CONNELL: “IT WAS SURREAL, I NEVER THOUGHT I’D GET TO THAT POINT…”

CONNELL: “IT WAS SURREAL, I NEVER THOUGHT I’D GET TO THAT POINT…”

by | Jul 11, 2024

Nathan Connell has recalled the ‘surreal’ moment he made his Betfred Super League debut.

The young fullback has just penned his first professional contract, which means he will become a full-time member of Paul Rowley’s first-grade squad in 2025.

“I’m over the moon with it – it’s a dream come true really,” he exclusively told our YouTube channel.

Connell has been involved with the club since the age of 14. He began at the Rising Stars Programme, progressed through the Development Academy and Reserve grade set-up, and now into the first-team.

When asked whether even he can believe the journey he has been on, he said: “Not really. I came to the college doing the Rising Stars not expecting any of this, I just wanted to enjoy my rugby.

“It’s been a long journey, but one I’ve loved and enjoyed the whole way through.”

The 21-year-old came through the same system as Jack Stevens and Luis Roberts – with the former going on to play regular Super League rugby for Leeds Rhinos.

“It does motivate you because it shows that it’s not over, you’ve just got to work hard, keep going and there is that opportunity out there,” he continued.

This is Connell’s first professional contract, but the youngster has actually been around the environment for over eight months now.

He recalls the first time our Head Coach, Paul Rowley approached him over joining the first-team on a regular basis: “It was a nice conversation.

“It was after a training session we did against the first-team and it was just a little chat about whether I was available, and that he wanted me to come round full-time for this year.”

Working closely with a player of Ryan Brierley’s calibre and experience can’t be a bad thing for an up and coming fullback.

The Scotland international has over 300 career appearances and it’s something the youngster is using to his advantage every single day.

“It’s great because I see myself as a similar player to him,” Connell continued.

“He’s got lots of knowledge of the game, lots of years of experience, so I just soak it all up and take everything off him. Listen and learn; don’t try and do too much, just take it all in.”

All of the aforementioned journey culminated in him making his Super League debut in early-June, against London Broncos.

“I was nervous. I’m nervous before every game, but the nerves were through the roof on that day,” he said.

“It was surreal, I never thought I’d get to that point in rugby, I play it because I enjoy it and it just came along. I’ve worked hard for it and it motivates me to keep going.”

With the Club recently awarded an Elite Academy License, many young players, particularly in the local area will look at Nathan’s journey as a huge insipation.

He finished by giving advice to them exact people looking to pave their way in rugby league: “Don’t rush anything, don’t overthink it, just enjoy your rugby at a young age and keep going.

“Just take your chance, that’s all I did in rugby. I had it tough and you are going to have tough moments in rugby league, but if you just bide your time and keep going, you’ll get their in the end.”

Watch our full chat with Nathan now by heading over to our YouTube channel.

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