ENGLAND star Jake Connor concedes he regrets his public spat with Hull FC team-mate Mark Minichiello but maintains a few people “lost their head” as the club’s season unravelled.
The gifted centre – who flies out to Sydney on England Nines duty on Saturday and has also earned Great Britain selection – has become well-known for his ability to get under the skin of opponents and iritate.
However, he was at the centre of an on-field argument with his own colleague when he aimed a verbal volley at much-respected veteran Minichiello in the closing stages of Hull’s costly loss at Castleford Tigers last month.
It was a must-win game in terms of Hull’s play-off bid but they embarrassingly fell 44-12 and Connor was sin-binned for dissent late on.
As he left the field, as they exchanged words, he was caught on camera spraying abuse at his Australian colleague.
Connor, 24, was castigated by many for his actions and, speaking publicly about the controversial incident, he told The Yorkshire Post: “It happens.
“A few people lost their head and it just happens on the field sometimes.
“Obviously, the bad thing is the camera was on me.
“But it happens when the camera’s not there so it’s not just me that it happens to.
“But I’ll live and I’ll learn from it. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”
I’m a winner and I want to win everything even if I’m 50-0 up I want it to go my way. It’s just the type of player I am. It’s not being selfish or anything, I just want to win.
Minichiello, the 37-year-old who helped Hull to two Challenge Cup final wins, was playing the penultimate match of his wonderful career and left realising there would be no Old Trafford swansong as the East Yorkshire club lost grip of fifth-spot.
That made Connor’s reaction all the more questionable but he maintained the team-mates were “sound” with each other afterwards.
“It was his last few games so I can see why he was frustrated,” he said, with Hull losing six of their last seven fixtures to tumble from second to sixth.
“And looking back at it – with him retiring – it probably wasn’t the right way to go about it.
“But he’s been a great player for us and a great role model and I’ve learnt a lot from him.
“Obviously, he’s a senior player and that’s the kind of thing people are getting at.
“But when you’re on the pitch and in heated moments like that … I’m a born winner at the end of the day and I was frustrated and probably didn’t even realise I was saying it at the time.
“I just snapped back and it probably wasn’t the right thing to do at the time but I will learn.”
Primarily, Hull coach Lee Radford was left exasperated by Connor’s inability to again keep his mouth shut with the referee.
Asked if that is something he can iron out, the Halifax-born player said: “Yes, definitely.
“But I’m a winner and I want to win everything even if I’m 50-0 up I want it to go my way.
“It’s just the type of player I am. It’s not being selfish or anything, I just want to win. With some players, when it doesn’t go their way, it is frustrating; I can help it but sometimes I can’t. I will learn from it and, hopefully, I’ll be a better player for it next year.
“And I’ll be a Hull player, too. I’ve still got two years left here.”
Connor, of course, has been heavily linked to Leeds Rhinos but he is looking forward to playing for the Black and Whites again in 2020 with some unfinished business after that disastrous finish.
First, though, comes international duty and the inaugural World Cup Nines in Sydney.
“I’ve played Nines before, when I was a youngster at Huddersfield over at Castleford,” he said.
“It’s going to be pretty tough – heavy on the lungs – and there’ll be a bit of flamboyant rugby played. I’m maybe not suited speed-wise but it’s something where you can express your skills and I’m looking forward to that.”
From there, Connor – and 10 others from the England Nines – will link up with the Great Britain squad as they embark on their first tour in 13 years.
The versatile back has impressed since making a try-scoring England debut against New Zealand in Denver last year and is relishing the chance to represent the Lions for a first time as they prepare for Tonga, New Zealand (twice) and Papua New Guinea.
Connor said: “It’s special for me (being selected).
“As soon as they announced the Lions was coming back I wanted to be a part of it and I’m just thankful I’ve got an opportunity. I’ll take every chance I get.
“That game for England in Denver probably changed my career path. I maybe got my chance with injuries but came on and had the game of my life.
“I struggled a bit this year (with Hull) but hopefully I can find some form now and can’t wait to get down there.”