All things possible as 
Tony takes new route

Motu Tony, the Hull FC football manager.
Motu Tony, the Hull FC football manager.
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THE role of football manager, or director of rugby, usually comes to a veteran coach who is perhaps ready to slow down.

However, former New Zealand international full-back Motu Tony is doing it entirely differently at Hull FC.

Aged just 33, the 2005 Challenge Cup winner skipped the whole coaching segment of that usual career path and opted to head straight into the business side of the sport.

Having played his final professional game for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Wigan two years ago, he eventually decided on a Master of Business Administration course at Huddersfield University.

Tony completed his studies in February and graduated earlier this month but, in the meantime, the ex-Hull player had already returned to the KC Stadium to take on the football manager role last September.

Ambitious chairman Adam Pearson had appointed Tony’s former team-mate Lee Radford – similarly youthful then at 34 – as head coach and reunited the pair in a bold approach.

With previous chief Peter Gentle dismissed and fellow Australian Shaun McRae having left as director of football, it meant a new direction in the corridors of power at the Super League club.

It has not been easy. Hull’s inconsistencies of old certainly remain and it seems an eternity since Tony scored during that heroic ’05 Challenge Cup win in Cardiff, or stepped out at Old Trafford in the following season’s Grand Final.

But the process was always going to take time and Tony says rejuvenating the East Yorkshire club, who, despite vast investment, are in danger of finishing above just relegated Bradford Bulls and London Broncos, remains his calling.

“I’ve always been this way inclined,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “I’m not a big fan of coaching and have never been. And I don’t miss playing, either.

“I’ve always been interested in this side of the game.

“I’m a big fan of other sports and if you can get the front office right then you have a pretty good chance of getting the rest of the organisation right, too.

“But it’s been eye-opening. When you’re a player, you think you’re the only lads who do the work but those front office staff do just as much and it’s all about bringing everything to together. I’m the link.”

A major part of Tony’s role is recruiting players.

It is no secret that Hull – whose hopes of breaking into the top eight are all but over – have failed miserably in that regards at times in recent years.

A raft of expensive overseas players on handsome contracts have often only spluttered rather than shone and it has been difficult rectifying that.

Dealing with the aftermath of such disasters has not, however, dissuaded Tony from looking at such markets and he remains a firm believer that foreign class is good for Super League.

Yet, having originally arrived at Castleford Tigers in 2004, he added: “Because of the exchange rate and salary cap compared to Australia, the shortage of top quality players is affecting the English game.

“Speaking to some agents in Australia, they are counting down the days where they send nobody to England. Something has to be done.

“I know there used to be complaints about Australians and New Zealanders coming over but our place (Hull) still talks about when Stephen Kearney was here plus Jason Smith and Richard Swain.

“Those sorts of players have had a massive effect on some of ours who are playing now.

“If you don’t get those guys coming through, the intellectual property in the English game is going to drop.

“The minimum salary in Australia is getting towards $90,000 – almost £50,000. We don’t even have a minimum salary.

“That’s why it’s important to bring young kids through. We’ve got some really good kids but at the same time we need the Gareth Ellis’s and those types of players to bring them along as relegation is back in.

“Unfortunately, there’s no more patience now because of that; one bad year and you could be out of Super League.”

For all their travails this term, Hull fans have been assuaged somewhat by the fact that Tony has helped recruit two classy English half-backs for 2015.

Former Great Britain stand-off Leon Pryce will join from Catalan Dragons and Marc Sneyd, who has more try assists than anyone in Super League this year 26 while on loan at Castleford, arrives in a £100,000 switch from Salford Red Devils.

“I think they’ll bring organisation and a bit of direction,” he added, with Hull’s traditional lack of creative quality painfully obvious again this year.

“And Leon is a man. He’s an old-school type of player who will get in the face of team-mates and tell them they are not pulling their weight. He’ll get us around the field. A lot of our losses have been eight points or less and we just don’t have the ‘smarts’ to get us around the field to capitalise on mistakes and field position.”

Last week’s embarrassing 
56-10 defeat at champions Wigan Warriors, for all its humiliation, was perhaps no surprise.

However, Hull went close to defeating double-chasing Castleford before drawing 18-all on Thursday but it was the loss at Salford a fortnight ago that best sums up Tony’s point.

The Airlie Birds had ample possession but little initial penetration and were eventually undone 35-22 against opponents who had won just twice in their previous dozen games.

“We got a lot of possession at Salford when we just couldn’t make the most of it and we’re still paying for loose games like that,” conceded Tony.

“We gave them a head start in that match but, hopefully, we’ve made a few steps in the right direction this year and we’re working towards getting back to those big games that Hull have been in before.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve been in four major finals but we haven’t been as consistent as we’d have like. The sleeping giant need to awaken some time soon.”

To many it seems an unenvious task and Hull – who, to their credit, have had as many as 10 home-grown products in their side in recent weeks – could be viewed as perennial under-achievers.

Yet Tony has had input in major shocks before and not only that famous ’05 Challenge Cup final win over Leeds.

It was later during the same year, in fact, that he played in one of the most remarkable matches in rugby league history.

Showing his vast versatility by playing hooker, Tony featured in New Zealand’s stunning 24-0 Tri-Nations final victory over Australia at Elland Road, a result that sent shock waves around the sport.

Revered Australia had neither lost a Test series nor any competition since 1978 or been kept pointless for fully 20 years.

Yet the Kiwis, including players still operating in Super League like Wakefield’s Ali Lauitiiti, Castleford’s Jake Webster and Huddersfield’s David Faiumu, were fearless.

Tony, all be it from a different viewpoint, is now looking to imbue the same passion and belief in a different team of Black and Whites. Anything is possible.