Shaul building brick-by-brick
Former bricklayer Jamie Shaul is thanking his lucky stars that his proposed move from Hull FC to Doncaster collapsed due to red tape as he eyes a trip to Old Trafford.
Unable to secure a regular spot in the Hull team due to the presence of experienced Australian full-back Shannon McDonnell, the 21-year-old Shaul was all set to go on loan to Doncaster to gain much-needed match fitness.
The deal fell through when the paperwork could not be completed in time but Shaul's despair turned to delight when he was called up to deputise for the injured McDonnell in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
And, after scoring the all-important try in Friday's opening Super League play-off win over Catalan Dragons, Shaul has now set his sights on Thursday's preliminary semi-final against Huddersfield Giants at the John Smith's Stadium.
"It was a bit of a weird situation," Shaul said of his planned move to Doncaster, who were chosen as a potential destination after Hull's partnership with York collapsed.
"I said I wanted to go and could have signed the day before the deadline but they couldn't get the forms through.
"I was a bit gutted at first because I thought I had a chance to play a bit of rugby for Doncaster but it turned out for the better."
Shaul made his Super League debut in April at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, where he scored two tries in a 34-22 win, but his big breakthrough came when McDonnell tore a hamstring during Hull's Challenge Cup semi-final win over Warrington Wolves in July.
Had the loan move to the Championship part-timers gone through, Shaul would have been unavailable to Hull for 28 days and, therefore, would have missed the chance of a first-team call-up.
But the local Hull youngster got his big chance and took it with both hands, scoring three tries in his next two games to keep his spot for the cup final against Wigan Warriors.
Running out in front of a crowd of 78,000 at Wembley was a far cry from the building sites of Hull and he is hoping those days are well and truly behind him.
"I don't want to be doing that again," said Shaul, who worked as a bricklayer last year while playing for Hull's Under-20s team.
"I started it when I left school at 16 and did it for about four years, getting up at six o'clock in the morning. I've got the easy life now, haven't I?"
Hull coach Peter Gentle is delighted at the progress made by the young full-back and thrilled that his perseverance has finally paid off.
"He's learning his trade," Gentle said. "The disappointing thing is that he's missed half the season. He couldn't even get a start at York.
"He's been sitting on the sidelines. We offered him everywhere and he had to wait for an injury to get a start with us.
"Full credit to the kid, he hasn't dropped his chin, he's continued to work hard and he's getting the rewards now."
Shaul, who as a keen fan watched the Black and Whites home and away until realising his dream by signing for them, is relishing the chance to play on the big stages.
"It's been a bit of a tough season," he added. "Early on in the year I couldn't buy a game.
"It was hard coming to training every week knowing you're not playing on the weekend.
"We had our difficulties with York and your head does go down but there were people like Rads (assistant coach Lee Radford) coming up to me at training, saying 'keep your head up, your chance will come'."