Leeds Rhinos youngster Jarrod O’Connor followed in his father’s footsteps on Saturday evening as he played in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.
His dad, Terry, who is now more known for his punditry on Sky Sports, was part of the Wigan Warriors team that won the first ever Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in 1998 when a famous Jason Robinson try helped see off Leeds Rhinos.
Now, in an interesting twist of fate, Jarrod is representing the Rhinos having come through the academy at Headingley, with 2022 proving to be his breakout year.
After spending much of the season on the fringes, O’Connor junior has become a favourite of new Leeds head coach Rohan Smith and has been used throughout their route to the Theatre of Dreams.
The 21-year-old has excelled at hooker, scoring in the semi-final win over Wigan, and as he prepared to take to the field at Old Trafford at the weekend, his dad Terry revealed what he said to his son on the eve of the Grand Final.
“It’s one of those that if you’ve got sons or daughters that play rugby or do dancing you just want them to enjoy it – that’s the biggest thing,” O’Connor senior said on Sky Sports.
“When you talk about playing here at Old Trafford and what you can expect, that’s all I can give him, because I can’t coach him, I’m just his dad and that’s all I want to be, he’s got Rohan (Smith), he’s got Longy (Sean Long) and he’s got Jonesy (Jamie Jones-Buchanan).
“But when you get in that tunnel and you walk down it and onto the pitch, you have just got to enjoy the atmosphere and take it all in because when you get near the halfway line, as the game is about to start, I said to him you have just got to switch on.
“So, it’s a really proud moment for myself, it’s not about me, it’s about my son and what he goes out there and does. He’s come here for years and years watching Grand Finals and watching them on the TV so he’s living his dream now.
“He’s got to go out there for 80 minutes and perform. Nobody else can do it, it’s just down to him.
“All I ever said to him since he was seven years of age, when he started playing rugby, because he was born at the back end of the school year, I just used to say to him ‘get your hands on the ball, enjoy it and make sure you don’t let the fat kid run at you, get off the line’.”
As it turned out, O’Connor and Leeds were powerless to stop St Helens winning a fourth Super League crown on the trot, with the Saints winning out 24-12 at Old Trafford.
For Jarrod it was a disappointing end, but it is expected that he will continue in the hooking position next season alongside Kruise Leeming following the departure of Brad Dwyer to Hull FC.