Connor can be marquee or mediocre, it’s up to him – Radford
THERE IS a crossroads in the career of every player and, for Hull FC’s Jake Connor, it could imminently appear on the horizon.
The versatile back is in an envious position; his coach Lee Radford actually believes he can be one of the world’s greats. Or merely a decent squad player.
Interestingly, though, in the eyes of Radford, the decision is entirely up to the player himself.
Connor, a silky handler and elegant runner, is preparing for his second season with the East Yorkshire club after a controversial switch from Huddersfield Giants.
Last term the 23-year-old certainly showed flashes of real brilliance and there has already been more of the same in pre-season this time around.
It remains to be seen what Connor’s best position is, though, and whether he can deliver consist- ently. He played 33 games last season, including the Challenge Cup final win at Wembley, scoring 11 tries and operating predominantly at centre.
Nine appearances came off the bench, Connor can also feature at full-back – but Jamie Shaul seems to have that position sorted – while many see his long-term position being half-back.
Indeed, will that be his role if current No6 and Man of Steel nominee Albert Kelly does head back to the NRL in 2019?
Centre probably is Connor’s best chance of nailing down a regular place this term as he continues to rival Carlos Tuimavave and Josh Griffin for a spot.
In fact, the player, who quickly earned a contract extension until the end of 2020, has gone on record saying that that is where he would prefer to play in the JAKE CONNOR: campaign ahead. Asked if this is the season he will make a spot his own and lose that versatility tag, Radford told The Yorkshire Post: “Jake will be anything he wants to be. He could be ‘marquee’ if he wanted to be. He could be a squad player with number 14 on his back if he wants to be that as well.
“The talent is as high or as good as I’ve seen in many a play- er so whatever Jake becomes is what Jake decides he wants to become.”
Radford believes most of that is down to his mentality and, if that is positive, it will be key in how his career does progress.
The coach added: “I think it is and I think he is naturally coming to an age where you decide what you want to be a little bit.
“You take a look around the competition and think ‘well I could do what he’s doing’. Jake’s in a good environment to reach his potential.”
Barring any late problems, he is sure to be in the 17 when Hull start their Super League campaign at home to his former club Huddersfield on Thursday.
Radford is expecting a testing encounter; Giants only narrowly scraped into the top-eight last term but showed signs of improvement, especially after the mid-season recruitment of exHull players Jordan Rankin and Jordan Turner from the NRL.
“It will be tasty,” he said, his side flying out to Sydney the following day for their historic Super League game against Wigan Warriors on February 10.
“When they got their blokes (fit) on the field at the back end of last year there was obviously a spike and a massive upturn in their performances and results.
“And I’ve mentioned before how it’s really ironic; we played them the week before the Challenge Cup final so everybody was thinking about Wembley, playing not to get injured. And now we play Huddersfield again the day before we get on a flight to Australia so all that’s been made clear to all the players.
“They are aware of that and I intend to show them what happens when they don’t mentally prepare for a game.
“We got our backsides handed to us last year (46-18) by Huddersfield and I’m real conscious we don’t make that mistake again.”
Hull, meanwhile, fell at the Super League semi-final hurdle for the second year running last season, something they hope to remedy this time around.
Hard-running winger Bureta Faraimo, a replacement for the popular Mahe Fonua who headed back to the NRL, has looked sharp in pre-season.
Radford said: “The boy can play. He’s a physical thing. I said it when Mahe hit these shores, too – he’ll be a benefit to Super League.
“We’ve a few options which I’m looking to get settled as early as we can. There hasn’t been many changes in our group so hopefully we’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re just tweaking a few things.”
Hull coach Lee Radford says the former Huddersfield centre has the talent to be one of the world’s best.