Konrad Hurrell is one of Super League’s biggest characters. With his huge toothy smile, long hair and chunky frame, the Pacific Islander entertains on and off the pitch.
But last year the big grin was largely gone. The hard-running centre went through a tough season on the pitch as his contract at rebuilding Leeds came to an end. Hurrell then made a surprise switch to the champions, St Helens, where he was reunited with his Tongan national team coach Kristian Woolf.
“My time at Leeds was great, apart from last year,” he tells i. “I just had a lot of… individual… I couldn’t get through the year. It was the worst year of my career last year. It was just like shit for me because I wanted to finish on a high at Leeds. The club gave me the opportunity.”
Fast forward 12 months and Saints are preparing for another Grand Final, their fourth since 2019, and the chance to claim a record-breaking fourth title in a row. For Hurrell it is his first Grand Final appearance in a career that started in Tongatapu and has included stops in Auckland, the Gold Coast, West Yorkshire and now Greater Merseyside.
St Helens getting back to Old Trafford is no surprise. But the rise of the Rhinos, who won one of their first 10 games, sacked their coach and were battling relegation in April, has been stunning.
Under Australian Rohan Smith, Leeds finished fifth and then upset Catalans in Perpignan and then Wigan at the DW Stadium to book a spot at Old Trafford.
“When I got there Leeds were building to get to the big stage as well,” Hurrell says. “I think they’re on the right track and they’ve got a great coach now and just to see them get to the Grand Final, after the year they’ve had, is amazing. No one thought they’d make it.”
At the Rhinos Hurrell was one of the first names on the team sheet, as a marquee signing, but struggled for consistency. But at the Totally Wicked Stadium the 31-year-old has had to battle for his spot and has thrived in a demanding environment where the team is put first and workrate is valued over everything else.
“Coming in I knew to make the XVII I had to work my arse off to gain the respect of the boys,” he explains.
“Coming in and just trying get used to the culture, trying to fit in, my big goal was trying to come in and leave my ego out. Just take anything and everything they give me at this club.
“It’s been great for me and I feel like I’m on the right track trying to get to my best. It has been great – the coaches and the players trying to push me and I think they know I can be a better player than I was last year.”
The centre’s efforts have paid off, with the Red V finishing top, winning the League Leader’s Shield and Hurrell scoring nine tries in 22 appearances. Now St Helens stand on the brink of history – victory would put them amongst the greatest-ever teams of all-time.
For the outside back, who has signed another year with Saints and now has his first child on the way, the red and white is where he has found his mojo. Hurrell is happy again and gunning for glory.
“That’s one thing. I know I wasn’t here for the past three years, but to be part of their fourth one is a bit special for them,” he says.
“I think this one will be more special for them because it will be history for the club. It’s going to be hard to beat that. So just to be part of that is special, and hopefully it will be my first one.
“I’m just buzzing to be part of it and give my little 1 per cent to that fourth Grand Final win.”