Hull FC 2017- Preview

What to expect of Hull FC after a stellar season in 2016, and with the recruitment during the off-season? This could be a very exciting time for the Old Faithful supporters as Lee Radford’s side look to replicate, and even better, last seasons successes.

The most important thing that happened for the men from the KCOM Stadium last year was that they put what was probably rugby league’s most famous hoodoo to bed with victory at Wembley to bag the Challenge Cup, with that monkey off their back, the side which was already a dangerous proposition, has now become even more dangerous.

For years, decades even, the Airlie Birds have flattered to deceive, it has been noted several times that, after winning the Challenge Cup in 2005, they failed to take advantage of that and move forward significantly, although 2006 did see their only Grand Final appearance so far.

However there is now a very different feel on the West side of the divided city, as chairman Adam Pearson has backed Radford’s vision with hard cash, this could be the start of a great dynasty, if it is all handled in the right way, especially with the exciting crop of exceptional youngsters starting to make the grade.

Key Men:

Danny Houghton: The man nicknamed Mint proved himself the best hooker, indeed all round player, bar none, as he waltzed off with the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award, to put with his usual Super League Hitman award, in 2016.

Having added try-scoring and a kicking game to his outstanding defensive efforts in recent seasons, he is the hub of everything that Hull FC do well, for too long he has been under-estimated by opponents, now they have to sit up and take notice, and not just because of his 52nd tackle at Wembley last year.

Give Daryl Clark an inch and he will take a mile, give Houghton an inch, and he’ll take a mile and a half, guaranteed, something that now seems to have got through to England coach Wayne Bennett as he has selected him in his elite training squad to meet throughout 2017 in the build up to the World Cup down under.

Gareth Ellis: The club captain is a massive influence for his side and, at 35 years of age, is still very much enjoying his rugby league, running around like a 21 year old, and bashing the biggest opponents around like a tank.

Last year, when Ellis wasn’t there, it clearly effected the team, they weren’t the same side, when he is there, they’re very well-drilled by the captain and opponents are in perilous danger when he gets the bit between his teeth, as he will hunt work, he will make big meters, tackle busts and has superb distribution, as well as a ferocious hit to flatten a threatening opponent when required.

In his 5th season with the Black & Whites Ellis is looking forward to pushing his side to greater heights than last year, and there’s nothing to say that he can’t, especially with his influence plain for all to see.

Jamie Shaul: In all the clamour about #Tackle52 by his vice-captain, people appear to have forgotten about Jamie Shaul’s contribution to the victory over Warrington Wolves on 27th August 2016, he was of course the scorer of the winning try.

What Shaul, another call-up to the England elite training squad, brings to the Black & Whites is X Factor, and no I’m not talking about an old and dated reality TV show.

With his devastating pace, and his eye for a gap, the full-back is an attacking threat against any defence, as he has proved on many occasions, now needing only five more tries to become the Airlie Birds all-time top try scoring full-back. He is also defensively very sound, with a good tackle on him, and safe as houses under a high kick.

Ins and Outs:

In: Jake Connor, Josh Griffin, Albert Kelly, Nick Rawsthorne, Jack Wray, Cameron Scott

Out: Frank Pritchard, Kirk Yeaman (retired) Richard Whiting, Jordan Abdull (loan)

As Challenge Cup holders and top 4 finishers last season, the Black & Whites are there to be shot at, however I expect them to handle that pressure, and even thrive on it.

The players are a very tight group, and there is always a great element of fun around them, but when it’s down to business they are exactly where they need to be at.

With genuine quality having arrived in the off-season, and once again the advantage of having a thriving reserve team to call on when needed, as it is sure to be with the way the season is planned out, the Airlie Birds will once again be major challengers for all the silverware on offer.

Don’t be surprised to see Gareth Ellis raising the Super League trophy on Grand Final night at Old Trafford, or if the Challenge Cup is successfully defended.

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