Ex-Emerald Tiger Connor Jones is primed for 2016
GROWING up, teenager Connor Jones spent hours every afternoon in the backyard of his Emerald home, honing his skills as a rugby league player. The trees were the goalposts and the back fence the dead ball line.
These afternoons ensured the halfback's potential was recognised via the Easts Tigers in Brisbane and more recently the Canterbury Bulldogs of Belmore in Sydney.
The former Emerald Tiger debuted for the Bulldogs earlier this season and this year spent time in and out of Ron Massey and Sydney Shield competitions.
The teen says he had a great season and that he is pumped for what the future holds.
"Next year is a really big year for me, I really want to play 20-plus games and spend the whole season as the Bulldogs under-20s halfback," said Jones, 19.
"Then get re-signed, it will be the most important year of my career to date.
"I am not here because I am a superstar or anything, I just work really hard and will continue to."
With regular Bulldogs first-grader Trent Hodkinson moving on, a space in the halves could become available but Jones is not daring to dream, yet.
"That's all I can take care of right now.
"I think I had a pretty good year, I played with plenty of ex-NRL players like Matt Utai, Heka Nanai and Junior Tia-Kilifi which was a great experience.
"Next year will be the most important year of my career to date, I have a lot of hard training to do."
Jones smiles as he recalls his time at the Emerald Tigers and says he is proud to be a one-club junior.
"I was a one-club man, I love the Tigers to death," he said.
"I have great memories from the U9s right through to A-Grade when I was 17.
"We won the competition as U13s, 16s and 17s which was awesome.
"There is so much talent out here and I learnt all the basic parts and tricks of my trade in Emerald. It was a great breeding ground for me."
Jones describes himself as a running half, one who relies on instinct and guile to break the line.
"I definitely believe my running game is my strongest trait," Jones said.
"I think every good half, their instinct should be to run first, the most dangerous person on the field is the person with the ball and you got to analyse the defence before you make a call.
"I think I need to improve on controlling my team, getting to our set plays and structure. Also my defence, tackling those bigger bodies.
"I will keep working hard on all aspects of my game, I know that one day I will make it."