Castleford Tigers have announced that exciting young half-back Jacob Hookem has joined the Club by signing a one-year deal with the club holding an option for 2024.
The 20-year-old originally came through the youth ranks at boyhood club Hull FC, before going on to make his senior debut against Catalans Dragons during the 2021 Super League season.
Hookem made a further four appearances for the Black and Whites during 2022 and also gained valuable experience in the Championship this year with loan stints at both Bradford Bulls and Whitehaven.
After his move to the Fords was confirmed, the tricky playmaker affirmed just how delighted he is to be making the switch to Wheldon Road.
“I’m really happy to be here! The opportunity came up and I’m excited to be able to progress here at Castleford.” Hookem told castlefordtigers.com.
“I was able to get a few Super League games under my belt last year at Hull so my aim is to keep progressing and kick on to become a regular at the top level.”
Hookem linked up with the Tigers from day one of pre-season, joining a number of promising youngsters in the Cas camp with Academy stars Aaron Willis, Hugo Nikhata, and George Hill as well as powerful winger Elliot Wallis who has stepped up from the Reserves squad this year.
Castleford’s latest addition claimed that a couple of familiar faces have helped him settle into life at The Mend-A-Hose Jungle already.
“I know Cain Robb from my time at Whitehaven and I know Jason Qareqare from representing on camps together. I’ve spoken to them about coming here and I can’t wait to be mixing in with them too.”
It’s not just representatives in the playing squad that Jacob is already acquainted with, he spent time under the tutelage of members of the Tigers’ backroom staff in Danny Wilson and Rob Nickolay during his progression through the Hull FC academy.
The young half explained that having the chance to work under the pair again was a massive draw in joining the Club.
“I owe a lot to Danny and Rob. They’ve put a lot of development into me and really helped me with my game so I’m happy to be back with them. Those two are key reasons why I chose to come to Cas, the pathway too and the type of knowledge they have they were a key factor in coming here.”
Along with representing the Tigers on the pitch, Hookem has taken up the opportunity to study alongside his playing career by making the most of the partnership between the Tigers Foundation and University Centre Leeds which offers young aspiring players the opportunity to gain access to a degree level qualification alongside their playing career.
Touching on the educational work he will be doing, Jacob put forward how crucial it is for players to be able to gain qualifications outside of rugby.
“I’m studying with University Centre Leeds and the Foundation as well, that side of things and the playing side go hand in hand. I’m currently doing a university sports coaching course.
“It’s really important. Rugby isn’t forever so having a back-up plan and something to fall back on is great. Having the chance to do it at Castleford to potentially be a professional rugby player but also get my degree is beneficial.”
The Tigers are deep into week four of their pre-season preparations with their opening friendly fixture coming up in just a few weeks’ time and in closing, Hookem laid out his ambitions for the months ahead.
“First of all, I want to have a good pre-season and impress Radders and the coaches and hopefully I can push on and get some first team games. I’ll aim to hit the ground running during the pre-season games if I get the opportunity and I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Cas fans!”
Castleford Head Coach Lee Radford is more than aware of the talents the 20-year-old possesses after seeing him play in the youth ranks at the Airlie Birds and Radford stated that having experienced halves in Gareth Widdop and Jacob Miller around him will only help his progression.
“He’s a young half, that I’m pleased to get over the line. With Danny’s injury last year and Callum not being available for us last year, Jacob will be quite high up in the pecking order. Hopefully, he can come to the club and develop working alongside the likes of Jacob Miller and Gareth Widdop. There are some senior blokes that can help him develop.”