The rise of NRL’s unluckiest star

Jacob Liddle’s career has hit roadblocks at every turn since he made his debut back in 2016, but after season-ending shoulder and knee injuries and several stints in reserve grade, he’s starting to show why he was hailed the heir apparent to club great Robbie Farah.

The 24-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance over the years but hasn’t been able to do it consistently due to a raft of debilitating injuries that have forced him back to the drawing board every pre-season.

This was the year he was meant to explode, but he found himself dropped to reserve grade in Round 6 and seemingly behind young gun Jake Simpkin in the pecking order.

“When he got dropped, I told him that the only thing he can do is go back and be the best player he can be in NSW Cup to show that he deserves to belong in first grade,” Wests Tigers legend Robbie Farah told NCA NewsWire.

“To his credit, he did that and never dropped his head. He started the year well, but he tapered off a bit so it was probably a kick in the guts to be dropped, but the way he’s reacted has been great to see. I think he’s come into the side a better player.”

Liddle scored two tries in a comeback win in NSW Cup in Round 8 and was rewarded with an NRL bench spot the following week.

“I went back and worked on my game in Cup, especially my running game because I wasn’t running as much in the first half of the season,” said Liddle, who has started the past four matches.

“I worked on that and a few other things, and I’m really happy with how it’s going.”

Liddle’s runaway try was a turning point in Friday night’s game. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Farah has played a key role at the club this season, and his work with Liddle is starting to bear fruit with the hooker playing with a lot more confidence.

It’s little wonder the club re-signed him earlier in the week for a further two seasons, and he repaid the faith with a brilliant 95-metre try that brought the Leichhardt faithful to their feet as he starred in the win over the previously unbeaten Panthers.

“He’s worked hard on getting his body right, and he’s starting to show that on the field. He’s gaining confidence with every week that goes by,” Farah said.

“We saw that he’s still got the speed, and he looked like a winger or a centre flying down the sideline. He’s still continuing to develop his game out of dummy-half with the little intricacies around the No. 9 position, but he’s a kid who’s working hard and is willing to learn.

“It shows a lot of mental toughness because it’s never easy when you’ve had as many setbacks as he has. There have been a lot of challenges along the way, but he’s a good kid who is dedicated and always working hard.

“It’s great to see him earn a contract extension because that shows the club believes in him.”

Liddle’s solid month of footy hasn’t gone unnoticed, with coach Michael Maguire singing his praises after the Penrith game.

“He’s had a career that’s been pretty tough, but he’s had a really good pre-season and he’s really guiding the team around well now,” he said.

“His passing is on the mark and he’s making the right decisions. That comes in time, which I was well aware of.”

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