YOU will not find Hull FC captain Gareth Ellis shouting aloud about his side’s chances of success this season.
It is not that he isn’t aspiring or capable even – the ex-England second-row is one of the sport’s most committed and finest players – but, similarly, he is a realist, too.
Ellis accepts there has been too much hyperbole surrounding the East Yorkshire club for too long, delusions of grandeur almost, and often stemming from themselves.
For all their investment, they finished 12th last term, a woeful return, and he told The Yorkshire Post: “We’re aware of the hype that has been built up around the squads in the past.
“And it has been detrimental. It’s been the downfall of the side to build a team up so much.
“When you look at how Cas’ came under the radar last year and everyone was waiting for them to fall off but they just had such a great season.
“We have to look at them. We finished third bottom last year so that is where we’re at.
“We have to fight our way up that table. You don’t automatically become a top-four team because you have signed so-and-so; you have to work for it.”
Head coach Lee Radford, starting his second season in charge at KC Stadium, has recruited an all-English half-back pair in Ellis’s experienced former Great Britain colleague Leon Pryce from Catalan Dragons and Marc Sneyd, one of the catalysts behind Castleford’s meteoric rise last time out.
Australian second-row Mark Minichiello is their other notable arrival ahead of the new league structure that will see them split to play Championship clubs if they are not in the top eight after 23 rounds.
Ellis, whose testimonial game at former club Wakefield Trinity takes place on January 25, added: “With the signings we have made and Radders’ coaching influences 12 months on from where they were, we do seem a much more balanced team.
“You can tell everyone knows what they need to be doing and if you’d have seen where we were at this time last year to now, it seems we’re miles ahead.
“But if we do the same as last year we’re in that bottom tier and that’s the reality of it. We need to play like that is what we are and what we’re fighting for.
“We have to remember how we felt last year; it not only affects you when you’re at training but it affects your life.
“You’re losing, you come home, you’re down in the dumps, you think about where your next win comes from, you’re not in a good mood with your family … there’s a massive impact on your whole life. But if you’re winning, it’s the opposite. Life is great.”
For all no one could ever question Ellis’s character, some disillusioned supporters have wondered whether some Hull players in the past have cared enough about the jersey.
Ellis, 33, said: “It’s hard to say as I don’t know what they do when they go home. But from my experience, you come training and it’s all doom and gloom, heads are down so you know everyone’s feeling it and they all want to be winning.
“But how much do they want to be winners? How much are you prepared to give and sacrifice to get those wins? I think that’s what we have to ask ourselves this year.
“Hull is a massive club – everyone knows that – but what good is being a massive club if you’re not performing on the field?
“The ingredients are there but it’s about us getting out there and doing it.
“The club’s in a good position. The kids coming through this time are not only kids who have been promoted as we need some but they are really talented – Jansin Turgut was captain of the England Academy team recently and we had four or five in there.
“We want to see them not only be in our squad but, and I’ve spoken to them about it, actually have their goal as making their debuts this year. I’m sure one or two will.”
Ellis, who won two Grand Finals with Leeds Rhinos in 2007 and 2008 before a highly-successful four-year stint with NRL side Wests Tigers, is now in his third season at the club.
He bought into chairman Adam Pearson’s vision of making them a Super League force and delivering a maiden Grand Final success. Clearly, progress has not been as intended but the player, twice voted the world’s best second-row, has no regrets and actually believes his own form last term was as good as he has ever played in this country.
“Of course it is frustrating,” added Ellis, when asked about witnessing failings around him.
“I’m not the sort of captain who shouts and bawls although now, a year on, I am a bit more vocal than I was.
“I feel like I’ve got a bit more support now with Leon and Mark Minichiello, some of the more senior players now who all buy into it and drive it.
“It seems a much better environment this year but I keep saying pre-season only lays the foundation and when we start playing is when it really matters. And winning.”
They start their campaign at Huddersfield Giants on February 8 and, of course, Ellis will be leading from the front.
But he is not naive and has warned his colleagues that the unthinkable threat of relegation – returning for the first time since 2006 – is very real unless their approach alters.
“You don’t want to be thinking about it but it has to be in our minds,” he added. “You don’t just have to have all these systems in place – which we do and we all know what we’re doing – but there has to be an attitude to what you do and that is the key.
“You can’t coach that. It’s bred from within and takes a long time to build that culture. It’s hard to change how someone thinks but I’m really confident of a good season. We have to be hard-working from the off.”
n Hull’s home game against Castleford has been moved to Sunday, July 12 (3pm) from Friday, July 10 to ensure the installation of new floodlights can be completed in time for their next evening fixture.