Hurrell's career no laughing matter

It is the height of irony that the only time Konrad Hurrell gets serious is when he is defending his right to play the clown.

Although he spent last week in the NSW Cup, Hurrell will be one of the star attractions at Saturday's Pacific Test double header at Cbus Super Stadium where he will represent Tonga against Samoa.

Since joining the Warriors in 2011 Hurrell has quickly emerged as one of the game's most entertaining characters, with his hair and hijinks lapped up by close to 60,000 followers on Instagram.

It has also attracted trouble at times but he insists that his use of social media is in no way a reflection of his commitment to a rugby league career that was as unlikely as it has been spectacular to date.

"Instagram is none of their business, it's my life," Hurrell told NRL.com. "Obviously I play footy as my job and that's about it but I do what I do off field... that is my normal life.

"Doing Instagram and funny videos doesn't affect my footy life. When I'm at training I don't do that stuff. When I'm outside training I can obviously do that because that's my life and footy is my job.

"That's my career so I take it serious but when I'm on my own time I'm allowed to do whatever I can."

 

In the highly pressurised environment of an NRL club a character such as Hurrell who is able to ease the tension is becoming more and more critical.

Tonga and Warriors teammate Solomone Kata says Hurrell gets the balance just right, even if he doesn't think he is particularly funny.

"I don't think so. He's not that funny," Kata said, smirking. "He tries a bit hard sometimes. Nah, he's a funny dude," he added.

"'Cappy' (Warriors coach Andrew McFadden) loves him. On the training field he is 100 per cent but off the field Cappy loves him doing all the jokes and stuff."

Despite his rapid rise in the rugby league world, it hasn't always been footy, fun and games for Hurrell, who moved to New Zealand as a 17-year-old to complete his schooling at Auckland Grammar School on a rugby union scholarship.

Growing up with dreams of playing rugby for the Auckland Blues, Hurrell had never played rugby league before 2011 when he joined the Warriors' under-20s team and proceeded to score 22 tries in 21 games.

By Round 2, 2012 he was starting in the centres and scoring tries in the NRL.

With his bullocking runs he became a crowd favourite almost instantly but he hasn't always managed to keep the coaching staff quite so pleased.

The 23-year-old hasn't gone a season without spending some time in reserve grade and he admits that it is those times when he misses his family back home in Tonga, where Hurrell's three brothers and two sisters still live with their parents in a three-bedroom house.

"It's always especially hard when it's a tough game like a big loss or losing a few in a row, you always miss your family," he said.

"They're like a real fan, I always think of them, so that is the time for me when it is hard because I'm by myself back in New Zealand and I don't get to go home and see my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters. It's always tough, usually in the middle of the season.

"I live by myself and it's always hard. I've got a dog now that makes me happy and one of my cousins is staying with me now but not having a family back home is always a challenge.

"If you come home after a big loss or have a poor game when you get home you're lonely and you think about a lot of stuff.

"[Being dropped] has pretty much happened every year but I just never think about it in a bad way. It's always what's best for the team so if I don't play well I get dropped, and that's footy. It's professional and I just need to play consistent every week.

"When I get dropped I try to be as positive as I can. Obviously I get real disappointed as soon as I hear that I get dropped but then I try to get back into it."

Saturday's Pacific Test against Samoa will be Hurrell's fourth appearance for Tonga with the winner to progress to face the winner of the Fiji v PNG game for a spot in the 2016 Four Nations.

Earlier this year he signed a new contract to stay at the Warriors through until at least the end of the 2018 season, a far cry from his formative football years back in Tonga where he didn't even wear football boots until he was 15 years old.

"It was just for fun. Mates from neighbours and cousins and stuff and we just used to play," Hurrell said. "The footy ball was pretty expensive so we usually used a plastic bottle or jandals or a pillow lying around to play with. We couldn't afford anything; we were still kids and didn't have enough money.

"I started playing properly when I went into high school. It was funny because I wasn't used to playing with boots until I was 15 or 16 because I usually played with bare feet the whole time I grew up.

"It was just doing what I loved as a kid and now I'm playing for the Warriors which is pretty fun."