I spoke to Hull KR winger Jon Steel in 2005 for Thirteen shortly after his code switch from rugby union.
Steel signed for Hull Kingston Rovers in January 2005 from rugby union. The former Scotland union international was seen as a major coup for Rovers having already collected five full international caps against New Zealand where he faced up to Jonah Lomu, Australia, Ireland, Tonga and USA. He made an explosive start to his league career with five tries against London Skolars.
Did you watch much rugby league as a youngster and were you aware of the sport?
Yeah I’d watch it when I was younger. I’d watch the Friday night Super League games quite often.
Which players stood out?
Jason Robinson when he was there and quite a few others. I liked watching Wigan.
Did many of the union guys you played with ever watch of talk about rugby league?
A few of them had played it before but like with league now we just concentrated on the sport we were playing at the time.
Was rugby league incorporated into you training in anyway?
Yeah it was. Our backs coach, Steve Anderson, had coached league and he taught us to defend like a league team. We learned a fair bit especially lines of attack and defensive patterns.
How did your move to Hull KR come about?
It was through a friend of my dads. He spoke to someone involved in Hull KR. The club asked for my CV and they got in touch. Harvey wanted to meet me and it went from there.
Your last club was The Borders. Did you try to get involved at a Cumbrian team a bit closer to home?
No not really because Hull was near my family. I’m not far from there.
You were up against Jonah Lomu for Scotland against New Zealand – is he as hard to stop as the England team made it look?!
It was quite an experience but I fell by the wayside a bit afterwards because it knocked my confidence slightly. I did a lot of research on him. I knew I had to go low and avoid the hand off. I got through the game okay and he said some nice things to the press about me. I learned a lot from that game and the other internationals I played in.
Who has been the biggest influence on your rugby league career so far and why?
No one in particular. It’s the whole set up that has helped me and I’ve been watching videos and studying the positional play of a winger, like when to drop back etc. Five months in, I’m up to speed now but I need to keep improving every game.
Who do you look up to in the modern game?
Well I watch all the players in my position closely. There aren’t any in particular I look out for just the wingers in any game I watch.
What have been the main aspects of your game that you’ve had to adapt?
Holding onto the ball in the tackle is one. Also playing the ball as quickly as possible and ending up on your front to help that happen as opposed to what happens in union after a tackle. Also there’s dropping back for kicks especially with the 40-20 rule.
Who has been your most difficult opponent in rugby league so far?
Ricki Sheriffe at Halifax. I played against him in only my fourth game. He’s very quick and it was good to learn all the things he does off the ball. I’m looking forward to coming up against him again.
Do you think that Rovers can go up this year?
I don’t see why not. There’s good competition with Castleford, Whitehaven and Doncaster are playing well as well. If we can keep injury free then we’ll have a chance.
What are your future ambitions in the game? Are you in rugby league for the long haul?
Absolutely. My goal is to go as far as I can in the game.
Who are your best mates at the club?
I’m living with Byron Ford and Kane Epati at the moment. James Webster has also been good to me since I joined the club.
Who’s the best trainer at the club?
Andrew Raleigh is probably the best. He puts the extras in and does stuff afterwards as well. I’ve learned a lot from him.
And the worst?
I can’t answer that!