HULL FC head coach Peter Gentle claims Hull KR counterpart Craig Sandercock has fooled the rest of Super League with his mind games this season.
Ahead of tomorrow’s crucial derby between the fierce rivals, Gentle praised his fellow Australian for the manner in which his “snow job” had lessened peoples’ expectations of Rovers.
Hull KR are in seventh spot this term, having endured their fair share of injuries, suspensions and financial problems.
But Gentle – whose side will take that place if they win at MS3 Craven Park – argues such talk has merely been a successful deception ploy adopted by Sandercock.
“I think they’ve done a snow job on everyone all year,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Post.
“They are a good football team. That’s why they’re losing players back to the NRL.
“They’ve good players, are a good team and every week they come out and talk about their injuries, talk about their lack of depth, talk about this and that and everyone falls into the trap of ‘Poor KR you know...’
“They are a decent footy side. You only have to watch them play.
“They can score points, they’ve got their defence in order, we certainly don’t under-estimate them and realise they are a good team.
“Michael Dobson’s the best half-back in the competition right at this moment. He’s the most consistent and that’s why he has been poached by an NRL club (Newcastle Knights) to go back.
“Corey Paterson’s going back to Wests Tigers while we’ve recruited Mickey Paea for what he does to teams with his big carries getting through the defensive line.
“Yet every week they try the same trick. I think it’s smart coaching from Sandy but also every week sides walk into the (gullible) trap.”
Hull, of course, were seen as the most likely side to break into the top four this year given the high-class signings of England’s Gareth Ellis, Australian stand-off Daniel Holdsworth and Hull KR full-back Shannon McDonnell.
It has been another season of inconsistency, though, for a myriad of reasons yet it could all still end with much-coveted silverware.
Showing their finer qualities, they have reached the Challenge Cup final where they play Wigan Warriors in a fortnight’s time and fully realise they could also deliver handsomely in the play-offs.
“Our destiny is in our own hands,” admitted Gentle, whose side’s 72-10 thrashing of Widnes last Friday brought a first league victory in six games.
“If we win at KR, we can still get quite high in the table and even achieve a home semi which looked a forlorn hope recently.
“But we’re starting to get consistency in our selections with Holdsworth, Jacob Miller and another new member of the team’s spine, Jamie Shaul, at full-back.
“It’s been hard to find that but we’re starting to get it now and they’re all playing for a Challenge Cup jersey, too.”
For everyone involved in this famous derby, victory is clearly paramount but for Gentle, that alone will still not be enough.
He wants to see a convincing performance, having been disappointed with the manner of their Magic Weekend victory – video referee Steve Ganson’s infamous error aiding their 22-16 triumph in May – and deflated by a Good Friday loss at the KC Stadium.
“As a team, we didn’t review the Widnes game at all,” he revealed.
“Saturday morning we started our preview of KR, watching clips of them and getting their heads around them as we’ve played them three times this year (including the testimonial match)and not one of those times have we been anywhere near our best.
“That is a frustration and what frustrates us more than anything is everyone says it means more to them (Rovers) than us.
“It’s got to mean more to us especially where we are in the table.
“If we win at the weekend we go past them. It can’t mean more this week. As for what happened at Magic, we’ve spoken about how it’ll get plenty of air time over in the KR meeting rooms this week.
“Everyone will talk about it but it’s the competition we’re in; there’s a lot of errors every week.
“It cost KR not victory but at least a point. We’ve put it behind us and they have to, too. You can’t tell me what happened in that game’s going to help inspire us or them to play better.”
Youngster Shaul – who has scored seven tries in just three games this season – is set to retain the full-back role again with McDonnell out for the season. Having crossed twice against Widnes in his first outing since Easter, the rookie could play at Wembley.
Scrum-half Richard Horne might yet fill in there but he still has not returned after injuring his foot in that last derby.
“I’m desperate to get Rich back for maybe Salford next week,” said Gentle, about the veteran of their last Cup win in 2005.
“If he is to play in the Challenge Cup, we need to get him some miles in his legs. But Jamie Shaul’s been given an opportunity and he’s playing very well.
“He’s got something you can’t coach – speed – which is great.
“It’s probably his to lose at the moment and without putting too much pressure on him he’s a young kid enjoying his footy.
“We’re keeping it quite simple for him and he has filled in admirably.”