Konrad Hurrell credits a dedicated conditioning program that has seen him trim down his weight as the key to his return to form for the Warriors. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Konrad Hurrell could well be the poster boy for how to turn a negative into one hell of a positive.
Dumped to NSW Cup side Auckland Vulcans earlier in the year after a series of costly errors during the club’s tough start to the 2013 season, the giant centre could well have dropped his head and taken the easy road back. Instead, he recognised his limitations and immediately set about addressing them.
What a remarkable transformation it has been. Since earning a recall for the Warriors' Round 12 trip to Brisbane, the Kiwi club have won all five games – including stunning wins over Sydney Roosters and Manly – with Hurrell producing a number of telling plays including his length-of-the-field match-winner against the Broncos last Sunday.
"When I got dropped, I definitely wasn't playing at my best level," Hurrell told NRL.com ahead of tonight's clash with competition leaders South Sydney in Perth.
"I actually agreed with the decision. I was making a lot of errors – a lot of dropped ball – so I deserved to get dropped for the good of the team. I was happy enough with that because I knew why that was the case.
"The key for me was to keep my hopes up. I knew it (being dropped) was for the good of the team so the only thing I could do was go back and train hard and wait for another opportunity to come around.
"Obviously that’s happened now but I need to keep doing that – working hard to keep my spot because there are other guys that could easily take my spot again if I’m not playing at my best."
Among the many problem areas Matt Elliott and the coaching staff identified was a worrying gain in weight, with Hurrell told he would need to shed a few kilos before he was considered for a return.
"So I've been doing a lot of work with Ruben Wiki on my conditioning every week," Hurrell continued. "That's helped me drop a few kilograms. I think I've got a bit of speed back now too.
"It's all been pretty good so far but I still need to do a lot more work to make sure I'm contributing for the full 80 minutes and make sure I don’t drop off. There are lots of little things to work on to keep improving."
There is no doubt that at his best, Hurrell is a genuine match-winner and in the five games since his return to the NRL side he has made at least three match-turning plays. In his first game back he bumped off Broncos fullback Corey Norman on his way to scoring the try that gave the Warriors the lead midway through the opening half; against Manly he bumped off five in a stunning charge to the line; and last week he produced the biggest play of the game against Brisbane once more when he prevented a certain Broncos try with an intercept then ran 99 metres to score.
Hurrell said it was important that he made his presence felt.
"I think that's why Matt wants me to be in the team and that’s what I want to do," he said. "I'm not here to just keep my spot; I want to be able to make those big plays. In the big games there are still a lot of smaller things I need to work on first before I make any big plays but it's coming along well. It's also making sure during the week, in the gym and that, that you don’t clock off when you’ve got a big game coming up on the weekend."
Having won just two of their first 10 games this season, the Warriors' surge back into finals contention has been as sudden as it has impressive with Hurrell crediting Elliott for changing his methods when the original plans were failing to make an impact.
"He has changed a lot too from when he first came here," Hurrell said. "He listens to the boys a lot more now too – what we need and stuff like that. We're all working together now. It's not just for him, everyone his having some good input now.
"The other thing is that the boys are getting closer to each other, spending a lot more time together away from the field. We're getting more comfortable being around one another.
"We do stuff together. I think we're training a lot harder now. We realised what we needed to do and we’re really focussing on that. I think that’s showing with the way we’ve been playing come the weekends."
Despite their run of five consecutive wins, the Warriors will have to lift another notch if they are to upset the Rabbitohs on Sunday night.
Souths now find themselves four points clear at the top of the NRL ladder and with George Burgess returning from suspension to add even more size to their monstrous pack, they will line up against the Warriors as heavy favourites.
"They are top of the table for a reason," Hurrell said. "They're going to be a good test of where we're at but we've been training pretty well this week so hopefully all the boys will turn up ready to take them on.
"It's always going to be a tough match against them. They've got some big boys but I think our guys can match them. We've just got to run onto the field ready for some hard work."