FOR Liam Watts, essentially a rugby-loving lad from Castleford, preparing to play his 150th game in Hull colours at a place called Wollongong is all slightly surreal.
The juggernaut prop hopes to be fit in time for the Black and Whites’ historic fixture against Wigan Warriors tomorrow, ready to mark his own milestone moment in sunny New South Wales.
However, from the club’s training base in Kiama, just south of Sydney, Watts did admit the tour has certainly been an eye-opener.
“Obviously, the flight part of it was a bit tough at times,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“It’s the furthest I’ve flown. The furthest before that was Tenerife so I’ll never moan about those four-and-a-half hour flights again!
“That probably just compares to me driving to Pontefract if you’re talking the Hull commute...
“It’s been a good trip and everyone has enjoyed it so far. I think we’ve come to the right destination; we’re out of the way and we can concentrate on what we need to concentrate on.
“We’ve trained well and now we’re looking forward to playing at WIN Stadium.
“I never even realised it was my 150th game for the club, though. I do remember the first well. It was in Hull against Huddersfield.
“Me and Ryan McGoldrick both made our debuts in the Help For Heroes armed forces game so that was a pretty special one, to be fair. Obviously, this is a special occasion, too, to be out here for this and it’d be nice to pull the jersey on in Wollongong and get that notched up.”
The only reason Watts – who has won back-to-back Ladbrokes Challenge Cup finals and is a mainstay of Lee Radford’s side – is unsure about his place is that he is still nursing a slight hamstring strain that kept him out of last week’s Super League opener against Huddersfield.
“It’s been plaguing me a bit but there’s been no rush and there’s still no rush,” said the 27-year-old, who has replaced Brad Fash in the only change to Hull’s 19-man squad.
“There’s nothing set in stone that I’ll definitely play this week. But, if after the team run it’s no good, I’ll give it another week.
“The guys last Thursday played really well in that win over Giants and they’ll want to play again.”
Wigan, who Hull beat in last year’s Challenge Cup final, started out with a win, too, easily overcoming Salford Red Devils.
“They’re playing a bit of a different style of rugby to what they normally play so we’ve left no stone unturned ahead of this one,” added the former Hull KR front-row.
“Wigan had a bit of criticism last year with how they finished and so they’ll want to be on top of their game now. We know it’ll be a tough encounter but everyone is looking forward to the prospect.”
If Watts does not make it, he could feature in the second part of the Airlie Birds’s tour – a game against NRL opponents St George Illawarra in Sydney a week tomorrow.
Although tomorrow’s contest is the first Super League game outside of Europe, the England hopeful believes it could be the first of many as the competition looks to global markets.
“I think it will be a success and a building block moving forward,” continued Watts.
“I can definitely see it on the horizon (more Super League games in Australia) not just for us but other clubs in general.
“If it gets the exposure the game needs then why not?”
For online version to include tagline Dave Craven is on tour with Hull FC in Australia in association with Ladbrokes.com