THEY fly out to Australia tomorrow but, according to Scott Taylor, the sole focus occupying Hull FC’s minds all week has been tonight’s Super League opener against Huddersfield Giants.
It would be easy to let minds wander towards their imminent tour of New South Wales where, in an historic occasion, they take on Wigan Warriors in the first-ever Super League game in the southern hemisphere before facing NRL club St George-Illawarra.
But Lee Radford’s side are seeking a maiden Grand Final win this term and, to do that, a strong start to the campaign is necessitated.
True, neither victory at the KCOM Stadium this evening nor in Wollongong a week Saturday will dictate whether Old Trafford glory actually occurs but what they can do is set the tone.
Hull have, of course, won the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in each of the last two seasons and also reached the Super League semi-finals but, as their prop Taylor attests, it is not enough.
“The aim is to go one step further,” the England forward told The Yorkshire Post.
“We feel like we have the squad to do it but we need to start the season well.
“Obviously we’ll try and defend the Challenge Cup again but the big priority for us is to try go that one step further and get to the Grand Final.
“The club and fans deserve it and we have the coaching staff and players to do it.
“We start with Huddersfield who we know have a really good team. We’ve put a lot of thought into this – they’ve improved, made a couple of signings – and done a lot of hard work for them.
The aim is to go one step further. Obviously we’ll try and defend the Challenge Cup again but the big priority for us is to try go that one step further and get to the Grand Final.Hull FC’s Scott Taylor
“We’ve really made a case of getting all the Aussie prep’ out of the way last week so we can spend all this one concentrating on Giants to get this job done.
“It is so vital we get off to a good start as well and the difference it will make just getting a win and going to Oz on the back of that.”
Hull have their issues, however, with two of Taylor’s front-row colleagues unavailable.
Both Liam Watts and Chris Green are missing with illness and injury respectively though neither will be prevented from travelling Down Under.
It will mean more responsibility for Taylor in his first competitive game since being awarded the vice-captaincy, backing up new captain Danny Houghton who, fittingly, makes his 300th career appearance tonight.
Hull-born Taylor recalled: “I was over the moon when I found out. I wasn’t ever expecting it with two international captains here in Mini (Italy’s Mark Minichiello) and (Tonga’s) Sika (Manu).
“But it’s great. Now, we’re all looking forward to this opening match; it’ll be a tough contest and we know they have a good pack with the likes of Sebastine Ikahihifo, Michael Lawrence back in the middle and Ryan Hinchcliffe.”
Indeed, Huddersfield will be undaunted by anything Hull throw up, certainly if their last visit is anything to go by when Rick Stone’s side eased to a 46-18 victory last August.
Huddersfield finished eighth last term, though, hampered by a injury-ravaged opening.
This time around they are in far better shape and with plenty of former Hull players – Jordan Turner, Jordan Rankin and the evergreen Danny Brough – they are not short of attacking quality.
Stone said: “Our start got knocked around last year with that injury crisis and it took us a while to find our balance. We played some decent rugby in the end but the challenge is to get that consistency over 30 weeks for the chance to get up to our potential.
“It’s a good tough start for us. Hull have been one of the benchmark teams recently. They probably achieved a bit more than some people thought they could. But they’ve shown some real mental toughness and a will to win.”