Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson planning another Challenge Cup shock against St Helens

IF Brett Hodgson requires any extra inspiration ahead of Hull FC’s Betfred Challenge Cup semi-final against St Helens, the head coach needs only to think back to his own playing days in the famous competition.

Winner: Warrington's man of the match Brett Hodgson holds the Challenge Cup. Picture: PA

The Black and Whites face favourites Saints on Saturday for a place at Wembley knowing they have an invidious task ahead.

Their opponents are back-to-back Super League champions, have only lost once this season and also defeated Hull 34-16 as recently as last Friday.

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Hodgson knows his side will have to deliver a season-best display to overcome them but is well aware of how to cause shocks in the Challenge Cup – and especially against St Helens in semi-finals.

Planning a shock: Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson.

He was man-of-the-match for Huddersfield as they stunned holders Saints in the 2009 last-four meeting, the stylish full-back delivering an all-action display as their opponents’ remarkable Cup run came to an end.

Star-studded Saints, with James Graham, Keiron Cunningham, Leon Pryce, Paul Wellens et al, had won the competition in each of the previous three years

However, they were no match for Giants and especially Hodgson, the former New South Wales State of Origin star who scored the opener, set up the match-clinching try for Stephen Wild with a trademark break and produced numerous timely defensive interventions in a famous 24-14 triumph.

“I think even now, one of my favourite memories of playing when I came over here is still that semi-final against St Helens with Huddersfield,” he recalled. “I absolutely loved the atmosphere of that game (at Halliwell Jones Stadium). We were the underdogs and we turned over a very good team as well.

Starring for Giants: Huddersfield's Brett Hodgson.

“Then, I just really enjoyed the experience of going to Wembley –even though I was at that stage of my career where it wasn’t about always winning those big games.

“It’s one of the most famous stadiums in the world so to play there was a massive enjoyment for me even though we didn’t get the result. I was still very proud to represent Huddersfield at that time.”

Hodgson, who was 31, led Giants out at Wembley against Warrington and went on to score another try and kick a couple of goals.

His side were eventually undone 25-16 but it was a magnificent maiden campaign with the Fartowners, having moved over from Wests Tigers, with whom he won an NRL Grand Final in 2005.

Playing under fellow countryman Nathan Brown, Hodgson won the prestigious Man of Steel award in his debut campaign, leading Huddersfield to third spot and the play-offs for just the second time in their history.

After another excellent campaign in 2010, he moved on to Warrington – and would this time get his hands on the Cup.

Still as graceful as ever at 34, Hodgson delivered a super display as Tony Smith’s side defeated Leeds 35-18 in the 2012 final.

“The emotions were very different compared to previously. I was lucky enough to win it that day. An incredible feeling.

“I remember it was a very tough contest early on and then it absolutely poured with rain. Then it became as hot as anything; the experience of it was like four seasons in one day down there.”

Hodgson, who had contributed a try and five goals, also claimed the Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the-match.

He became just the fourth Australian to do so, following on from another ex-Parramatta Eels player – the legendary Brett Kenny – with Wigan in 1985, Halifax’s Graham Eadie (1987) and Michael Monaghan, his Warrington team-mate who had taken the honour in that final against Huddersfield.

Hodgson, who returned in November to take on his first head coach’s role with Hull, added: “That (Lance Todd) was great. Obviously, they are the accolades that come with a good team performance.

“You don’t get to do anything like that unless the team plays well. It was one of those games back in the day where I actually got knocked out by Kylie Leuluai and had to get up and keep playing. These days, I probably wouldn’t have done that! I really enjoyed my time playing in that game. It was a great experience.”

Hodgson continued to flourish with Warrington – who face Castleford Tigers in Saturday’s other semi-final – scoring 39 tries in 75 games.

He had helped them claim the League Leaders’ Shield in 2011 and they reached the Grand Final in 2012 only for Leeds to gain their revenge for Wembley.

The Exiles representative retired in 2013 after a wonderful Indian summer.

He recalled: “I was happy with how I was playing at the time with Giants. I actually initially wanted to sign on for a couple more years. But they were in the position where they only wanted that one-year extension which I was respectful of.

“Warrington came through with a two-year offer so obviously the rest happened after that. But I really enjoyed playing over here in England – and hence the reason why I’m back.”

And now looking to win the Cup as a coach.

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