FINALLY winning at Wembley this year ensured coach Lee Radford would be forever enshrined in Hull FC folklore but, bizarrely, he hopes their famous Challenge Cup triumph will rarely be mentioned in the future.
For all lifting the trophy ended decades of hurt at the national stadium – August’s win over Warrington Wolves was the first time the Airlie Birds prospered there in nine attempts – Radford looks ahead to 2017 wanting that to be just the start of a period of sustained glory.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post about a momentous 2016, he said: “The last time we won the Challenge Cup was in ’05 and, 10 years on, whatever promo’ we did, whatever dinner we went to, they still showed footage of that.
“Now, having won it again, our challenge as a club is to make sure it doesn’t take as long to do so again and that (Wembley) becomes a distant memory.
“We don’t want to be showing the 2016 footage 10 years down the line as we’ve not done anything in between. That’s the goal.”
There was, of course, an immediate opportunity to lift two more pieces of silverware after that Wembley triumph but, having led Super League for most of the season, the East Yorkshire club stumbled badly to miss out on both the League Leaders’ Shield and Grand Final.
They are not the first side to have struggled to ‘back-up’ and will not be the last but Radford – who won ‘Coach of the Year’ – conceded it has only spurred them on to make sure they do not fall short in 2017.
“It was probably another step in the right direction on the year before and to break that hoodoo of Wembley was huge for the club,” he said, a run of four defeats in five games following the Challenge Cup ultimately dashing hopes of a treble.
“The effect it had afterwards showed how big a deal it was for the players and the supporters.
“It was bizarre; we’d been beaten a couple of times and I’m still getting pats on the back and shakes of the hand when out and around the town.
“I’m sat there p***ed off and people were coming up to congratulate me so it was surreal. It didn’t sit well at all but it’s done now and I’m really glad. Ultimately, we finished the season as winners but not as champions; we want to push as hard as we can to change that.”
Hull have not won a league championship since 1983 and have just a solitary Grand Final appearance in 2006 but there is firm belief they now have the foundations in place to correct both issues.
Admittedly, dealing better with the Super 8s aspect of the campaign is paramount and Radford accepts he will have to rotate his squad more in 2017 to improve their chances of finishing strongly.
He had been buoyed by the fact his squad largely avoided serious injuries last season and he was able to consistently select his best players.
But the Hull-born 37-year-old admitted that left some jaded at the business end.
“I think it had a detrimental effect,” added the former Bradford Bulls forward.
“It’s a real Catch-22. Having more confidence in rotating your squad obviously freshens people up but for that to happen you have to be winning so the minute you start making some changes and you lose you want to put out your best 17. It’s a double-edged sword.
“But I just think mentally the staff and group have got to find another gear when we go into the Eights.
“It didn’t happen last time and I think that’s a mental challenge for us. I’m not a psychologist – I don’t know how to change things mentally – but if we start to think that now, hopefully, when it does happen, we will be ready to take the next step.
“We want to be a real threat to everyone in the comp’ – ultimately that’s what we’re striving for – and if we can win those big ones at the end of the year even better.”
Hull have strengthened for that challenge with the signings of Salford centre Josh Griffin, Huddersfield utility back Jake Connor, rookie Halifax centre Nick Rawsthorne and, most intriguingly, Hull KR’s maverick half-back Albert Kelly.
Australian Kelly fell out of favour with Rovers at the end of last season having returned late from a trip back home but, undeniably, he is one of Super League’s most exciting talents.
Certainly, he could bring the extra creative edge Hull were missing in that final run-in.
“I’m privy to a little bit of what happened at KR so I can understand a bit of his point of view and probably some of theirs, too,” said Radford.
“But I think he’ll complement us massively the way we play. You only have to have a look at his highlights to see he can score from distance – a bit like Jamie Shaul – and we haven’t got too many of those in the team.
“When he played for Rovers he was the first person you highlighted in preview, that’s for sure.
“He’s come for the right reasons. He’s left a deal he was very comfortable on. It’s not a money-motivated move. I don’t see it as a risk and, hopefully, he wants success in his career.
“I don’t think he’s tasted that yet and, hopefully, we’ll be pushing some of the best sides on a weekly basis next year.”
Radford, who plans to regularly name a replacement back on the bench for the first time in 2017, believes there will be more expectancy than ever on his side to perform. “Whether you’ve won 10 Grand Finals or not won anything in 10 years, they still expect you to win 10 Grand Finals in this city!” he joked.
“The pressure is there more than at most clubs. We won’t float under the radar, that’s for sure, but I don’t think we did after 10 rounds last season. We were making a go of it and teams were recognising that.”