LUKE HOOLEY is preparing for third time lucky in Super League with Castleford Tigers.
After leaving Wakefield Trinity in 2020 without playing a first-team game for the West Yorkshire side, Hooley dropped down to the Championship with Batley Bulldogs.
A number of successful seasons followed before Leeds Rhinos eyed up Hooley as their future number one fullback.
Joining ahead of the 2023 Super League season, the 25-year-old made just eight appearances for the Rhinos with Hooley making the move to Castleford for 2024 just one year into his two-year deal at Headingley.
Now the fullback has revealed why he signed for the Tigers.
“It was just the opportunity. When I signed, Cas still had Gareth Widdop under contract so I knew I wasn’t walking into the team and wouldn’t be the number one fullback,” Hooley told League Express.
“When I came I knew it would be another challenge. At Leeds, I was second choice and then they recruited another fullback which knocked me down to third choice.
“At 25 years of age, being third choice in Super League is probably not the best position you want to be in if you want to make it in the game.
“I had a few honest chats at Leeds and a few honest conversations with Rohan Smith. He said that if another door opened for me that will allow me to secure my future for another couple of years and still be full-time then he was happy to let me go.
“Luckily for me, Cas did just that.”
Hooley did have offers to drop down once more to the Championship, but the 25-year-old’s goal has always been to make it in Super League.
“I did have a few Championship clubs come in for me that were full-time but I wanted to stay in Super League. I didn’t want to fall back out of Super League to then earn a shot to come back in.
“My first goal when I left Wakefield and join Batley was to play my own game, enjoy it and then earn the shot to come back up to Super League and fortunately I did that.
“Obviously I signed for two years at Leeds. As you go there you want to make a name for yourself and you’ve got big expectations going there.”
So why didn’t it work out at Leeds?
“The year before, I played every minute of every game for Batley and I’ve not been at Leeds six weeks before I snapped my ligament in my ankle. It probably wasn’t the best start.
“And obviously I did get a shot to play my debut but it was probably the worst game I’ve ever had. Those two things set me back.
“I take it as a learning year. I’ve never been injured before so I had to learn how to deal with an injury, being away from the squad and doing my own rehab.
“After I made my debut, I rang Rohan Smith (Leeds head coach) and asked him if I could go out on loan to get some minutes back in my legs because I had only played half an hour in a reserves game before I made my debut. Luckily I did that.”
Despite there being such a massive overhaul at The Jungle for 2024, Hooley is determined to prove people wrong – both personally and collectively.
“I’ve settled in very well, it’s been a tough pre-season but a pretty enjoyable one.
“I think it’s been tough because you’re not walking into a squad that is already settled. There have been a lot of new faces turned over and a full new coaching staff.
“The club has also had a look at itself and improved what they needed to improve.
“People are writing us off already – that’s that and we expected to be written off.
“I think it will be a good and enjoyable year. If we can surprise a few people early on in the season then a few people might change their minds.”
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