Pre-season is almost over and the Super League opener is just a fortnight away, as Hull FC step up their preparations, going full tilt for this Sunday’s trip to Salford.
Lee Radford has named a full strength squad for the penultimate friendly at the AJ Bell Stadium, with many senior players running out for the first time in 2017.
Aiming to build on last weeks promising victory against Toronto, Sunday’s game will give fans and coaches alike the first real look at Hull FC, and what they could be capable of this year.
We’ve seen glimpses in recent weeks as first team members new and old have had cameos, but certainly not on this scale, with the full squad, mouth watering as it is, coming together.
Of course it’s still pre-season, and regardless of Sunday’s outcome, you can only read so much into a trial game (unless you’re a Cas fan), but there’s no denial of the fresh feel and excitement a convincing Hull victory would give.
Hull’s right edge looks formidable, but the left edge is just as strong, and with two rampant half backs, a crazy pack and a stellar interchange, the Black and Whites, come Black and some sort of dodgy green colour on Sunday, will hope to cause Marwan Koukash’s Red Devil’s some problems.
The class of 2017 seems stronger then ever and there’s real hope that FC can match the sheer ecstasy of 2016. There’s no reason why not, with a healthier mix of backline talent adding testament that they look a much more even outfit this time around, most notably in attack.
That’s emphasised in their recruitment, with attacking personnel brought in. We’ve seen what blockbuster stuff Albert Kelly can produce, and how easy Josh Griffin can put his winger into space, but now it’s about witnessing what Jake Connor can do and add to this team.
Connor’s debut will be exciting and there’s a lot of people looking forward to it. Whether he’ll play at fullback, half back or in the centre is irrelevant for now – it will just be good to see him out there.
Elsewhere there are first appearances of 2017 for Danny Houghton, Mark Minichiello, Scott Taylor, Sika Manu and Challenge Cup winning captain Gareth Ellis. If such a quartet matches the playing capability they exhibited throughout 2016 this year, then we’re certainly in for yet another treat.
Now to drop a bombshell on your excitement, but of course, and despite the anticipation to seeing some fluent attacking rugby, trial games are most and foremost about coming through injury free, and that will be the most important aspect for coach Lee Radford.
Josh Bowden is currently out with a slight ankle knock, and that list will not want to extend, but also Sunday’s game is about seeing new combinations, new plays, and new initiatives. It’s about righting wrongs from the training paddock and no doubt Hull FC’s Super League Coach of the Year will have his eye on that.
Sunday promises to be an intriguing afternoon in Greater Manchester, as Hull return to a stadium where they won the regular season last year, with former Salford players Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, and for the first time Josh Griffin, amongst their ranks.
Doing what we do best.
New Salford signing Todd Carney is still awaiting the clearance of his visa. However ex-Wigan and Parramatta prop Lee Mossop is set to make his debut. Lama Tasi, who has rejoined the Devils from an unconvincing spell at St Helens, will also feature.
Salford will field talented youngster Niall Evalds, alongside half back duo Michael Dobson and Robert Lui. Other notable names include Justin Carney, Junior S’au and Gareth O’Brien – the legend.
Hull FC squad: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Mahe Fonua, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Liam Watts, 11. Dean Hadley, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Gareth Ellis, 14. Jake Connor, 15. Chris Green, 16. Jordan Thompson, 17. Danny Washbrook, 19. Steve Michaels, 21. Sika Manu, 25. Jansin Turgut.
Salford Squad: Adam Walne, Chester Butler, Connor McGrath (both Halifax dual reg), Craig Kopczak, Dan Murray, Gareth O’Brien (legend), George Griffin, Greg Johnson, Jake Bibby, Jordan Walne, Josh Wood (not the FC one), Junior S’au, Justin Carney, Kris Welham, Kriss Brining, Lama Tasi, Lee Mossop, Liam Bent, Mark Flanagan, Matt Wilkinson, Michael Dobson, Niall Evalds, Olsi Krasniqi, Robert Lui, Ryan Lannon, Weller Hauraki.
Fanzine sellers. The legends. If you haven’t got Issue 25, or Issues 22, 23 or 24, then make sure you see Dan, Dominant or Terry on Sunday. They’ll be on sale for just £2.
- Of Hull’s five visits to the new, shiny, and empty AJ Bell Stadium, they have won twice (2013 and 2016) and lost three times (2012, 2014 and 2015).
- Chris Green is still turning heads with his Benji Marshall like step at Salford last season.
- Hull won the Super League regular season for the first time in their history at Salford in 2016.
- Marwan Koukash posed for photos with most of the fanzine team during our visit last year. What a sort.
- It’s common knowledge that the editor of UTC doesn’t remember anything from last seasons trip.
- Dominant Ian got married less than 24-hours after Hull FC’s last trip to Salford.
- Hull KR misfit Ben Towse sang the Marc Sneyd song on the Brownies Bus. We’ve got evidence.
Scott Taylor and all Hull FC fans’ favourite non-Hull FC player Gareth O’Brien.
Last Five Meetings
Salford 20 Hull FC 28 – Super League 2016
Hull 42 Salford 20 – Super League 2016
Hull 24 Salford 20 – Super League 2015
Salford 32 Hull 28 – Super League 2015
Salford 35 Hull 16 – Super League 2014
How much of a statement can you put out in pre-season? Wigan had fifty points put on them by Leigh last week but they’ll still compete at the top this year. Never-the-less, a Hull win by 18.