The off-season has proper dragged – partially due to an early finish to last year for Hull FC, not to mention a dismal Great Britain series, and Sunday’s trip to Halifax is most welcome.
It’s only a ‘friendly’ of course, but it gives us something to look forward to, both a first glimpse at a couple of new signings and those coming back from long-term injuries. There’s a couple in each category making up a 23-man playing squad, with Halifax a familiar opposition to anyone who’s followed the Reserves recently.
Halifax, once branded with the worst Americanised-suffix name ever, are a tough side that never give up. They are physical and that’s exactly what Lee Radford will want. The Shay is also a venue that the first team haven’t played at in ages, and one we remember well thanks to a certain Steve Prescott drop-goal. Sunday should be a decent hit out, the first of 2020, and hopefully a beneficial exercise. Just don’t mention Blue Sox.
The New Boys
Two of eight new signings will feature with Joe Cator and Jordan Johnstone both included. Cator is a Hull-born childhood Hull FC fan and we can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to the side. He’s only 21 and spent last year at Leigh after telling our noisy neighbours to do one. We like him already. By all accounts Cator has knuckled down and impressed in training, and despite Radders playing down the importance of squad numbers, the number 15 shirt suggests a reward for such hard work. He’ll be aiming to impress further at the Shay, make no mistake there.
The only negative in pre-season so far has been a knock to Danny Houghton. He has a wrist injury and is a doubt for the Super League opener at Headingley, so there’s an early chance for Johnstone to shine. Signed from Widnes, the hooker has already spoken about patience and is prepared to be an understudy and learn his craft. Pending Houghton’s fitness, the star role might be coming sooner than expected though. This is his first audition.
The 2019 season was a horror show for Andre Savelio and especially Matty Dawson-Jones. The latter had a decent debut at Caravan Park to then rupture his ACL in training a few days later. He hasn’t played since. Savelio meanwhile had numerous injury troubles before a foot problem ended his season. He showed glimpses of his quality but fitness and continuity in appearances are now key. Jack Sanderson also returns after a year out with a shoulder injury. This is the start to hopefully a more prosperous future for all three players.
The great Gareth Ellis once described pre-season as a players opportunity to “get better at rugby”. It’s a young squad heading to West Yorkshire after all and we’ll get to see just how much they’ve developed. The likes of Connor Wynne, Kieran Buchanan and Jack Brown all made their debuts last season. How have they kicked on? We’ll soon find out. Then there’s Masi Matongo and Brad Fash, both well into their 20s now. Liam Harris. Jordan Lane. Cam Scott. Lewis Bienek. All names mentioned with potential. Potential is one thing though, we want to see some quality. It’s quality that will give Radford a selection headache or two.
Hard work gets rewards
Josh Griffin will captain the Hull FC side at Halifax. Yes it’s only a friendly but it’s still a fair reward for an outstanding 2019 season where he swept up the main club awards. Griffin has improved constantly since joining the club and with the hair line to match is now considered a senior player. He’ll also be goal-kicking. Let’s hope he’s had some practise with the tee since that attempt at Huddersfield last year. Well done Griff.
You can train the house down all you want but there’s nothing like playing a game. All the players selected to play Halifax have been in pre-season since day one. They’ll be ready for it. They’ll be buzzing for it. It’s been a long sequence of rancid gym and hill sessions and come Sunday 3pm nothing will beat executing plays in a proper game trying to impress a crowd just as desperate to see some rugby. It seems ages ago since last seasons finale against St Helens. Bring it on.
Hull Squad: 4. Josh Griffin, 14. Albert Kelly, 15. Joe Cator, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 17. Matty Dawson-Jones, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Jordan Lane, 23. Andre Savelio, 25. Connor Wynne, 26. Kieran Buchanan, 27. Liam Harris, 28. Lewis Bienek, 30. Jack Brown, 31. Cameron Scott, 33. Ratu Naulago, Charlie Graham, Tom Goulding, Jacob Hookem, Ben McNamara, Eldon Myers, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Jack Sanderson.
Halifax vs Hull FC, Sunday 5th January, The Shay, kick off 3pm, tickets on the gate.
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