Shocked Ben Crooks glad to come of age at Hull FC
THE story of a young lad named Crooks bursting on to the Hull FC first-team scene and becoming a star is one first told long ago.
Three decades later, and the story is being given a modern twist as Ben, son of Black and Whites legend Lee, is building quite a reputation of his own.
A breakthrough season at the KC Stadium not only saw the 19-year-old make 15 league and cup appearances, but also brought a new deal until the end of 2015.
Crooks admits he spent much of last season in shock, as his career went from young hopeful to fully fledged first-team member.
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But now, with confidence sky high, he is focussed on building on 2012, and being a first-choice centre when the new campaign kicks off.
"I certainly see myself as a first-team player now, and I want to be in the starting line- up at the beginning of next season," Crooks told the Mail.
"I was happy with what I did last season, but I have to put that behind me and build on it by working hard in pre-season and stating my case again."
Despite his progress, Crooks will not find that easy.
Standing in his path is Kirk Yeaman and new signing from Castleford Joe Arundel.
Crooks credits Yeaman's constant advice and support for helping him come to terms with being 'thrown in at the deep end' last season. But that could come back to bite the man who's in his testimonial year, if Crooks has his way.
"There is a lot of competition for places in my position, but I want to fight for my spot and want to start the season as a first-choice centre," he said.
"I learned a lot from Kirk last season. He would speak to me before games when he was out injured, and he'd come and give me advice at half-time.
"All the experienced lads gave me support, and it helped me find my feet in the side.
"Andy Lynch was probably the main one as captain. Before every game he would come over and talk to me about what I needed to do.
"He'd also talk to me afterwards about how it had gone, what I had done well and what I could learn.
"That is what we have in our squad, which is really strong, a good blend of young and old who bounce off each other."
Looking back at last season, Crooks admits his achievements went well beyond what he had dared hope for.
Coach Peter Gentle said he might get a first-team chance in the latter stages of the season but, with injuries mounting, Crooks found himself thrown into the mix.
"I was thrown in the deep end and it was sink or swim really," said the 19-year-old.
"Peter had said I might get a couple of games, so to play as many as I did was a shock.
"I think I proved I can handle myself at Super League level. At first I was a bit nervous, but after the first couple of games I found myself settling into it and feeling comfortable.
"Then I got moved onto the wing, and I was a bit worried about that because I had never played there, but you have to put your hand up and do what is needed for the team."
When it comes to mucking in, Crooks did just that at Bradford in September.
Named as 18th man, he played the opening half of a reserve team clash before then having to replace Kirk Yeaman in the first team just over an hour later.
It's an achievement few, and not even his dad, can point to in his distinguished career.
But Crooks sees it as no more than doing his bit.
"I remember Lee Radford came over and took me off at half-time of the under-20s, but only as a precaution because I was 18th man," he said.
"Nobody really thought I would be needed, but then Kirk pulled up in the warm-up and I remember thinking 'This is going to be tough!'"
Hull went on to record a record away Super League win, and Crooks even crossed for a try in the 70-6 success.
"You just have to do the best in the situation you find yourself in and always give your all," Crooks says.
It is that approach which the young star will look to maintain for the next three years.
Given the evidence of last season, fans can be assured he won't let them down.