Hull FC's Dean Hadley back in love with rugby, two years after turning his back on the sport
REGARDED as bravery by some, stupidity by others, Dean Hadley returned home from Hull FC training with a momentous decision made.
At the age of 18 he was going to step away from rugby league and call a halt to a promising career.
Admitting he'd fallen out of love with the sport and needed a break, Hadley took a leap of faith.
Always with the intention of returning to rugby, the Bransholme youngster hit the gym and dedicated himself to improving his fitness.
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Rugby balls were replaced with medicine balls as a fresh approach not only brought physical rewards, but also a new zest for the game he'd played since joining Minehead Astra at the age of six.
A year later, boasting the desire and physique to succeed, Hadley was offered another opportunity in Hull's under-20s team, under Lee Radford.
Grasping it with both hands, such was his impact, a first-team contract was offered.
Now earning rave reviews in Peter Gentle's training sessions as the 2013 Super League season approaches, the 20-year-old former Kingswood School pupil says that big decision was the best he has ever made
"I wasn't enjoying my rugby, if I am being honest, and decided I needed to take a year out. It wasn't what I wanted to do, it was just something I felt was the best move for me," explained Hadley.
"My intentions were always to come back and play rugby, and I was lucky that Hull wanted to take me back on, so I'm thankful to them for that.
"I trained by myself and I got myself in a lot better shape. It has made me a better player and it was the best decision I've ever made.
"When I was younger I was a bit chubbier and I needed that time to get myself right physically and mentally."
With a one-year deal now in the bag, Hadley has wasted no time in impressing himself on the first team.
The ex-Skirlaugh player, who came through the ranks with Hull full-back Jamie Shaul, neither lacks application nor desire to succeed.
His rise to the first team is even more impressive given his presence in the squad as a second-rower.
A position he had never played last pre-season, he starred in the role identified for him by Radford.
"In my junior days I played a lot of rugby at number six, then I moved to being a ball-playing 13," he said.
"Last year was the first time I had played in the second row and it was all new to me.
"I was surprised how well it went. Lee said he wanted me to play there and if anyone knows about playing in the back-row it is Radders.
"He was great for me last year, he really helped my game and spent time showing me lines to run and things like that. I was surprised how well I did."
It was against Featherstone Rovers in Hull's pre-season clash last year where Hadley first rose to prominence, alongside winger Tom Lineham.
"I was happy with what I did last year and I felt I got better and better as the season went on, but at the same time I wasn't expecting a contract," he admits.
"This is what you want from being a kid, so to get the deal was special. I was shocked."
Now, it is the youngster's ease at settling into the first-team environment that is impressing.
And he is relishing the opportunity of learning as much as possible from those around him, even if he has to pinch himself at times.
"The back-rowers have all been great with me. Gareth Ellis is the main man and the one to learn off, but every one of the guys has been helping me," he says.
"You have to pinch yourself when you're learning off the best back-rower in the world in Gareth.
"I feel like pre-season has gone well. It's been really hard work and in those first few weeks I'd get home from training and collapse in bed.
"I'm loving being a professional rugby player though, and there's no doubt I made the right choice."