Jack Charles unfazed by Hull FC duties as young gun shares elite mentality and playing style

Jack Charles on his Hull FC debut.
Jack Charles on his Hull FC debut. -Credit:Dave Lofthouse, Hull FC

Two years ago, Jack Charles landed the winning drop-goal for Hull FC in the scholarship derby against Hull KR. At just 16 years old, the teenager calmly stepped up in the final minute to land the decisive blow. Two years later, he made his Super League debut against London Broncos.

In between, Charles, now 18, has starred for both the Airlie Birds' academy and reserves sides, played for Yorkshire, England Academy, and now Hull FC's first team. For good measure, he's also met the Princess of Wales, stepped up to the senior squad in pre-season, and carried the burden of being one of the club's highest-rated young players.

That's Jack Charles, in a nutshell, who keeps on handling whatever challenge is thrown at him. And underneath all that, there's a down-to-earth young lad who just wants to play rugby league and live his dream. That, ultimately, is what it's all about.

"It all seems to be going so quickly, but it's everything I've wanted to do," a modest Charles told Hull Live about his experiences so far. "I'm so grateful for the opportunities I'm getting at the moment, but I know I've got to keep working hard. There's a long road ahead."

Basing his game on such effort as much as his skill, Charles isn't about taking shortcuts. One of eight academy promotions to the first-team squad ahead of pre-season last November, he was hellbent on making an impression. That mindset is what got him his Super League debut.

"Coming up from the academy, I was pretty big on not just making up the numbers," Charles explained. "I didn't want to just come and fit in; I wanted to work hard and earn the players' and coaches respect by turning up every day and looking to get better. That's a big thing for a young lad coming through—not just coming in, but actually trying to challenge those senior players.

"It is a tough pre-season, waking up and trying to give your best each and every day to try and better yourself and your teammates. It's mentally challenging, but we're very fortunate to do this for a living, and I am very grateful for it, but like I say, I don't want to just make up the numbers; I want to make this team better in any way I can.

"Everything I've done in my life has been to play rugby and be a Super League player. After all that hard work in pre-season, to get told I was playing against London, it was pretty special. It was emotional too, and I was pretty shaken by it, but to actually get the chance to do that was just amazing."

Hull FC’s Jack Charles celebrates with Jack Ashworth, Fa'amanu Brown, and Morgan Smith after Smith's later winner.
Hull FC’s Jack Charles celebrates with Jack Ashworth, Fa'amanu Brown, and Morgan Smith after Smith's later winner. -Credit:SW Pix

After starting against Huddersfield three weeks later, that same feeling was there, if not more, for the derby on Good Friday. Hull and Rovers is a fixture that will always mean a lot to the young star. His dad, Chris, played over 200 games for the East Hull outfit, with Jack, who was born in Salford, then growing up watching games at Craven Park as his dad did commentaries for local radio.

Yet despite the family connections and the pressures that go with it all, there's a temperament about Charles that defies his youthful years. Just as capable of playing full-back as he is in the halves, he's fearless and unfazed, but also switched on and alert.

"It was a bit weird, but it's just banter, really," Charles, who made an impact off the bench, said on his dad's Rovers links. "I know how deep the rivalry is, but they are the games that you want to play as a kid growing up, and I'll do anything to play in that game again. It's pretty special, and I know how much it means to my family and the city.

"When you run out, you get hit by the atmosphere straight away. I always do this thing in my warm-up, where I run right up to the other side of the pitch. I don't know why. It's a bit of a mental thing, but I'm not going to change what I do. I'll still prepare the same; whether that's for an academy, a reserve, or a Super League game, I'll still do everything the same.

"I just wanted to come on and make an impact in the best way possible. Hopefully I did that, but I know I've still got a lot of work to do, and there's a lot of improvement from that game that I can take away. It's just building week by week and session by session. I want to keep playing as much as possible, but I'm not getting too far ahead of myself."

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For Charles, who is a great talker and who thrives on leading his team around the field, it's about improvement, enjoyment, and doing the thing he loves most while playing in a style that will allow him to develop. That is something head coach Tony Smith is on board with, who values the eyes-up approach to attack and is cautious to manage the young gun, who also studies a sports course at Hull College, in the right way.

"I really appreciate what Tony is doing, how he is looking out for me, and how he is trying to manage me," Charles said. "Of course, I want to play, but it's all about what is best for the team, and whatever Tony thinks is best, I'll go along with that. All I can do is keep turning up each and every day and look to get better.

"Tony has been great with me. He loves me running the ball, and he wants me to take on the line. He's got a big emphasis on playing with your eyes. He loves his halves to play with their eyes and play what they see. He keeps drilling that into me, and I'm taking it all on board. Also, being a good defender is a big thing. Not many half-backs are great defenders, and that's something I've got to keep working on to progress to the next level."

And as for Charles, he's not going away from what's gotten him to this stage. There's loads more to come, but for the talented half, who is at Hull for at least the next three years, the message will always be the same.

"I keep saying it, but I know I've just got to keep working hard," he added. "It's a big cliché, but three years is not a long time; it's only a small portion of your career. I just want to keep taking it step by step, keep getting better, and keep helping the team in any way I can. That's all I can do."

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