WHEN Hull FC coach Lee Radford came into the post-match press conference after Friday’s impressive 34-10 win at high-flying Salford Red Devils, he was inevitably asked about his side’s forthcoming Challenge Cup quarter-final with Castleford Tigers.
Hull, the holders, face their Yorkshire rivals, the Super League leaders, on Sunday in what is clearly the tie of the round.
Radford immediately quipped how his side will be massive underdogs and Castleford already have their name on the famous trophy, perhaps a wry dig at how many people are waxing lyrical about Daryl Powell’s side who have been the stand-out team so far in 2017.
Or perhaps it was just an early bout of mind-games to take some of the pressure off his side ahead of the mouthwatering meeting at KCOM Stadium.
When asked by The Yorkshire Post if his coach had been trying to play some mind-games, a cautious Jordan Thompson replied: “Erm….. I don’t really want to question him...it will only come back on me!
“He’ll be getting us ready the same as any game, asking us to take it in our stride, prep’ well and get ready to go.”
I was 18th man for the final last year so 100 per cent I want to get back there,Jordan Thompson
There is no doubt Hull will be ready for it; having finally won at Wembley last year, for the first time in their long history, they will be intent on returning there and retaining the Cup.
The win at second-placed Salford came without five key players: captain Gareth Ellis, Man of Steel Danny Houghton, Lance Todd Trophy winner Marc Sneyd, England prop Scott Taylor and Australian back-row Mark Minichiello.
All but Sneyd could return against Castleford and Hull, remember, inflicted one of the Tigers three defeats this term, winning 26-24 at KCOM Stadium in April.
They are up to fourth in the table now and Thompson, the industrious utility forward, added: “We’ll be looking a lot at them this week.
“We’ll take a bit from that last game but both teams were busted so you can’t really look at that too much.
“It is going well for Cas at the moment. If you look at last year they just fell short of their ambitions but had 10 starters in the stands (injured).
“This year it’s really come together for them and they will be a big force.”
Thompson, who of course joined from Castleford at the end of 2013, will be more keen to do return to Wembley than anyone.
“I was 18th man for the final last year so 100 per cent I want to get back there,” he said. “I just missed out on selection and it will be a dream come true if we get there again.
“I’ll be making sure I get a shirt, putting right the wrongs of last time, learning from it and hopefully I’ll be in.
“Back then, Radders got me and couldn’t say much. He said it was as bad for him as he didn’t want to do this to blokes.
“He said to take it on the chin, he could only pick 17 and I wasn’t one but to come back stronger. I think I have.
“I played for Cas, too, when we got beat by Leeds in the semis in 2011 so I definitely want to sort this.”
Wakefield-born Thompson, 25, has largely been playing loose forward in Ellis’ absence and, as always, produced an energetic display as depleted Hull ran riot at Salford.
“We knew we had players missing but we said in the dressing room beforehand that we weren’t going to shy away from it,” he said.
“We said that the boys that are here should step up and let’s not make excuses; the people there do the job.
“Luckily everyone did that and I thought we were good.”
Meanwhile, Radford dedicated Friday’s win to the club’s legendary former coach Arthur Bunting who died aged 80 earlier in the week.
“Obviously with the loss this week we spoke about it prior to the game,” he said.
“We realised the importance and his impact on the club so that was for you coach, there you go. I thought it was the most dedicated performance this season in terms of what we asked for.
“Salford along with Castleford probably challenge you more than any other teams in the competition coming out of their own end.
“We identified their shapes during the week and we repetitively made their big guys get behind the ball time and time again. They were stronger in the second period but we held firm.”