Loan move to Bradford Bulls is vital stepping stone for Leeds Rhinos youngster Jarrod O’Connor

YOUNG FORWARD Jarrod O’Connor says his loan spell at Bradford Bulls will be a valuable “learning experience”, but is also determined to play more games for Leeds Rhinos this year.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 4:45 am
Updated Thursday, 6th January 2022, 11:56 am

O’Connor featured four times for Rhinos in 2020 and made another 12 appearances last term, half of them in the starting lineup.

He is aiming to add to his tally this season and reckons experience gained with Bulls will be a vital stepping stone towards that, if he is not part of Rhinos coach Richard Agar’s plans for Betfred Super League round one.

O’Connor, 20, who played twice for Featherstone Rovers on dual-registration in the Championship two years ago, will be joined at Odsal by Rhinos team-mates Corey Johnson and Muizz Mustapha.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Leeds Rhinos' Jarrod O'Connor, right, in training with Cameron Smith. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

The trio are set to start this season with Bradford, but can be recalled by Leeds if required.

“It’s going to be good experience and it’ll help me playing every week, rather than having a few weeks out and then playing again,” O’Connor said.

“It will help our development a lot, we are still going to be training at Leeds as well, so it will be good getting the knowledge off both coaches and getting a bit of a different view on the game might help.

“It might increase my knowledge a bit further and Bradford is one of the top teams in the Championship so there’ll be quality players around me.

Jarrod O'Connor is stopped by Joe Westerman last season. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

“It’ll be a good learning experience and help me get better.”

Rhinos have strength in depth in the back-row, but O’Connor’s toughness and work rate have impressed his coaches at Leeds.

Of his ambitions for 2022, he insisted: “Last year was my first main year and I want to build on the performances I had.

“I obviously want to push to try and get more opportunities and end up being one of the people who play every week, not just filling in for people who are injured.”

Blake Austin is just one of a number of high quality singings Leeds Rhinos have made ahead of next season. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

This being the last year of his contract is added incentive.

O’Connor stressed: “I want to show them what I can do and get the best contract I can.

“Obviously I’d love to stay at Leeds for as long as I can because it is a great club.

“I will be pushing to try and get a deal.”

With last year’s game time under his belt, O’Connor – who featured in the Christmas win over Wakefield Trinity – feels more settled at first team level.

“I think I adapted and I am used to it, because at first it can be a bit of a shock to the system, the physicality of it,” he reflected.

“After all those games, my body is conditioned to it and even on Boxing Day I felt a lot better, a lot stronger.

“This is the best shape I think I’ve been in since I started so I am excited for this year and I just want to get going now.”

Of how pre-season has gone so far, O’Connor said: “Everything’s good at the minute. It was obviously good to get some game time on Boxing Day and just get into the swing of things, but pre-season has been going well and I think everyone’s enjoying it. There is a good vibe around the place.”

With eight players having moved on and four arrived from other clubs, Rhinos have a new-look squad this year, as well as a revamped backroom.

“All the staff who have come in have been very professional,” O’Connor said.

“Everything is always sorted and that has made the days easier. All the new signings have fitted in right away, everyone seems to know what they are doing and we look good, getting ready for round one.”

The former Widnes man reckons, in winger David Fusitu’a, halves Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer and second-rower James Bentley, Rhinos have added in real quality to their squad.

“It helps they have played for quality sides,” he noted.

“Being able to add knowledge from their old sides can obviously add to our knowledge.

“Everything we can learn off each other is going to help us push and get that bit further to the Grand Final this year.”

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. You’ll enjoy unlimited access to the latest on Leeds United, Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity, as well as other West Yorkshire rugby league clubs. With our sports digital subscription, you’ll also see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times and get exclusive content. Click here to subscribe.