The 2023 Super League season saw an impressive crop of NRL recruits with the likes of Paul Vaughan and Adam Keighran helping their teams into the play-offs, however one man who missed out was Hull FC’s Jake Clifford.
Clifford arrived alongside fellow Newcastle Knights teammate Tex Hoy and the half-back made an instant impact, becoming a commanding presence in the spine for the Black and Whites.
Following an injury in the Hull derby the 25-year-old bounced back and helped lead a revival for FC, catching the attention of one of his former NRL clubs.
Whilst Clifford ultimately couldn’t lead FC to the play-offs he did land himself a deal with his boyhood club North Queensland Cowboys, breaking Hull FC hearts as he cut short his contract to return to the NRL after just one season.
Now he’s back home he’s explained what big pulling power his boyhood club held for him, reasoning why he made the move despite the knowledge he would serve as a back-up for the Cowboys.
Speaking to members of the media down under, Clifford explained: “I’m super stoked to be back. It feels natural to be back in Cowboys colours. I’m looking forward to what’s to come ahead.”
Clifford also detailed that he hadn’t wanted to leave Australia but a quick deal was made that allowed him to grow in Super League.
On the swift return, the half said: “I was in England and just got a phone call from Dano and kind of got tipped off a little bit by my manager before that and said, ‘look we’re keen to get you back’.
“I hung up the phone and told the wife and yeah, we were over the moon because to be honest we didn’t really feel like leaving in the first place but it kind of worked out good in the end.
“I had a bit of growing up to do and a bit of learning to do about myself and now I’m back and hopefully better for it.
“I could have been too comfortable here from where I’ve started and a bit of change is what I needed for a little bit.”
He explained what Super League had taught him and therefore what he’ll take back to the NRL, suggesting he had never even intended to move in the first place.
“It builds a lot of confidence over there I guess. It’s a different type of game and obviously different weather conditions. But yeah, I just felt a lot of confidence playing some footy over there and kind of bringing that same confidence back here.”
He added: “It only happened really short notice to go over there, it all happened in the off-season. And within a week I was going there. So, it was never on my mind to even go there this early. So, it was never on my mind to even go there this early. It just ended up happening that way and hopefully it’s for the better.”