Hull FC v Huddersfield Giants: Tony Smith needs all experience to get out of trouble

Tony Smith is a coach who relishes a challenge and the one he is faced with at Hull FC is one of the toughest of his long and successful career.

The Australian has spent much of his time in Super League leading winning teams like Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves, or successful rebuilds like those he oversaw at Huddersfield Giants and across the city he currently works in at Hull Kingston Rovers.

Last week’s mauling at the hands of Rovers left his current team third bottom of Super League with just one win from six games, and one in 13 dating back to last August.

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As they head back to the relative sanctuary of the MKM Stadium for the visit of another of his former clubs, Huddersfield Giants, it brings to mind his time in West Yorkshire for a spell as tough as this one.

Tony Smith dejected after his side's loss to Hull KR.(Picture: SWPix)Tony Smith dejected after his side's loss to Hull KR.(Picture: SWPix)
Tony Smith dejected after his side's loss to Hull KR.(Picture: SWPix)

Indeed, that first season with Huddersfield in 2001 – his first as a head coach – ended in relegation and included a 13-game losing run.

But Smith showed his resilience – a key word he kept repeating in the wake of the Good Friday loss at Hull KR – by piloting Huddersfield to promotion to Super League the following season.

That prompted a glorious run of success at Leeds, Warrington, and to an extent, Hull KR, but it imbued in the 57-year-old the qualities needed to get a team out of a deep hole.

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“You can’t fix it all at once, you’ve got to find what the priority is and fix that and then move onto the next one,” he said.

Huddersfield's Adam Swift runs the length of the field for a try against Castleford.Huddersfield's Adam Swift runs the length of the field for a try against Castleford.
Huddersfield's Adam Swift runs the length of the field for a try against Castleford.

“But it isn’t just about problem solving, it’s about getting people to keep doing what they’re doing well.”

The first issue is Hull’s defence, which was remorselessly and gleefully exposed by Hull KR last Friday.

“That’s where we’ve got to get tough,” observed Smith. “We’re hurting and we’ve got to get that right mindset from the start. You’ve got to get angry and desperate before you get out there, otherwise the opposition is going to embarrass you.

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“All of these defeats hurt. I’m a coach. No matter who it’s against. I don’t want them to just try hard against Hull KR or Huddersfield just because I’ve coached them before. I want them to try hard against every team. I care about this club and that’s my priority and I will keep caring.”

Smith’s contract expires at the end of the season but he remains adamant he is the man to turn the club’s fortunes around.

He has revealed he is in recruitment conversations about next season and despite increasing criticism from the stands about the team’s poor form, believes he has the blueprint to get the club out of trouble.

“There’s no point worrying about what anyone else is saying out there. All we can do is control what we can control,” said Smith.

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“I’m in charge of this team and I’m determined to get this right and work hard to do so.

“I’m making sure we are doing everything to prepare for next week, that’s all I can do and the players can do. The emotions are out there, there is no point in worrying about it.

"We would like our supporters to be proud of us and be right behind us and I understand some of them won’t be at the moment.”

Huddersfield Giants are hoping for a better start to the game than they managed at London Broncos on Sunday when head coach Ian Watson felt they escaped a lethargic opening to keep the men from the capital winless.

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They hammered Hull in the Challenge Cup two weeks ago but Watson is not someone to allow complacency to creep into his players.

Jake Connor, the former Black and Whites player, is in the squad after the injury that forced him out of the win in London was only decreed as minor.

Adam Swift is also in line to feature against his former club.

There is no Fenton Rogers, though. Rogers, who played against Hull while on loan at London Broncos last month, was arrested by Greater Manchester Police ahead of the Easter Weekend. The 20-year-old was then suspended by Huddersfield after being charged with drink driving.

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In a bizarre twist on Thursday night, Giants lifted the suspension and then sent the player out on loan.

A club statement read: “Huddersfield Giants have concluded their investigation into the evening of Thursday 28th March culminating in the suspension of Fenton Rogers from the club last week and can confirm that internal disciplinary action has been taken and the suspension is now revoked.

“In addition the player will move to Bradford Bulls on a short term loan. The club has reserved the right to reopen the matter should any further information come to light.”