Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson says spine of team is key to success

LIKE some other clubs, Hull FC have just one friendly under their belts ahead of the new Betfred Super League campaign but it has not left head coach Brett Hodgson concerned in any way.

Leading the way: Brett Hodgson. Picture: SWPix

They face Huddersfield Giants at Emerald Headingley on Sunday having only had 80 minutes action against Championship club York City Knights.

However, the Australian saw enough in that contest to feel his squad is ready for what lies ahead and they have spent the last week fine-tuning in readiness for that opener.

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“The fact that it is such a condensed season, with the Challenge Cup as well and those short weekend turnarounds, I don’t think it’s necessary that we jam another game into them at this stage,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“If we’d had another game we’d have probably used the kids in the squad anyway and not the main group.

“We’re happy with what we’ve done to this moment in time and will look to start the season in the right frame of mind.

“We absolutely got what we wanted out of that game against York; a tough contest against a team that, I think, is going to have a good year.

“They asked questions of us and now we’re looking forward to Sunday against Giants.”

Getrting ready: York's Tyme Dow-Nikau touches the ball down for a try against Hull FC. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

It is arguably the most intriguing tie of the opening round, especially after Warrington Wolves head coach Steve Price suggested that Australian superstar Greg Inglis is unlikely to debut in their first game against Castleford Tigers as the centre needs to build up his fitness levels.

It will be Hodgson’s first competitive game as a head coach.

He left his role as an assistant with Wests Tigers in the autumn to return to the UK where, before starring for Warrington, the former full-back became a hero in Huddersfield colours.

But Giants, too, have a new man at the helm in Ian Watson and both Yorkshire clubs are under pressure to deliver a big 2021.

Key man: Hull FC's Carlos Tuimavave. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Much of the talk at Hull is about how their freshened up spine will operate with former New South Wales State of Origin stand-off Josh Reynolds their only new recruit.

He replaces Albert Kelly but England centre Jake Connor has switched to full-back due to Jamie Shaul’s long-term injury.

With prolific scrum-half Marc Sneyd and fellow co-captain Danny Houghton, as ever, at No9, it smacks of a control hub that could cause some damage.

“I’m very happy with the spine of the team,” admitted Hodgson, who hopes to lift Hull to new heights as they go in search of a first league championship since 1983.

All set: Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson takes charge of the club for the first time against his former side Huddersfield Giants. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“Against York, they all have really good quality touches at certain parts of the game.

“I thought Danny Houghton was excellent in the way he controlled our momentum in the middle part of the first half.

“He ran at the right times although he probably needs to work on his kicking game a little.

“Jake had a couple of early touches that could have seen him pull out of the game a little bit but he responded well and had a couple of opportunities to create things for us.

“Josh will get better every single week that he plays with the team. Everyone who watched the game will see that his energy and effort is second to none which is why we brought him to the club as well as that skill element that he has.

“Sneydy just did what he did; he directed us around the field and again had some high quality touches so I’m really happy with the spine’s progression.

“We’ve also got JJ (Jordan Johnstone) who’s waiting in the wings.

“He had a minor injury so wasn’t involved but I’m pleased with how it’s looking going into that first game against Huddersfield. I was impressed with the attitude of the team and our physicality and effort was good.”

Meanwhile, Jamaica international Michael Lawrence, the long-serving loose forward who is approaching 300 games for hometown Huddersfield, is the Giants’ new club captain.

Watson, who has made significant changes on and off the field since switching from Salford Red Devils in November, said: “Arriving at the club, I thought it was important for the club to have a figurehead on the playing side.

“When you come into a new club, you want someone who epitomises what the club represents on and off the field.

“I’ve been greatly impressed by his (Lawrence’s) attitude. He’s been included on the RFL’s new inclusion board and Huddersfield is a diverse place.

“I believe that Michael’s values and attitude mirrors the values of the area, the owner Ken Davy and the club and I wanted someone who was a good representative of the owner, area and the club.”

“Aidan Sezer will continue as our captain on the field with Adam O’Brien who both set high standards within the team.

“I wanted to add someone who would be able to epitomise Huddersfield, and as someone who’s been here his entire career, I believe he can show all of us what’s important to the club and the people of the town, We will all learn from Michael”.

Leeds Rhinos back-row James Donaldson, 29, has signed a new two-year contract extension that will keep him at the club until the end of 2023.