How Jordan Abdull went from thoughts of retirement at Hull KR to new lease of life at Catalans Dragons

Jordan Abdull’s surprise decision to leave Hull KR and join Catalans Dragons was motivated by a desire to reboot his injury-hit career in new surroundings, writes LOUIS CHAPMAN-COOMBE.

JORDAN ABDULL caught the rugby league world off guard ahead of the new season, as he made a surprise move over the Channel to Catalans Dragons.

This time last year, Abdull was at the heart of a resurgent Hull KR team who were pushing for a spot in the Challenge Cup Final, but a string of injuries meant he lost his place to Rowan Milnes and Mikey Lewis. In the off-season, Tyrone May also arrived at Craven Park, pushing Abdull further down the pecking order in East Hull. 

With his position under threat, Abdull made the switch to the South of France, and he exclusively told Rugby League World some honest conversations with Robins head coach Willie Peters were the spark for his move to Perpignan. 

“The move was a weird one,” he said. 

“I got told that there was an enquiry about me potentially moving to Catalans on a season-long loan. Me and Willie had a very honest conversation. I told him that from my point of view, it might be the best thing for my career to move out of Hull and get away from the same scenery and try a different lifestyle, a different culture and see if that has a positive impact on my mental health and also my body.” 

As Abdull alluded to, his injuries have had a huge impact on his career to date. Last season, he was stricken with serious quad and hamstring injuries, and he has also suffered from knee injuries in the past too. 

When fit, Abdull is widely regarded as one of the best halfbacks in Super League; but since the 2020 season he has not played more than 16 games in a single season.

This string of serious injuries has taken a toll on his mental health, as well as physical, but he spoke honestly about how he nearly hung up his boots altogether. 

“I thought about it when I did my hamstring. I went through a little spell where I missed the game at Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final, and it was stuff like that where there were opportunities that I’ve waited eight or nine years of my professional career for and I’m not available due to injury.

“Then my injury takes a little bit longer to recover from and you just have that mental battle all the time. There was a point for probably around two or three months where I was kind of going through my rehab program but in the back of my mind, I was thinking ‘I’m not even sure if I even want to come back to play’. 

“I don’t know whether I just wanted to come back just so my body got healed but other than that the enjoyment of playing wasn’t there for me. It just got to a spell where every time I was playing I was coming away with a different injury and a little bit of love for the game just went, but that was all down to frustration.”

Since then, his move to the South of France has reignited his passion for the game, but more importantly he has found some consistency in his performances. Since his move to Les Dracs, Abdull has managed to piece together a nice string of games. He played in 10 of the Dragons’ first 12 matches of the season and has notched three tries in the process. 

A minor bicep injury kept him out of the team for a couple of matches, however it seems his leg injury issues are behind him thanks to a personalised loading plan put in place by Catalans. 

“From day one I’ve been on my own program when I’m in the gym. I have this set of exercises I do differently to what the other boys do in the gym; it’s just trying to get the most out of what I can do. Given my injury history, we’re working off a platform that hopefully within time I can then move back into the movement patterns that everybody else is doing.

“In the short-term, it’s helping me to get better at certain movement patterns and being able to lift weight comfortably in those positions,” he continued. “It just reduces the risk of repeating injuries.” 

His form has left him feeling the move has been a success in more ways than one. 

“It’s definitely worked out but there were no guarantees,” Abdull said. “It was a massive gamble that I took, but I think I was at that point in my career where it was time to gamble a little bit and take myself out of my comfort zone. I’m coming to the back end of my career and want to try and make something out of it now.

“I remember speaking to Steve (McNamara) when I first came over, it was my last chance really; I did need the change. I needed a different culture, a different team and a different challenge. I was coming over and I didn’t do much of a pre-season with Hull KR or with Catalans, so there was that, and they had already recruited a new spine and there was the challenge to try and get myself into the team.

“I was coming over with no illusions that I needed to give everything that I’ve got to see if I can make it work. If it didn’t work out then I’m not really sure what the rest of my career holds or if I even want the rest of my career to have anything at all; that was my mindset coming over originally. Obviously, I’m more than happy to say that it’s changed now.

“My outlook on how I’m seeing my career has changed now. I have got that fire back now. I want to do something with my career.”

First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 497 (June 2024)

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