Wakefield Trinity: Why new signing Liam Hood feels he’s finally ‘arrived’ in Super League
The Scotland hooker is deep into pre-season with Trinity after joining from relegated Leigh Centurions on a two-year deal ahead of 2022.
He has had a circuitous path to this point, starting in the revered academy of Leeds Rhinos more than a decade ago but only playing a handful of first-team games for the West Yorkshire club.
Instead, Hood spent time on loan in the Championship with Hunslet and Dewsbury Rams before being released and joining Salford Red Devils in 2015.
However, the Yorkshireman was also let go by them after just one campaign and dropped into the second tier once more, briefly with Swinton Lions and then for a first stint with Leigh.
Hood helped them win promotion in his first campaign but their stay in Super League lasted just one season.
He moved to Widnes Vikings before returning to Leigh who, despite again reaching Super League this year following Toronto Wolfpack’s demise, once more failed to take root, winning just two of their 22 games to fall immediately back down.
Throughout all of this, there has been no doubting the combative hooker’s talent; he earned Scotland honours and was Leigh captain last term.
But Bradfordian Hood conceded it has taken this long, and Wakefield investing in him, to make him realise he has finally properly arrived at the elite level.
“From leaving Leeds and then getting there twice with Leigh and being relegated again, it’s obviously massively disappointing,” he said. “When the opportunity arrived to come to Wakefield - who are an established Super League side - and also because I’ve signed for two years, there was a little thought in my head where I did feel I’ve got it now.
“Every player wants Super League; it’s the top flight and, if you want to challenge yourself, this is where you need to be.
“So, it was a massive relief in a sense but also exciting that this is me; I am now settled into Super League and I’ll hopefully be playing it for the next two years at least and hopefully more after that. It did feel, in a sense, that I had arrived. It’s nice.”
As he battled to forge a full-time rugby league career for himself, Hood worked as a plumber and he revealed there were points when he wondered if he was destined not to ever get back to Super League.
“Also, there’s a massive part on me as well: there’s times when I could have been better and knuckled down more,” he admitted.
“There were times when I thought about jacking it all in and thought, is it for me?
“I’ve always wanted to play rugby but there were times when I thought about just getting a job and focusing on that.
“With all the mental challenges - and I know everything has that - there were times when it got a bit dark and maybe I should look at something else.
“But I am glad I stuck it out.”
With Trinity hookers Kyle Wood and Josh Wood moving to Halifax and Barrow Raiders respectively for 2022, he has been handed the Trinity No 9 jersey by Willie Poching who claimed the head coach role after impressively replacing Chris Chester in August.
Hood is confident Wakefield can go well and he added: “I’ve worked with Willie before and, when I was at Leeds, he was my academy coach.
“I know what Willie brings. The vibe I get from around the place is, because he’s changed some players and quite a lot of the backroom staff has also changed, there is a really fresh feeling around here.
“It’s a fresh start for the club as well and Willie has put his own take on things and everyone is buying into it.
“He’s a good fella not just as a coach but away from rugby he’s a very nice fella and someone I have a lot of time for.
“When you have these types of coaches, who you have a good relationship with, it makes you want to have an extra dig.”
Liam Kay converted from winger to hooker last season at Belle Vue and he will offer another option for Poching.
Hood, 29, said: “I think he is going to stay at nine this year.
“It’s great to have him. Liam can play a few different positions. Every club needs that player who can fit into a few roles. He’s been training really well and had a few good games at nine last year.
“He’s just got a few fundamental things to learn and he knows that himself. But you learn that from playing there.
“It’s good to see he’s switched and I’m trying to help him as much as I can. There’s young Harry Bowes as well but I am looking forward to taking that lead role at hooker. It is something I had last season at Leigh and really enjoyed it: playing big minutes, being out there.”
Hood hopes to debut against Leeds at Headingley in the Boxing Day friendly.
“The last time I played Boxing Day was actually for Rhinos against Wakefield!” he said, referring to 2012 when current England hooker Paul McShane was scrum-half for a Leeds side including Danny McGuire, Ryan Bailey and Joel Moon.
“The clubs I’ve been at since did not play Boxing Day games.
“It’ll be good to get out and play against Leeds and some of the lads I’ve played with. Playing around Christmas like that, it’s different and exciting.”