The Curious Case of Konrad Hurrell

Think back to March 2015, when the Warriors announced the re-signing of Konrad Hurrell through to the end of the 2018 season. It was exciting news — here was a young, powerful centre, with the talent to become one of the most destructive attacking weapons in the NRL, committing his long-term future to the Warriors. Andrew McFadden was quoted as saying:

‘Konrad has a huge role to play for us . . . We saw how much he developed his game last year and there’s still a lot of improvement in him. Koni has made a real impact in the NRL and we know there’s a lot more to come.’

But now, as we head towards 2016, Hurrell’s bright future no longer seems as certain as it once was. Fitness, suspension and inconsistent form limited Konrad to only 12 appearances in 2015, and in his absence a new crop of young talent emerged. Reports circled during the off-season to suggest the situation had reached tipping point, with both Hurrell and the Warriors considering their options for 2016. In addition to losing some trust within the organisation, it appears that Konrad has also lost a good portion of the unanimous support he once received from the fan base. Just check out the comments section of the article linked here. Instead of the praise that was heaped on Konrad early in his career, in 2015 his name was more commonly heard alongside words such as ‘overweight’, ‘unprofessional’ and ‘defensive liability’, and question marks over his composure, maturity and commitment became more and more prominent.

After a less-than-ideal season and with all these questions bubbling to the surface, a bigger question emerged: is there still a place for Konrad Hurrell at the Warriors?

Is there still a place for Konrad Hurrell at the Warriors?

How did it come to this?

Well, he hasn’t helped himself. Here’s a brief timeline of Konrad’s lowlights from 2014–15:

Preseason 2014 – Hurrell admits he ‘enjoyed off-season too much’ and spends the first two weeks of the season in NSW Cup.

May 2014 – fined $5000 for posting a video on social media while engaging in a sexual act with actress Teuila Blakely, which also coincided with the NRL’s Women in League round.

May 2015 — suspended for 3 weeks after a raised knee breaks Anthony Tupou’s jaw.

August 2015 — dances at Ginuwine and posts the video on social media two days before the Warriors take a pounding from the West Tigers.

In isolation, all these events can be explained away — immaturity, inexperience, bad luck — but add them up and they start to look like a pattern, a lack of professionalism. A concern. And when these kinds of incidents coincide with missed tackles, knock-ons and losses, it’s no surprise to hear fans questioning Konrad’s commitment to the cause.

Complicating matters further for Hurrell is the pathway to playing time in 2016. The emergence of Solomone Kata, the signing of Blake Ayshford, the return to health of David Fusitu’a and the versatility of Tui Lolohea have made the centre position suddenly look very crowded. Add in Matt Allwood and Jonathan Wright as other options from within the 2015 squad, and Konrad starts to look even more expendable. We could spend a long time picking apart the various strengths and weaknesses of all the above centre options (perhaps a discussion for another day), but for now it is enough to suggest that, on last year’s performance, Konrad has fallen a few rungs on the pecking order.

On the field, no one has ever doubted Hurrell’s attacking strengths. At his best, he’s one of the most destructive centres in the game. His power, pace and surprisingly deft skill-set for such a big man, make him an offensive weapon to be feared.

At his best, he’s one of the most destructive centres in the game.

But, at his worst, Konrad can be almost laughable — if it wasn’t so frustrating or soul-destroying. He’s prone to errors, ill-discipline and horrible defensive reads. At times he seems to struggle to stick to basic defensive patterns and is too often exposed on the outside or misses the mark when rushing out of the line. Even if he gives the impression that most of these mistakes comes from an absolute burning desire to help out the team, his errors are sometimes so clear and obvious that it makes him an easy target for criticism. Often it looks like the harder he tries, the worse it gets.

So, after all that, why should we be pleased to see Konrad re-commit to the club for 2016?

At this point, it might be time for full disclosure: I’m still a big fan of Konrad’s and absolutely hope to see him as one of the starting centres in Round 1 against the Tigers— but, with the way things went in 2015, it’s hard not wonder if we’ll ever see the best of Konrad Hurrell in a Warriors jumper.

Yes, it’s fair to say Konrad has made a few dumb decisions with his social media posts. (Apart from these ones — absolute gold.)

But let’s not forget the many great things that he has done, and continues to do, in the community. Konrad was the Warriors’ nomination for the Ken Stephens Medal in 2015, and is constantly pictured at Starship or at community events. If players are to be held accountable for their off-field indiscretions, they surely also deserve credit when they make a positive contribution to the lives of others. The more good people at the Warriors, the better.

Another potentially underrated quality is that it appears he’s genuinely loved by his teammates and seems to be at the heart of everything fun at the training ground. Maybe you could argue that is a negative, that he doesn’t take his job and his training seriously enough, but culture and camaraderie is crucial to prolonged success in any team sport.

On the field, there are the obvious defensive deficiencies. But you can’t coach size, strength and sheer power. Hurrell has been around for so long that sometimes it’s easy to forget he’s just 24 years old. Potential can be a dangerous word, but Konrad’s potential is so high that he’s simply too good to discard without exhausting all options. He’s a genuine matchwinner and, while there’s definitely a place in the game for the reliable, error-free footballer, you can’t tell me you don’t want to see more of this:

Konrad’s potential is so high that he’s simply too good to discard

How can you not love a guy who bulldozes people then blows a kiss to his mum?

But perhaps the most encouraging reason to hold out hope for Konrad Hurrell, is that it appears he might finally have his head in the game. He looks fitter than ever and #nomoremuckaround suggests he’s realised the very real chance his career could go off the rails if he doesn’t put the work in.

Nomoremuckaround.jpg

To me, this is the most crucial part of the Konrad Hurrell story. If he has realised that the only way to be a star at the Warriors, a star of rugby league, is to work, work, work off the field, then the sky is the limit. The tools are there, now it’s up to him to put them into action.

Only time will tell how The Curious Case of Konrad Hurrell plays out. To date, he’s made 68 NRL appearances and played 4 test matches for Tonga, but it seems clear that he must again make his mark in 2016. No longer a rookie, his time is now. Either way, it promises to be an intriguing storyline of the Warriors’ 2016 season. Will it be another backward step or (here’s hoping) one giant leap towards NRL stardom and a premiership medal?

No longer a rookie, his time is now.

It’s not too late, Konrad. You can make the best or the worst of it — I hope you make the best of it.

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