Long-serving full-back, 29, finally gets chance to resume in favoured full-back position due to Connor’s long lay-off and explains how “hard” it’s been waiting in the wings behind the maverick England star
Jamie Shaul’s not even going to try and replicate Super League star Jake Connor – but can still help fire Hull.
He is set for an extended run in his old full-back position with Connor out for 12 weeks with a knee injury. Shaul, who starts at Warrington on Friday, had been the club’s regular No1 ever since debuting in 2013. But coach Brett Hodgson switched England maverick Connor there last season and he’s ruled supreme.
Connor’s 24 try assists is more than any other player in Super League. Shaul said: “Jake’s Jake and I’m me. We all know what he can do. He’s more of a ‘good ball’ player; he lights up when we get near their try-line. I’m probably a different player. I’ll do the stuff he doesn’t like doing and I’ll try and get us on the front foot, do my bit for the team.
“I won’t be anywhere near his try assists and I’m not even going to try. But I can do my bit. I know what I’m good at and I’ll do that. I’ll try and get on the end of stuff in ‘good ball’ as well but I know I’m not as clinical as him.
“Jake’s probably up there as one of the best around finishing tries and picking the right pass. That’s what he brings to us but I bring something a little different. I’m looking forward to it. The past couple of years have been tough as I’ve not had that place in the team. When you’re not playing every week when you are used to it, it’s hard.”
Shaul had been filling in on the wing at times this season but started at full-back again for their last outing at Catalans. The two-time Challenge Cup winner said: “It’s a funny one as I’ve not really played there for two years now since I injured my ACL in 2020. I’ve been struggling to try and find my place in the team, if I’m honest.
“It has been tough. I sat down with him (Hodgson) in pre-season and said I wanted to play on the wing because obviously he wasn’t budging on Jake. I thought that was the best option so I’ve been on the wing here and there. I was enjoying it and got a run of three or four games there, playing well. “But I played average one game and Adam Swift came back into the team.
“I was disappointed and then I was out until Catalans. It is hard as obviously all the way through my career I’ve been used to playing every week at full-back. The past couple of years have been tough as I’ve not had that place in the team and when you’re not playing every week when you are used to it, it’s hard. But with Jake being out I’ve now got a chance to play where I want to play and am used to playing. I’ll try to do my best.”
Hull will need Shaul to flourish again especially as they released ‘marquee’ signing Josh Reynolds this week. The Australian stand-off, 33, had five months left on his contract but was cut after a raft of indifferent displays. Ex-New South Wales State of Origin star Reynolds arrive amid much fanfare ahead of last season but never truly showed his best in Black and White colours.
Shaul, though, is sad to see him go. He said: “He’s by far one of the best blokes I’ve ever met, so it’s really tough. We’ve grown real close since he got here. I class him as one of my best mates now. It was really tough to hear that he’s getting released and not with the boys now. He feels the same way.
“It’s a tough one to take but we know the crack. At the end of the day, it’s a business. He’ll probably be the first to say he wasn’t performing on the field. And when you’re on good money and not performing on the field, things don’t work out. Hull probably thought the best thing was to part ways and come to an agreement. Both parties are happy. It’s gone now and it won’t affect us in any way as a team.”
Hull have suffered back-to-back defeats against Catalans and Wakefield but are still in far better nick than Wolves who’ve lost five on the bounce. Shaul added: “They are struggling. I’m not sure what it is. There’s a bit of anticipation on us as well. Losing our last two games, I think people are expecting the worst. But we’re sat in fifth and going pretty well.
“It’s just these last two games have been a blip. We’re expecting to go to Warrington and get the two points and try to get a run of games back. “They’ll be thinking the same and thinking they can do us over.”
Meanwhile, Shaul has confirmed he will be a Hull player next term – after growing sick of being asked what he’s doing next year! He explained: “I signed a three year deal in 2020. But everyone thinks I’m out of contract every year! I’m signed up until the end of next.”
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