After signing his first professional contract with Super League outfit Wakefield Trinity in early 2019, rising star Connor Bailey is now on the brink of breaking into the West Yorkshire based club’s first team.
The youngster spent some time in Wakefield’s youth academy setup and was elated when given the opportunity to sign a three-year-deal his home-town club.
“It all came at a big surprise, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it at all, I knew I was playing particularly well and achieving a few goals such as playing for Yorkshire,” Bailey told Everything Rugby League.
“When I found out it was a bit surreal at first, was a dream come true to finally put pen to paper on something I’d always dreamed of doing as a young kid.”
At first, it was a daunting task for Bailey to fit in with his new teammates, especially when considering he was just 18-years-old at the time.
Nevertheless, he has now developed a great relationship with his peers.
“It’s never easy being a youngster thrown into such a new and serious training group, I was nervous at first but all the lads were welcoming for the first few weeks and they always made sure I could ask questions if I didn’t ever understand, but now we all get along and I feel comfortable around them all in training and outside of training.”
Since he has begun playing at a higher level, a key difference the Shaw Cross junior has noticed is that the margin for error is much smaller in the first-team environment then it is in the lower grades.
“The biggest difference for me is definitely the speed, playing first grade you have to be constantly switched on in every area of the game.
“In first grade, one slip up can maybe cost you the game or a try, but in academy and reserves sometimes you can get away with a slip-up, but not in first-grade footy.”
Getting to this point in his life has been no easy task for the 19-year-old and after being introduced to rugby league by his father in his early teens, it’s no surprise that he is one of the people who he turns to for guidance and advice when needed.
“A lot of people have helped me to get to where I am now, one being my Dad who’s helped me make a lot of my big decisions with my future and has made sure I’ve made the best decisions for me.”
Another mentor in his life is a certain stalwart of the game who after playing over 450 games at all levels and being the Ireland national team’s most capped player, has plenty of experience for Bailey to lean on.
“I’d also say Liam Finn who has coached me a few years now has definitely brought me on the most as I can relate to him because we play the same position, he’s made a lot of shuttle changes to my game which have brought me on loads.”
A strong aspect of Bailey’s game is his versatility and ability to play in a variety of positions, however, the Yorkshire Academy representative believes that he has found his primary position.
“Yeah I’ve played a few positions, them being centre, loose forward, back row and halfback, but I’d definitely say I’ve found my feet now in the half-back role and that’s definitely my preferred position.”
Although his current goal is to be consistent Super League player, one day he’d love to be given an opportunity to play in the NRL.
“The NRL is a big move for any English player and I guess it’s always a dream to go over there and play.
“If one day the offer came I would have to take it into consideration, however, I’m only young and fresh to first grade so I’m focusing on now at the moment, although my favourite team over there is probably the knights.”