HE has lost his No 6 jersey but also a significant amount of weight meaning Hull FC’s Albert Kelly has “never been more confident” in his career.
Given the mercurial playmaker hardly lacked belief in his talent before and was shortlisted for Man of Steel three years ago, that should serve as an ominous warning to the rest of Super League.
Hull start their campaign at Leeds Rhinos on Sunday and plenty of eyes will be centred on Australian Kelly to see just where he fits into Lee Radford’s plans.
Granted, Jake Connor has taken that squad number, indicating that the Black and Whites will utilise the England centre at stand-off in 2020.
Does that mean Kelly will be used from the bench, will he miss out altogether or will he play in the full-back role, as has been trialled in pre-season and at times, sporadically, during games last term?
Firstly, on the subject of Connor gaining the six jersey – the role the Great Britain tourist has coveted for so long – Kelly insisted: “Why wouldn’t he?
“He’s playing for England and is one of the rising stars.
“For me to play alongside him and help add to his game, I feel I’m helping him to get that spot.
“It’s definitely healthy for the squad and I’m just happy to be out there on the field.
“It’s just another game where I can go out and have fun.
“I’m blessed to have another season to be doing this job; it’s a limited career and I’m happy to play my role whatever it is.
“I played full-back in our friendly at Batley and the last time I did that was my debut in the NRL over a decade ago.
“You have to be very fit to be in that position but I’m happy with where I am as I played the full 80 there. I can play full-back, centre, loose forward or in the halves. Anywhere. I just want to play my role so we can all be successful this year.
“If you’re playing the best you have to pick the best. If one of us slips up, give him a week off and put the other one in.
“Lee has different options now. He could put me at one, six or seven or put Jake at centre or full-back. There’s so many options, I think we’ll be covered at all bases this year.”
Jamie Shaul, of course, is Hull’s normal full-back while – due to his kicking game – scrum-half Marc Sneyd is seen as the one least likely to miss out as Hull set off once more in their pursuit of a first league title since 1983.
Kelly endured a succession of injuries last term – concussion, dislocated shoulder, hamstring strain and popped rib cartilage – but says he is in excellent shape ahead of his fourth campaign since switching across the river from Hull KR.
“I’ve never been more confident than I am now,” insisted the 28-year-old, who is excited by new arrivals such as Manu Ma’u, Josh Jones and Mahe Fonua. “I’m healthy, keen and motivated to get out there and do my job this year.
“I’ve trained the house down. After that injury-hit season how I blew up, I think I was 101 kilos.
“I came back and I’m 94 now so I’ve lost a lot. I didn’t really change much; I just felt healthy and eager to get back to my best. The boys have really helped me as well giving me that extra push and extra competitiveness during training.”
“It’s been a journey so far and this round one can’t come any quicker. I’m looking forward to it.”
The ex-Cronulla Sharks and Gold Coast Titans star is out of contract at the end of the season and talk of a return to the NRL is never far away.
He said: “It could possibly be my last year here.
“I’m not sure yet and I’ve not really come to a decision or sat down with the club yet.
“I think I’m just going to go about my business, do my job - and hopefully it (a contract) comes knocking on the door after.
“With the new crop of signings coming in here, players at other teams will probably think they’d want to be in this squad, too.
“It’s a very strong squad - and Lee will have his hands full trying to pick the team.”