Given his track record on social media it was only right that we would learn of Konrad Hurrell’s new NRL club via Facebook post, writes Ben Stanley. But will the Gold Coast prove boom or bust for the mercurial former Warrior?
There would be no scoop by a Sydney tabloid. No official release timed by the NRL or the clubs involved in the move. No press conference in Mount Smart Stadium’s Stacey Jones Lounge, flanked by Jim Doyle and Andrew McFadden.
For departing Warrior Konrad Hurrell, the direction to his new home was always going to come out – inadvertently – on social media.
His sister posted a picture on Facebook on Wednesday night, showing her kissing Konrad and exclaiming: “Love you my bigheaded little brother. #blowkissforever Gold Coast here we come.”
Sure enough, the next day it was officially announced that Hurrell had joined the Titans, for the next 18 months at least.
He leaves the Warriors the same person he was throughout his time in Auckland: a young man who lived, died, was reborn and eventually sacked through his lack of on-field application – and a whole lot of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts.
Such is the life of a young sportsman these days. Hurrell might not be the hardest trainer in the NRL, but he also doesn’t seem to appreciate how a few apps on your smartphone can affect your entire professional arc.
Hurrell arrived as an unpolished, ex-rugby diamond of the Warriors Under-20s programme in 2011. His blockbusting play was a massive factor in the Under-20s claiming Holden Cup victory that season.
There have been some breathtaking performances from him in first-grade – 41 tries in 71 games is not to be sniffed at – but the on-field flaws could never be coached out of him.
The tackling ability, and defensive reads, stayed poor. The work ethic fluctuated, as did his playing weight.
So what kind of player will the Titans be getting? Probably the same sort of player Hurrell has been for the Warriors for much of his career: a potential wrecking-ball on attack, with generally poor match awareness, work ethic and defensive application.
Hurrell should get a starting jersey in the Titans next match against the Rabbitohs in Perth on June 5, where he’ll likely play alongside former Kiwis rep Josh Hoffman.
The Titans head to Darwin the following week for a game against the Eels, giving the young Tongan two tough outings in unknown environments to start his new NRL gig.
While there’s little to suggest a Krisnan Inu-style miracle turnaround from Hurrell, it does appear he will have a solid support network waiting for him at the Titans.
Former Warriors Under-20s prop Agnatius Paasi is now on the Gold Coast and has been playing well for the Titans, while ex-Kiwi internationals Eddy Pettybourne and Zeb Taia are established NRL veterans who could also provide guidance.
Expect Nathan Friend to play the biggest role, however. The experienced hooker was teammates with Hurrell for four seasons at Mt Smart, and should understand how the 24-year-old ticks.
You can bet he has already been called into Titans coach Neil Henry’s office to talk about how to manage the centre, and ease him into life on the Gold Coast: a place rife with the kind of distractions that could potentially ruin Hurrell completely.
On that front, the Warriors are probably glad to be rid of him. Hurrell was simply too much of a liability when he had his smartphone in his hand, and showed an absolute inability to learn from his continual mistakes on social media.
Doyle, McFadden – who received a recent pop from Hurrell on Twitter for ‘losing the changing room’ – and co have been copping plenty of stick for the way the Warriors have been tracking this season.
However, the rapidly pragmatic approach they have taken to Hurrell’s future at the club, following the prescription drugs/energy drinks debacle, is to be applauded.
McFadden’s own future, as well as troubled cult hero Manu Vatuvei, are the next two issues to sort out, before moving up the NRL ladder is even considered.
McFadden said that he didn’t “want to turn this into the Konrad show” when he picked Matt Allwood ahead of the wayward centre last week.
He didn’t, but he couldn’t stop it. Konrad Hurrell is not in Auckland anymore, but the show will continue – keep an eye on Insty and Facebook if you’re interested in how it ends.