Tom Lineham: Playing for Hull FC is my dream job
OFFERED the chance for reflection as the sun sets on 2012, a broad smile engulfs Tom Lineham.
"It's a dream," admits the 21-year-old as he begins to contemplate a meteoric rise which saw an unknown become one of the most exciting youngsters in Super League.
In a year which offered plenty of promise for a youthful Hull FC, a star was born.
Four tries in five appearances last season only tells part of the story, as Lineham shot to prominence.
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The ease with which the winger adapted to Super League caught most by surprise, and while there's still much to learn and improve upon, the talent is unquestionable.
Midway through his first-ever pre-season as a professional rugby league player, Lineham is clearly still pinching himself.
"This is my dream job. I'm training with my mates all day and playing rugby at a weekend, I couldn't ask for a better job," he said.
"It's been great so far and, apart from the injury, it couldn't have gone much better for me."
Striding through the club's training ground with a sense of confidence, Lineham doesn't portray the hallmarks of a newcomer.
A newcomer he is, though, and not just to Hull FC, but rugby league.
Making the switch from rugby union to league, former Hull half-back Chris Thorman was the first to spot his talent and hand him a chance at York City Knights.
His performances soon alerted then Hull coach Richard Agar and an opportunity to play in Hull's under-20s side was offered.
But it was last pre-season that proved to be the game changer.
With new head coach Peter Gentle watching, the 20-year-old winger proceeded to tear a strong Featherstone Rovers side apart.
Lineham was offered a full-time contract by Gentle and promoted to the first-team squad.
Speaking at the time, Gentle said: "We see Tom as a future star, there's no doubt about that. Tom has got speed, he's got size and he's an intelligent kid. He's played less than 30 rugby league games, so clearly there is a massive learning curve ahead of him."
How steep that learning curve would be nobody would have guessed.
Expected to learn his trade in the under-20s and develop at training in 2012, Lineham was handed a derby debut and finished with those four tries from five Super League appearances.
Only a season-ending ankle injury at Widnes prevented Lineham from adding to his tally.
Now approaching a year on from that Featherstone display, Lineham will be hoping for a similar impact as Hull's first friendly games of 2013 inch closer.
Part of a back division blessed with youth and pace, he faces stiff competition to add to his five appearances, with England international Tom Briscoe joined by former Bradford winger Jason Crookes in the Hull ranks.
"This is my first pre-season as a full-time player. Once I've got my fitness up, I want to improve and focus on being the best player I can be," said Lineham.
"There is a lot of strength in depth this year. Tom Briscoe is an unbelievable player, then Peter Gentle has added Jason Crookes too and I saw him score some unbelievable tries for Bradford last year.
"There's really tough competition so people know if you have an off game you could be out of the team and someone else will come in.
"All I can focus on is giving my best and leaving it up to the coach.
"My aim is to train as hard as I can, learn, get better and hopefully impress. Pre-season is really important and I'm making sure the other players know I want that starting shirt."