Pantomime villain? Doesn’t bother me...

Jake Connor - Ourvoice

Jake Connor
Hull FC & England

15th Jan 2020

I’m the king of FIFA. Whatever team I’m playing for, whatever squad I’m in. If we’re in camp, somebody will take an Xbox or PS4 and other players will think that they’re king of the camp. Jermaine McGillvary thought he was a couple of years ago, but he retired once I’d beaten him a couple of times. I win most games.

I’m competitive. Some people just do enough to get by. I like to win everything. I grew up on a council estate in Ovenden where you’ve got to fight for yourself. Ever since primary school, I’ve always wanted to be the best. I play to win.

It doesn’t bother me being thought of as a pantomime villain. I probably need to rein it in a little, but I’ll fight for everything. I play on the edge; always have done.

My aggressive side comes from my dad, Junior. He passed away when I was 10. He was working at Crossley’s in Brighouse, fixing washing machines. It was a heart attack, three days before Christmas. He was only 37.

Jake Connor - Ourvoice
 

People see me on the field, but they don’t know me off it. They can’t see what I’m going through off the field.

He was a good amateur rugby player himself, and a lot faster than I am. It hurts because he can’t see what I’m doing now. I remember my England debut in Denver. On occasions like that, you want the most important people in your life there to watch you. I wish my dad had been there.

I’ve had to cope with it, but it’s not that simple. Sometimes you can’t just step on to the field of play as if nothing else matters. It’s been more difficult over the past couple of years than for the previous 12. People see me on the field, but they don’t know me off it. They can’t see what I’m going through off the field.

My attitude wasn’t there last year’. I didn’t perform the way I should, drifting in and out of games. Some games I didn’t really want to play. My head just wasn’t there, but I didn’t want to let anybody down either.

But form is temporary. Anybody can have a dip and I’m surrounded by good people who have got me to where I am. Like our conditioner, Paul Hatton. We get on really well and I kind of broke down to him one time. He suggested counselling. I didn’t think stuff like that made a difference, but it’s been really good. It makes a difference. When I’ve seen my counsellor, I’m level-headed; when I haven’t, everything is back up in the air. So I’m going to carry on, get myself in the right state of mind, and come back and play like I’ve been playing forever.

Jake Connor - Ourvoice

My attitude wasn’t there last year’. I didn’t perform the way I should, drifting in and out of games.

I always wanted to be involved in sport as a professional, but I didn’t start rugby till I was 14. Growing up, I was a pretty good footballer. I played up front until the nets started getting bigger, then I dropped back into midfield. I had trials for Huddersfield, Leeds and Bolton. I was a bit taller than everybody else and I liked getting stuck in. But the physical side took over a bit, so I started playing rugby at Ovenden as well.

I was called up for Calderdale service area rugby team, so on Sunday mornings, I’d play football, then straight after I’d change kits and go to rugby. But the scouts didn’t watch Ovenden and I ended up moving to Siddal when I was 16. I didn’t want to leave my mates, but I was getting better and it just had to be done.

It paid off. I’d been excluded from school; I wasn’t naughty at school, just easily distracted. I was mischievous. I liked messing about. That’s why I like Conor McGregor. People hate him, but I love watching him. He’s always acting up.

Jake Connor - Ourvoice

When I’ve seen my counsellor, I’m level-headed; when I haven’t, everything is back up in the air. So I’m going to carry on, get myself in the right state of mind, and come back and play like I’ve been playing forever.

We were playing football against North Halifax. We were 2-0 down and I thought ‘sod this, I’ll sort it myself’. I beat three or four players, then someone cracked me from behind – just took my legs from under me. Our teacher was refereeing but he just said, ‘play on’. I went up to him and went off on one! The next day, I was excluded, but I’d just signed a contract with Huddersfield Giants, so it all worked out. Things happened that quick.

I learned a lot from Chris Thorman at Huddersfield, he was a good person to be around and I still talk to him now. I was playing above my weight at first, but I became a better player thanks to him.

I had a difficult time at Huddersfield though. I thought I deserved a better deal and negotiations went on a long time. Eventually I thought ‘I need a change’. A few clubs came in for me and I spoke to Radders (Lee Radford, Hull FC Coach) a few times. His ideas were miles apart from the others and I ended up agreeing to sign. Then a couple of weeks later I thought ‘I don’t want to go!’. I rang Radders and told him I’d changed my mind, but he said he’d been through something similar and persuaded me to stick with it. We won the Challenge Cup in 2017, so it was the right thing to do. And if I hadn’t made the move, would I be playing for England? Probably not.

if I hadn’t made the move, would I be playing for England? Probably not.

Off the field, I like to stay chilled and stay out of trouble. I’m boring! I like to see my mum Bernie and my brother Wesley, and my sister Natalie and her boy Junior, or spend time with my mates.

I moved out from my mum’s in 2018. You go from your mum doing everything for you – cleaning, washing – to having to do it all yourself. I’m no good around the house. I don’t know anything about it. I might have got the odd DIY tip from my dad if he’d been around, but I’m not that interested. I like tidying up, but only when it’s really messy and really needs to be done.

I switch off when I’m with my mates. We’re a big group and they are the kind of people you’d run through a brick wall for. We’ve had a few days in Ibiza and Tenerife this year, which were my first holidays for about four years. It’s always good to catch up, enjoy some banter and forget about things.

Jake Connor - Ourvoice

I just want to give something back. I want people to listen when I’m talking, but it’s not ‘you have to listen to me!’.

I coach a few of my mates now at Ovenden. I used to go and watch the first team. I just wanted to be involved – running around with the cones and water. Coach Steve Taylor was old school. I just wanted to help him out. Then he asked me if I fancied taking over. I don’t class it as coaching. I just want to give something back. I want people to listen when I’m talking, but it’s not ‘you have to listen to me!’.

Rugby’s always on my mind. I think I enjoy not switching off. I’m always thinking about new moves, this and that. I can be driving along, and something will pop up in my head.

I don’t know what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for rugby.

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