Written by John Davidson
Josh Reynolds has always played with his heart on sleeve.
The Belmore kid who grew up idolising his local team, going on to make it into the NRL with them in 2011, he was living the dream. He played with passion, heat and immense pride, and on occasion that passion went too far.
An emotional and lively character, Reynolds was a hit at the Bulldogs in his early days and helped them to two NRL grand finals, as well as steering his state to an impressive State of Origin series win in 2014.
But as the Bulldogs fell apart and salary cap pressure grew, results on the field dried up and coach, and his confidant, Des Hasler departed. Reynolds reluctantly left Canterbury at the end of 2017 to join Wests Tigers, hoping for greener pastures with the joint venture.
But each year at the Tigers disaster struck – in his first season a shoulder injury kept him out for several months. Coach Ivan Cleary then left and Michael Maguire came in.
The five-eighth never quite won Maguire’s faith and he was on the outer at Wests. And then over the past 13 months he was involved in a bizarre off-field situation that dominated the headlines down under.
So now Reynolds has arrived in Super League at the age of 31 with a point to prove. The exuberant playmaker is not done in rugby league just yet, and insists he is ready to demonstrate to Hull FC and to any critics what he can do.
“I want to show everyone, probably more my teammates and myself, that I’ve still got a lot to give,” he says.
“In the last couple of years I probably haven’t been able to show that for certain reasons, but I definitely know I still have the passion and love for the game – and if you have that then I guess you’re halfway there.
“It is a fresh start. I’ll be brutally honest in Australia the media are on to rugby league players a lot more and they love exposing everything about their lives.
“They don’t really care about what happens after it. Over here it’s a bit different, it’s not as a big in a sense and you sort of fly under the radar a bit more and I like that in this point of my career.
“What I’ve been through in the last couple of years I just want to fly under the radar, play good footy and just have fun. I know it’s going to be tough sometimes, we’re not going to win every game and it’s going to be cold and whatever.
“But in the end if I’m playing footy, that’s what I love doing the most out of anything in the world. If I’m doing that I’ll be sweet.”
Reynolds will link up with Marc Sneyd in the halves as Hull FC seek to finally end their Super League drought.
The Black & Whites have never won a grand final since the competition’s birth in 1996, but with Reynolds on board and a new coach in Brett Hodgson at the helm, there is hope for the future.
Despite Covid-19 causing havoc across England, Reynolds has landed in east Yorkshire and embraced his surroundings.
“Before the lockdown it wasn’t too bad, because everyone was normal and out and about,” he admitted.
“Obviously you had to a bit more careful with what you do, but as soon as I pretty much got here the government called a lockdown. So my timing was exceptional.
“But it is what is. I’ve made this decision to come to another country not for a holiday, I’ve come over here to play footy, to play some week to week footy. I haven’t really done that in a while.”
The lure of a fresh start, and particularly linking again with former Tigers assistant Hodgson, held strong appeal for the former Blues half.
“Obviously with ‘Hodgo’ coming here it made it a lot more enticing because I know he’s a really good coach, but before that he’s a really good person and that means a lot to me,” Reynolds says.
“He was a massive factor in getting me to sign. I had a fair bit to do with him at the Tigers and I knew if I was going to go over there I wanted a coach that knows what I’m all about.
“I still have to prove myself to everyone at the club because I’m a new person and nothings going to come easy. But I know he’s a good person and I know he’ll always have my best interests at heart.”