This weekend we put one of the younger members of the Trinity squad in the spotlight in the shape of Connor Bailey.
The fast-thinking half-back started his Trinity journey three years ago, being picked up whilst playing as a 16-year-old in the amateur game.
The family-orientated youngster started the game rather late, for a sports professional. Without realising his love for playing the game until he was 14, it was actually Bailey’s Dad who introduced him to the sport, taking him to an Australia-New Zealand international and in doing so, unlocking a passion in the process.
However, it wasn’t the sport that came most naturally to him. Up to the age of around 14, it was football that took the teenager by storm, batting away his love for Rugby League until his Dad made him have a go.
“I had played football all my life and my Dad was trying to get me into the game, but I wasn’t too keen at the time,” Bailey admitted.
“I always thought it might have been a bit too physical for me and I thought I would stick with football, as I was quite good as a youngster. However, he soon got me down to Shaw Cross, I did a few training sessions and realised that I loved it.”
From then, it was all about Rugby League, creating waves within the junior level with his childhood club. At that point, just a couple of years after picking up the game, heads were turning and voices were talking.
However, as a teenager, being scouted for a professional club is always just hear-say and whilst he tried to bat off the hype, Wakefield came calling.
“I was first contacted by Ryan Hudson, who was Wakefield’s Head of Youth, at the time,” Bailey explained.
“There used to be three training sessions put on per week and we used to go down and do some training with the scholarship lads who were already involved. After that, we didn’t hear anything for a while and about two weeks later, we got a call saying they wanted to sign me on a two-year deal and I couldn’t believe it.
“As a Wakefield fan, it was dream come true.”
Signing for his home-town club, Bailey’s dream had been recognised. However, the youngster remains humble and takes his hat off to his family for making the sacrifices they have.
“They had to give up a lot of time! I have a younger sibling as well, so they had to give a lot of time up with my little sister because they had to take me to games which were far away or training throughout the week.”
From that moment on, the goal of becoming a professional rugby league player was turning in to be a real possibility. However, keeping his head down and his mind focused on the game was pretty easy, the half-back admitted, feeling the sense that the first-team was a long way away.
“When I first signed my contract, you don’t really think about getting into the first-team, that seems a long way away,” he said.
“You are happy to be playing in scholarship and the thought of reaching the first-team, which would only happen once I had established myself at academy level, seems far away.”
Despite his role within the professional set-up, there were still goals outstanding in the youngster’s eyes and with a professional deal the big target, he knuckled down.
Chris Chester and the club have been big ambassadors in nurturing youth, allowing them the possibility of developing in the first-team environment and with the recent inclusions of Connor’s academy teammates, Bailey blossomed in that setup and that led to the ‘call’.
“I had just played a Yorkshire game against Lancashire at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle and when I had got back into the changing rooms, I had a few missed calls from Mark [Applegarth],” Bailey explained.
“So, when I phone him back, it was him who told me that Wakefield wanted me to sign a professional deal with the club.
“I was over the moon at the time and couldn’t wait to get it signed. Then before I knew it, I was in first-team training. It was all a bit surreal at the time.”
From starting at Shaw Cross as a fresh-faced 14-year old to brushing shoulders with seasoned professionals at training, at the age of 19 Bailey is tipped for an exciting future.
The youngster will continue to work his hardest and has his sights set on breaking into the first-team squad in the near future.
“Within the next couple of years, I would love to secure a spot in the first-team,” he said, looking ahead to his future career prospects.
“I just need to keep working harder than ever and learn as much as possible from the outstanding players and coaches we have at Wakefield.
“That’s the sole aim at the moment, to focus on getting a spot in the team and keep developing every aspect of my game.”