HULL winger Liam Colbon is Super League’s man who came in from the cold.
After experiencing the “rat race” during a six-month spell out of the game, Colbon was offered a career lifeline by the East Yorkshire club and is determined not to let the chance slip.
The 29-year-old, who will make his home debut when Hull face Widnes at KC Stadium tomorrow, was considering hanging up his boots after leaving London Broncos at the end of last season.
Working on an internship with a running coach and personal trainer in the capital, Colbon jumped at the chance to return to full-time training when Hull offered him a one-year contract in February.
Hull did not know it at the time, but it proved an astute move as it meant coach Lee Radford had a ready-made replacement when Tom Lineham, one of the competition’s rising stars, was ruled out due to a broken leg earlier this month.
Colbon made a try-scoring debut in last Sunday’s 19-16 defeat at Castleford Tigers and while he was disappointed with the result and aspects of his own performance, he is keen to repay Hull for the faith invested in him.
“I have very, very mixed feelings,” Colbon said of last week’s comeback. “I had the pre-game nerves before the match and a month ago I was staring at retirement and working in London.
“It was something I never thought I would experience again, so on that side of it it was great.
“But on the other side, as a team, it was disappointing we didn’t close the game out, because I thought we had done enough to get something out of it.”
When London ran into off-field problems at the end of last season, Colbon found himself without a club and with little prospect of finding one after most Super League coaches had completed their recruitment.
He said: “I had never given up on the game. I always believed I could carry on playing, but it’s a different scenario when you have to train on your own and you’re not getting paid for it and you have got to work as well, at the same time.
“Going out for runs at 7pm after you’ve been at work – being part of the rat-race in London, travelling on Tube trains – makes you appreciate what you do have as a full-time rugby player,” he admitted.
“I was working 8am to 8pm, seven days a week for a couple of months. When you do that it really hits home what a privilege it is to be a professional rugby league player.
“I will never take it for granted again and I am extremely grateful to Lee and Andy Last and all the people at Hull for giving me an opportunity to play. One thing I will do is give my all every week.”
Colbon played a Championship fixture on dual-registration for Doncaster against Batley to gain some match fitness, but felt he was below his usual standard in last week’s Hull debut.
“Hopefully I can build on the start I made,” he said. “There were a few things in the game which were completely rusty and out of character – a few missed tackles and things like that – and I do need to work hard on the training ground.
“I was happy with the try and I tried my best with the carries. I tried to get involved as much as I could, but I wasn’t up to the level I’d expect normally. There were a couple of one-on-one missed tackles and one of those was very costly. I really need to brush up on that and spend a lot more time on the practice ground.”
He hopes to be better tomorrow when he will run out at KC Stadium for the first time as a home player. “I can’t wait,” he said. “I always love playing at KC Stadium and I’ve had a few special moments there, like my first-ever try when I played for Wigan.
“I have had a few play-off wins there, both for Wigan and [Hull Kingston] Rovers and it is always a great atmosphere.
“The Hull fans are brilliant and I am looking forward to playing for Hull and experiencing a different side of it.”
Colbon now has an opportunity to become a regular in Hull’s starting 13, but he spares a thought for the player whose bad luck provided his chance.
“It’s really unfortunate for Tom,” he said. “He had a cracking year last year and he is going to be a great player for the club. I just want to improve my game week on week, do a job and hopefully repay the faith Lee’s put in me.