantastic – forwards who plough it up and really athletic backs – so we have to turn up with a good attitude.”
And being out of contract at the end of the season, Hampshire is out to impress – wherever he finds himself on the pitch.