Ex-Hull FC star Jake Clifford details how time in Super League has bettered his game for NRL return

Ben Olawumi
Jake Clifford, NRL logo

Jake Clifford will return to the NRL this year - Alamy

Former Hull FC ace Jake Clifford has detailed how his time in Super League helped him to develop, admitting he is ‘over the moon’ to be back in the NRL and back with the North Queensland Cowboys.

Half-back Clifford became Tony Smith’s first signing as FC boss ahead of the season just gone this time last year, penning a two-year deal with the option of an additional 12 months in the club’s favour.

The 25-year-old was never truly settled in West Hull though, and after months of speculation, cut his stay down to just the one season after his return Down Under for 2024 was confirmed in early August.

After 26 Hull appearances, he will once again don the Cowboys shirt next year, the same club he made his NRL debut for back in 201, named their ‘Rookie of the Year’ that season.

Despite such a short time in this country, he says he’s learned a lot from his few months in the Black & Whites’ colours.

Ex-Hull FC star Jake Clifford details how time in Super League has bettered his game in preparation for NRL return

Clifford spoke for the first time since his move back to North Queensland in a press conference which the club published in full on their website earlier this week.

Asked about his time in Super League, the playmaker said: “I could have been too comfortable here from where I’ve started and a bit of change was what I needed for a little bit.

“I kept in contact with a lot of the boys still and spoke to Toddy (Todd Payten, Cowboys head coach) here and there.

“It only happened at really short notice to go over there. It all happened in the off-season and within a week I was going there.

“It was never on my mind to even go there this early, it just ended up happening that way, and hopefully it’s for the better.

“I just built a lot of confidence over there I guess, it’s a different type of game and obviously different weather conditions, but I felt a lot of confidence playing some footy over there and I’m bringing that same confidence back here.

“It’s always been home for me and I’m just glad to be back. It feels natural to be back in Cowboys colours, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come ahead.”

Playmaker Clifford admits he and his family are ‘over the moon’ to be back in the NRL with North Queensland Cowboys

Before making the move to Hull, Clifford spent around 18 months with the Newcastle Knights, amassing 25 further appearances amongst Australia’s elite.

He admits he never thought returning to the Cowboys was going to be off the table, and gave the Aussie journalists an insight into how his switch back home came about.

Clifford continued: “Just talking around the club before I was leaving (for Newcastle), it was only going to be short for me, and I knew I could always come back… that was kind of my decision of how hard I wanted to work to try to get back here.

“I was in England and just got a phone call from Deano. I kind of got tipped up a little bit by my manager before that and he said ‘we’re keen to get you back’.

“I hung up the phone and told my wife, and we were over the moon because – to be honest – we didn’t really feel like leaving in the first place.

“It kind of worked out good in the end, I had a bit of growing up to do and a bit of learning to do about myself, and now I’m back and hopefully better for it.

“I’m so happy to be back around this club. Even the boys and staff outside of the football team, it’s very welcoming to be back and so good to see all the familiar faces and being around everyone again, I’m buzzing and me and my family are super happy to be back.”

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