Konrad Hurrell admits he was as surprised as anyone when Super League champions St Helens came in for him after a disappointing season with Leeds in 2021.
The Tongan powerhouse is now a firm fan favourite on the terraces at Totally Wicked Stadium as he prepares to enter his second season with the champions.
But he knew he had to knuckle down when he arrived. Hurrell put in the hard graft to earn the respect of his team-mates, coaches and fans.
“I still remember when I signed with Saints that 90% of the fans where like ‘why the f**k have we signed this player?’ and I knew that for a fact,” Hurrell told Love Rugby League whilst laughing. “I couldn’t argue back with them.
“But from coming in and talking to Woolfy (Kristian Woolf, then head coach) and Rushy (Mike Rush, chief executive) and Wello (Paul Wellens), they took a big gamble on me because after my 2021 I don’t think many clubs in Super League or Championship would have wanted to sign me.
“The club took a massive gamble on myself. So I just shut my mouth, trained hard and was just a part of the team. I’m glad they gave me the opportunity.”
Kristian Woolf got the best out of me
But if anyone could get the best out of Hurrell, then it was Kristian Woolf. The pair have a good relationship from their time together in the Tongan camps.
“I was (surprised St Helens came in for me) but at the same time I was chatting to Woolfy,” Hurrell continued. “I’ve got a good relationship with Woolfy.
“Every time I play for Tonga I feel like I play my best because I’m playing under Woolfy.
“Woolfy knew my potential and he knew I wasn’t far from it. He said we’ll take you in, but you are not even starting in the side (at that point).
“Woolfy is a straight man. He said to me that I needed to work my arse off to just get on the bench so I just came in and did what he and the boys wanted.
“I wouldn’t say I was lucky because someone else was injured. But a lot of the boys were injured that year so I took my opportunity. Then I was like ‘no one is taking my spot away from me’. I worked hard for it.”
Konrad Hurrell grateful to the Saints faithful
The Tonga international is very popular figure at the club now, bringing the good vibes to the training field as well as having plenty of selfies with fans after games.
“They welcomed me more than I thought for myself when I signed,” Hurrell told Love Rugby League.
“My first game was against Catalans and I felt that support straight away. I think they were doing it because of how much the team means to them and the jersey.
“I think they saw that I’m all in, I’m not half arsed, I think that’s why they were like that. Hearing that after the game and getting pictures with them kind of helped me stay on track towards the end of the year.
“I already had a song halfway through! So I used to mock some of the boys who had been here for five or six years. I used to say ‘how have I got a song before you?’. It’s always good to be involved with the fans.”