“He’s a horrible little man,” is how Lee Radford has described him recently but, love him or loathe him, Hull FC’s versatile Jake Connor is a supremely talented rugby league player.
Having joined from Huddersfield ahead of the 2017 campaign on a two year deal, a new deal was offered to the 23 year old shortly after the end of last season to extend his stay to the end of 2020 at the earliest. A youngster known for his versatility, Connor has featured heavily in the centres whilst also having spells at full back. Now, however, due to the Airlie Birds’ injury crisis amongst their backs, he is Radford’s playmaker in chief as Hull FC aim to deal with the absences of both Marc Sneyd and Albert Kelly. Thus far this season, the Halifax born star has six tries to go with his six assists, suggesting he is as adept at scoring as he is at providing for his teammates.
What Connor is arguably best known for, though, is his ability to get under his opponents’ skins. Constantly chelping his way through games, he has demonstrated time and time again the ability to wind up his opposition and, as such, induces indiscipline and mistakes from them. Importantly, however, very rarely do you see him targeting referees verbally. Yes, he will try to buy penalties – while I’m not endorsing that, he isn’t the only one – but he doesn’t argue with or complain to referees as often as other players do. What should also be noted is that, while he is something of a wind up merchant, he most certainly has the talent to back it up on the playing field.
All of this has led many to speculate and throw Connor’s name forward for England selection in next month’s Denver test. Already included in the Knights squad set to tour Papua New Guinea at the end of the season, Kallum Watkins’ injury absence may well open the door for his inclusion in the setup to travel to the Mile High City for the match against New Zealand. In an event which is intended to showcase and promote rugby league to a new audience, taking one of the biggest characters in English rugby and involving him would be a sure way to get people talking.
Lee Radford talked up his number 14’s chances of heading out with the England squad. “He’d be a fantastic utility option but I don’t know what position he’d go to Denver in,” Radford revealed. “There are some centres in fantastic form in the competition and in the halves I don’t know. He’s talented enough to go to Denver and he’d certainly get under the Kiwis’ skin I’m sure of that.” Speaking of Connor’s reputation in the game, the Airlie Birds’ coach was clear that he could definitely provide something to the England team, adding that “could it [his reputation] harm his international push? I think he’d get under the skin of some players at international level that’s for sure.”