FC sign NRL Half-Back for 2023

Hull FC have signed Australian playmaker Jake Clifford for the 2023 Betfred Super League season.

The 24-year-old half-back joins the Black & Whites from NRL side Newcastle Knights, signing a two-year deal with the club, with the club holding the option to extend Clifford’s stay in the UK by a further year.

FC’s fifth signing ahead of the new season, Clifford has some 67 NRL appearances under his belt since making his senior debut with the North Queensland Cowboys in 2018, before making the move to the Knights mid-way through the 2021 campaign.

One of the creative cogs in Newcastle’s side over the past season and a half, the Tully Tigers junior possesses a dangerous kicking game and is a confident goal-kicker.

The former Australia U18’s captain helped guide the Knights to their joint-best league finish since 2006 in 2020, as the New South Wales side finished 7th on the NRL ladder and qualified for the finals series – the first time since 2013.

Clifford becomes Hull’s second overseas recruit for the new campaign, following in the footsteps of teammate Tex Hoy, having learnt his trade playing alongside talented NRL players such as Johnathan Thurston, Mitchell Pearce, Kayln Ponga and Anthony Milford.

Both new overseas recruits will line-up as part of a new-look spine at Hull FC next season, including exciting young half back Jake Trueman and energetic hooker Brad Dwyer, whilst versatile outside back Liam Sutcliffe completes the new signings for 2023 so far.

Speaking to hullfc.com, Clifford said: “I’m really excited to have signed. When Hull approached me, they made me feel like I was really wanted and that was a massive appealing factor for me.

“I’ve got my mate, Tex Hoy, heading over to Hull for next season, as well, so I’m looking forward to linking up with him again.

“I’ve heard some good things from Tony [Smith] too and there are some great players at the club with a lot of special talent, and I want to be a part of it and I’m excited about what we can achieve.”

He continued, “I hope I can bring some leadership to the group to help the team get around the park, but I also want to have enjoy my footy and win some games!”

Hull FC Head Coach, Tony Smith, added: “It’s very exciting. I think Jake is a terrific young half-back with a lot of capabilities, and he has had some success already at his young age in the best Rugby League competition in the world.

“I’m really looking forward to working with Jake. We can help each other and I think he’ll be great for the team. We can help him develop and gain more confidence.

“He’s got a great kicking game, as well as a strong running game and a very good passing game, so he possesses a lot of quality attributes that will complement us as a team.”

The Story So Far

Having played his junior rugby with the Tully Tigers in North Queensland, Clifford’s first career success came as a 16-year-old, winning the Queensland U16s competition with Northern Pride under the guidance of head coach Jason Demetriou in 2014.

After being picked up by the Cowboys, he represented the U20s side in 2017, going on to be named in the competition’s Team of the Year, and the Dally M Player of the Year for the U20s grade.

Further success came in 2018, being named the Halfback of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the Queensland Cup, before being named as the Cowboys Rookie of the Year in the season he made his senior debut and partnered one of the all-time greats, Jonathan Thurston, in the halves for six consecutive games before his retirement at the end of the season.

Representative honours followed, starting at half-back in the Prime Minister’s XIII’s 34–16 win over Papua New Guinea, before captaining the Junior Kangaroos to a 40–24 win over Junior Kiwis, being named Man of the Match, a week later, as well as captaining the Queensland U18s team.

Becoming a regular feature in the side during the 2019 season, he went on to win the NRL 9s competition with the Cowboys in 2020 before another consistent season the following year.

Clifford made the move to the Knights midway through the 2021 season, making his club debut in June and missing just one game before the end of the season.

He again was a regular feature for the side during the 2022 season, but heads to the UK for a brand-new challenge next year, linking up with the Airlie Birds.