Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos: Brett Hodgson challenges players to fan home support’s fervour

AFTER MORE than seven months as coach of Hull FC, Brett Hodgson will today finally get to experience the atmosphere created by a big home crowd.

Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson is excited at the prospect of playing in front of home fans for the first time since he took up the reins seven months ago. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

The visit of Leeds Rhinos, traditionally regarded by supporters as one of Hull’s fiercest rivals, is the East Yorkshire club’s first home fixture without restrictions on the size of the crowd since an infamous 38-4 defeat by Warrington Wolves in March last year, a result which cost previous coach Lee Radford his job.

Hodgson is aware of the extra responsibility the lifting of coronavirus restrictions places on the team’s shoulders and has challenged them to come up with a season’s-best performance to mark the occasion.

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Describing himself as “really excited” at the prospect, the former Huddersfield Giants and Warrington full-back stressed: “I have played in front of packed crowds here and there’s no better atmosphere in the competition.”

Hull FC are looking to bounce back against Leeds Rhinos tonight after their shock Super League defeat to injury-hit Huddersfield Giants last time out. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

He said: “Hopefully they will come out in force and we’ll try to put out our best performance of the season.

“It has been a long time since everyone has been allowed into our ground and we are looking forward to seeing everyone come back and support us.”

But Hodgson also insisted his players have a big role to play in making it a night to remember.

“I am fully appreciative of the fact everyone’s lives have been turned upside down for the last 18 months and now we are finally coming out of it, as players and a club we are not taking this for granted,” he added.

Powerhouse pack man Zane Tetevano returns to the Leeds Rhinos squad to face Hull FC tonight. Picture: Steve Riding.

“Hopefully the supporters can get out there in their thousands and we can give a performance to match.”

The return of fans can be a double-edged sword.

Hull rained on Leeds’ parade two months ago when they won 18-12 at Headingley in Rhinos’ first match since a limited number of spectators were allowed into the stadium.

While a big crowd will get behind Hull, there is also the risk of that putting pressure on the home team, particularly if things go wrong early in the contest.

Hodgson stressed his team can’t afford to sit back and rely on their supporters getting them back to winning ways following last Thursday’s surprise 40-26 loss at injury-ravaged Huddersfield Giants.

“We have got to invest in the start of the game,” insisted the coach.

“That’s what we didn’t do against Huddersfeld.

“We have got to be better at the start of the game.

“I think if you can really perform and do the little things well, all the effort areas well, the crowd becomes a huge help.

“What we don’t want to do is use the crowd to get us home, because that won’t happen unless we apply ourselves. We know what’s required, we want a response from last week and I am looking forward to seeing that.”

Hull have a good recent home record against Leeds, who have not won at what is now known as MKM Stadium since 2017. But Rhinos’ only defeats since Hull’s victory at Headingley in March came in back-to-back games against league leaders Catalans Dragons and the visitors will have a stronger side on show this evening.

Pack leader Zane Tetevano is in contention to make his Leeds return following a two-month lay-off with coronavirus and half-back Luke Gale, who was dropped for last week’s 38-16 defeat of Salford Red Devils following a disagreement with coach Richard Agar, is also expected to feature for Rhinos, despite being stripped of the captaincy.

“Leeds are playing well,” warned Hodgson.

“They were a bit unlucky with a couple of results in the last couple of weeks, against Catalans, but they played exceptionally well against Salford last week.

“They are very dangerous, so we know we have to be at our best.

“They are a very good team that plays what they see, which is often hard to defend, but ultimately this week is about what we need to do to get back to what we’ve done in the past.”

Hodgson felt Hull “let ourselves down” in the defeat at Huddersfield, which ended with forward Andre Savelio being sent-off and subsequently suspended for three games, beginning tonight.

He reflected: “We needed to apply ourselves better at the start of the game.

“We have trained well and I am looking forward to what’s going to be a tough game.

“The issues we had last week are very easily fixed, it’s just about our application to what we have to do.

“We need a response; we are going to be challenged this week, but I am confident - should we implement the stuff we’ve practiced - we’ll come up with the right result.

“I know there’s a rivalry there [with Leeds] and we will be doing everything we can to make sure we get the win.”