AN HORRIFIC facial injury has not ended former Leeds Rhinos prospect Jake Normington’s hopes of making a name of himself in the professional game.
Normington, who is back at Hunslet Hawks for a second spell and a fourth attempt to establish himself in the paid ranks, could be a vital component in the south Leeds club’s bid for a quick return to the Kingstone Press Championship.
After being released by Rhinos when he became over-age for the academy, Normington scored eight tries in 12 appearances for Keighley Cougars during the 2011 campaign.
He moved briefly to Hawks in 2013 and returned there three months ago as coach Barry Eaton began rebuilding following relegation to National One.
“Baz gave me a call and said ‘do you fancy another crack’? and I thought why not,” said Normington, who has continued to play for his community club East Leeds during his spells out of the professional system.
“I only played two games when I was here before, then I got injured. We were playing against Leigh at South Leeds Stadium and I fractured my face in four places.
“It was a bad injury to come back from and I think after that I was a bit cautious. It was my first really serious injury and it took me a while to get back into it and get my confidence back, then as soon as Baz called I was injured again!
“I had hand surgery, but when he called I was raring to go – I was running and running. There’s still a long way to go, fitness-wise, but I am definitely ready to put the work in, as are all the rest of the lads.”
A centre, who can also play i the back-row, Normington had a strong game in the recent Lazenby Cup defeat to Rhinos and reckons Hawks are looking in good shape for the new campaign.
“It was enjoyable,” he said of Hunslet’s first pre-season hit out. “Coming back from the amateur game my lungs were on fire after my first stint, but it was good.
“We have only been together about two months, but there were some really good signs. There’s some stuff to work on still, but I think it was a step in the right direction.”
Hawks led twice and then hit back from a six-point interval deficit to level the scores before Rhinos retained the trophy with a late touchdown. Leeds included seven players from their full-time squad and Normington felt the way Hawks defended against good opposition was a positive sign for the new campaign.
“They always throw a lot at you,” he said. “I have been in their position and you know when you play against the young lads at Leeds they will be enthusiastic and fit. It is good to play against them, because you know you are going to get a good test.
“We had chances towards the end to go for a drop goal or go for two points and we were gutted not to get the win.
“Every rugby league player will tell you you always play to win, but there were a lot of positives to take out of it.
“It was our first hit out and we have got a new squad with a lot of new faces, so it was a step in the right direction.”