Dave Craven: Return of playmakers essential if Hull are to make Wembley

SPEAKING to some people this week, there is apparently less chance of Hull FC reaching Wembley than there was of Wills and Kate calling their first-born Beckham.

It has been hard not to succumb to the powerful arguments that say the Black and Whites are irretrievably doomed to defeat when they attempt going toe-to-toe with those cup connoisseurs Warrington.

Let’s face it, some of the dismal performances of late have left plenty wondering if they could wriggle clear of a bunch of worms let alone the snarling Wolves.

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Furthermore, those pointing to their opponents’ rich pedigree in the game’s most famous competition, fashioned in recent seasons with such quality performances to garner three of the last four finals, have some strong evidence to fall back on.

Grizzled pack stars like Adrian Morley, Ben Westwood and Paul Wood were also allowed to put their feet up for a rest last weekend in readiness for the looming battle on Sunday evening; you sense they simply will not entertain the idea of being shackled or denied in any way.

There is an undeniable confidence that oozes out of Warrington, a quiet belief that they can swat aside anyone.

This complete certainty has been built up despite missing the talent of England scrum-half Richie Myler for the last five weeks; how Hull must wish they could offset the loss of such a crucial playmaker so easily.

Integral to their recent downfall – they have not won in Super League since May 31 – have been two major issues: the absence of their principal half-backs and an unerring ability to place undue stress upon themselves when in winning positions.

On the first matter, it does not take a genius to recognise Hull are a far more balanced team when Daniel Holdsworth is piloting them around.

Their kicking game has been sadly lacking in his absence and the tall Australian stand-off brings so much more cutting edge to their attacking options.

Likewise, long-serving scrum-half Richard Horne had been revitalised earlier in the season, producing some pivotal displays which brought the best out of Hull as they embarked on a run of nine wins in 10.

There is a chance of him being fit for Sunday but, regardless of how much they miss his influence, it would be a huge call from Peter Gentle to bring him back considering his absence stretches to fully nine weeks.

Nonetheless, you sense Hull need at least one of their playmakers back if they are to offer sufficient creativity to break down a side that is so resilient.

Jacob Miller has demonstrated flashes of quality since signing from Wests Tigers but the scrum-half only arrived last month and is just 20. It is too much to ask him to control a game like Warrington’s Lee Briers, whose vast range of skills, even at 35, shows no signs of diminishing.

Alongside Miller, Aaron Heremaia has strived to keep Hull ticking over but he is essentially a hooker so it is paramount either Holdsworth or Horne returns.

Secondly, though, it is of great importance that they sort out the annoying habit of simply throwing games away or, as Gentle puts it, going “brain-dead.”

It was evident again last week when they contrived to invite Bradford back in but recent losses against Huddersfield (22-16), Wakefield (27-26) and Castleford (30-28) showed similar traits.

So often it is lack of concentration but the needless handling errors in dangerous areas must madden Gentle more than anything.

However, let us not forget this Hull side were, not so long ago, enjoying a formidable run of form. And having won at Warrington during that cycle, they realise that the task is certainly not insurmountable.

It is imperative they do win, though, as aside from the obvious prize of Wembley, Hull need something to kick-start their ailing league form; failing to make the play-offs would be worse than any cup exit but I do fear the two are inextricably linked.