HULL FC chairman Adam Pearson admits the club is feeling the “pressure” of needing to stay in Super League.
The Black and Whites were one of the six “rebel” clubs that initially opposed this season’s new structure that has reintroduced the prospect of promotion to and relegation from the top flight in a revolutionary style.
Pearson eventually yielded and voted for the proposal but his side sit joint-bottom heading into their eighth game of the campaign – tonight’s vital derby visit from Hull KR – and realise they could be put in jeopardy if they fail to escape the bottom four.
Yet, despite just two wins so far, Hull also know they are only two points adrift of the top eight such is the tightness of competition.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Pearson admitted: “When I look at the coaches (in Super League) this year, every time they lose a game you can tell the stakes are very high.
“It’s certainly the same for chairman. Looking back now to 18 months ago they called us rebels – all the six – but it’s a big thing to have given away relegation and a big thing to have given away television rights.
“It’s put the pressure on that we now have to stay in that competition. We formed the rules and we have to play by them and get on with it.
“It’s certainly making for an exciting competition. Of that, there is no doubt, as there’s very little to choose between top and bottom.
“If we win a couple of games we could be up to the top four, if we lose a couple we’re in trouble. It’s certainly making for exciting rugby that’s for sure.
“The next bundle of three games for us over Easter are all very important to the season.
“We still feel that if we can get the right results – two wins out of the next three – it would see us not far behind points-wise where we wanted to be at the start of the year. But obviously we’ve got to win two out of three.”
After the derby, Hull head to champions St Helens on Easter Monday before hosting Widnes Vikings next Friday.
Like so many, pressure will be on head coach Lee Radford, who is having to battle an ongoing injury crisis at the club with captain Gareth Ellis, scrum-half Marc Sneyd, former Kiwi centre Setaimata Sa, utility Richard Whiting and prop Chris Green all sidelined.
He will know, too, that Pearson sacked his predecessor, Peter Gentle, just a month after leading them out in the 2013 Challenge Cup final and securing a top-six finish.
Given Hull’s lack of actual success, though, since Pearson bought the club in July, 2011, and his own vast financial input, does the former Hull City chairman wish he had ever stuck with football?
“Not at all,” he insisted. “ I love the sport (rugby league).
“It helps now knowing something about it and it helps enormously having a coach you can trust and who is working his hardest.
“He just needs a little bit of fortune to go his way and if he stays at the crease long enough – which he will do – he’ll start to score some runs, I’m sure.”
Hull vanquished Hull KR 28-0 on their last visit to the KC Stadium in August and a repeat of that result now, or a victory of any sort, would do wonders for their confidence.
Pearson admitted: “It certainly would and I think the lads who come in have really got to try and come through now and show we have squad depth.
“To be missing people like Sa and Ellis, Whiting and (Kirk) Yeaman to name a few, that takes a lot of experience out of the side.
“But it’s a fantastic opportunity for (19-year-old centre) Jack Logan, and people like that, to really make a claim. If our youngsters are as good as we think they are, there’s no better stage than Thursday’s to show it.”
Pearson insists he has no regrets making that stance about how the game should be run, led by Wigan Warriors’ Ian Lenaghan, when it was up for debate in 2013.
“I don’t think we ever thought it would (get changed to their preference) but it was more about making sure the deal was right,” he added. “Super League did go away and agree a good broadcast deal with Sky, so clubs have been rewarded, the competition is in place and we have to get on with it. And, as part of that enhancement of central distributions, is increased risk.
“That’s what we’ve voted for and that’s what we’ve got to get on with – and make sure we’re competing in the eight, not in the four.”
Hull KR have plugged the gap created by the loss of front-row pair Michael Weyman and Ryan Bailey with the capture of experienced Australian forward Dane Tilse from Canberra Raiders.
The 6ft 7in, 17st-plus Tilse has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the Robins and will join them as soon as he receives the necessary paperwork after the Raiders agreed to release him.
Hull KR star Terry Campese interview: Page 23