Tonight Leeds will again have to look to their youngsters if they’re going to defeat Wigan at Headingley in a huge fixture.
One young man in particular who will play a key role will be Jarrod O’Connor. A loose-forward by trade, since his debut O’Connor has shone when asked to play at nine and with Kruise Leeming’s potentially season ending injury his ability to play that role has become even more important.
An outstanding young players, O’Connor is quickly developing into a key man at Headingley but unlike many of the young men pushing for first team spots at Leeds, he and Sam Walters didn’t start their careers in the Rhinos academy.
No the duo began their careers at Widnes before financial problems at the club culminated in their departure to Leeds.
In an exclusive interview with us, O’Connor opened up on the move which happened back in 2019: “At the time, Leeds was the main club for me coming from Widnes and I was very grateful for the opportunity to come to a club of this size. It was difficult to leave my hometown club who I’ve always dreamt of playing for but my dream was to play super league and Leeds offered me the chance to do so even though it meant moving from Widnes which was hard.”
So, it was clearly a big decision for O’Connor to make as was the one he made this year choosing to stay at Headingley despite reported interest from other Super League clubs including Hull FC.
However, it seems Leeds is the place O’Connor wants to be with the loose-forward revealing that he waited on them rather than committing elsewhere.
He said: “There was a few clubs but I was waiting for Leeds to come back to me first because after all that Leeds did for me over the years it felt right. Also with all the young lads coming through together and being as close as we are it would be very difficult to leave.
“Rohan has also shown a lot of faith in me since he’s come in and is helping me with my development which is the main thing I need to think about while I’m still relatively young. Developing as a player is the main priority at this stage in my career and enjoying playing with my mates.”
There is something pretty unusual about O’Connor’s career and that is the fact his debut was commentated on by his dad Terry O’Connor who used to play for Wigan and is now a very experienced commentator on Sky Sports.
As the only player in Super League who can explain what it’s like hearing your own dad commentate on your games, Jarrod opened up on the experience and just how supportive his dad is: “It’s pretty normal hearing my dad commentate but I’ve been used to it for years hearing his voice on tv so it’s not been too strange although he always says how strange it is having to talk over my games especially because he gets nervous and just wants to watch me and see how I do but he’s very supportive.”