Former Hull youngster Reece Dean is currently enjoying life with Hull Rugby Union after making the code switch following the end of the 2021 campaign.
The half-back came through the academy system with the Super League side. He left in order to seek regular action by signing a two-year deal for then current League 1 side Toronto Wolfpack.
He would go on to join Hunslet, before calling Newcastle Thunder home in 2020 for two years.
Following 15 appearances for Thunder, scoring twice, he departed the club and still remains a free agent in rugby league.
“I’m playing and learning something new”
“At the minute, I’ve switched codes. I’m playing a bit of rugby union at a pretty decent level and I’m enjoying it,” he told Love Rugby League.
“I’m playing and learning something new. Rugby league has gone a bit quiet to be honest. I’ve not heard much from anyone. I’ve never had an agent or anything, I do it all myself. But I’m happy in rugby union.
“Hull Rugby Union is a team local to me and it’s where I live. Gary Pearce is the coach, a former Wales rugby union international. I feel like I’m learning again.
“Rugby league wise, I think with the funding cuts and the way the game is going, the game has lost a lot of funding due to Covid and a lot of teams are struggling. Clubs are trying to retain players, so it’s been a bit quiet.
“That’s not to say I wouldn’t go back to the game I’ve played since I was four. I’m going to see the rugby union season out, which finishes at the beginning of February, and we’ll see.”
Reece Dean on time at Newcastle Thunder
The half-back began his Thunder journey in good form, but admitted he found game time tougher to come by following the arrivals of former Super League half-backs Josh Woods and Jack Shorrocks.
“I had worked with Finny [Simon Finnigan] at Toronto, so when he moved to Newcastle we had a bit of a chat. It was a tough decision as we had just had a newborn baby. I went and it was good to link back up with him.
“We started there like a house on fire and then Covid hit and the season got cancelled. Six games in and we were flying and I’d like to think that we’d have gone up. We beat the likes of Workington, Keighley and Dewsbury.
“We were obviously off for a long time and then just before going back, we got the news Finny that had been offered the job at Widnes, so I was a bit gutted. Freddie [Eamon O’Carroll] came in and changed it to his ways.”
Reece Dean on half-back competition
Dean continued: “He brought in two half-backs and I had to fight for a place. He was good and I had a bit of catching up to do with the two half-backs coming from full-time environments. I played 10 or 11 games in the Championship and had a couple of decent games. I played a bit of wing, full-back, they all count.
“If I’m honest, all year I probably wasn’t in Freddy’s plans.
“He brought his new half-backs in from that Wigan team. Two very good players and I had to fight for my position. I covered the hooker role and a few others; I’ll play anywhere as long as I’m on the pitch.
“I came off the bench at hooker just floating about and I kept trying in training and then the move to Rochdale was mentioned and the opportunity to get some game time.
“I played a few decent games and then two or three games left of the season I went back to Newcastle. It was good to go back and finish there. I had a good night out in Newcastle after the last game and still speak to a few lads.”
Reece Dean open to 2022 return
Dean was released following the conclusion of the 2021 season, as Thunder moved into a full-time model.
Currently featuring in the National League 2 North competition, Hull sit at the top of the table. However, Dean hasn’t ruled out a return to the sport he grew up playing.
He also explained how he would make the five-hour round-trip from Hull to Newcastle three times a week to continue his dream in the sport, which eventually took time away from his family.
“Anything could happen,” he said.
“I might get a few phone calls, it’s a waiting game really. For now, I’m enjoying staying local.
“I’ve got two young kids, so travelling to Newcastle three times a week was tough. It’s nice to spend time with the kids and put them to bed. I started work at 6:30am, leaving at 3:00pm to get to Newcastle to get there for 7:00pm training and then get back at midnight.
“Two years of that takes its toll. A lot of players have moved on and a few that wasn’t suited going full-time up there. It would be a massive move to move family up there. I enjoyed it at Newcastle, but it took a lot out of me and my family with the travelling.
“Like I said, I wouldn’t rule a return out. It’s just a waiting game. For now, union is where I’m happy and where I’ll be.”