Wellington-born utility Jahrome Hughes enjoyed a breakout 2019 season, becoming a vital cog in the Melbourne Storm machine and earning an international call-up for the Kiwis.
A junior of the Harbour City Eagles club in the New Zealand capital, Hughes moved to the Gold Coast with his family as a teenager. He had a stint with Sydney Roosters’ SG Ball team but opted to remain in south-east Queensland and played 45 NYC games for the Titans from 2012-14.
Hughes was just 18 when he made his NRL debut at fullback in 2013 but that would be his only appearance for the Titans in the top flight. He headed for Townsville at the end of the following season.
With opportunities at fullback and in the halves scarce at North Queensland – he played one NRL game for the club in 2016 – Hughes was snapped up by Melbourne. He impressed as a back-up to the Storm’s star-studded spine in 2017-18 but was not required for the heavyweights’ finals campaigns.
Hughes featured at halfback in the Māori All Stars’ historic clash with the Indigenous All Stars in Melbourne in the 2019 pre-season.
Billy Slater’s retirement opened the NRL door for the 24-year-old, taking ownership of the Storm’s No.1 jersey and impressing with his incisive running, playmaking instincts and cool-headed play at the back.
Hughes’ versatility earned him a spot on the Kiwis’ bench for the 2019 mid-season Test against Tonga. Entering the fray at hooker, the head-geared utility scored a second-half solo try from dummy-half on debut.
He switched to the halves late in the NRL campaign for the Storm before being selected in the Kiwis’ squad for their end-of-year Test schedule. Hughes played 29 minutes of the loss to Australia in Wollongong at dummy-half, while he was pitched into the five-eighth role in the opening minutes of first Test against Great Britain at Eden Park after Kieran Foran left the field with a shoulder injury.
Hughes played a steady hand in the tense 12-8 victory – including a 26-tackle contribution – but was replaced on the interchange by Kodi Nikorima for the following encounter with the Lions in Christchurch.