No regrets for Mickey Paea despite missing Hull FC’s back-to-back Wembley success

Mickey Paea playing for Hull FC.
Mickey Paea playing for Hull FC.
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IT WOULD be easy for Mickey Paea to wish he had never left Hull FC.

In the couple of years he was away from the East Yorkshire club they at last ended that infamous hoodoo, remarkably winning not just one Challenge Cup final at Wembley but two.

The Tonga prop, meanwhile, was in the NRL enduring a difficult time with Newcastle Knights who, this year, finished bottom for the third season running.

To make matters worse, long before the end, Paea had fallen out of favour with Newcastle chief Nathan Brown, the former Huddersfield Giants coach. It was announced in August he would return to the Airlie Birds for 2018.

Now the likeable front-row, who spent two years with Hull initially, is back in familiar surroundings preparing for the new season in February.

Asked about missing out on those back-to-back Challenge Cup glories, Paea conceded: “Part of me there was regret, but you have to live by your decisions.

You have to live by your decisions. I’m man enough to do that. At the time I thought it was the best decision for me to go home and have another crack in the NRL.

Hull FC’s Mickey Paea

“I’m man enough to do that. At the time I thought it was the best decision for me to go home and have another crack in the NRL.

“Yes, it wasn’t great. We had two tough years at the Knights, but apart from that in terms of a life decision it was great.

“We went back and me and my wife had our baby boy Elijah. We’d been trying for four years in our time here so for me that’s the biggest achievement. So, there’s no regret.”

The 31-year-old Sydney-born player continued: “At the time I didn’t know if I’d have the opportunity to get back (to the NRL).

“But just to see if I could still play at that level was important.

“I felt for the most part of the year I could. In saying that, I didn’t feel I was part of the fabric or part of the plans so that was hard to swallow.

“But that’s that now and it’s gone. I wish them success to come and think they will go well.

“It’s good to be back here, though, and be amongst the environment of a winning team – now surrounded by these pictures of success.”

The return of Paea, who excelled with the Black and Whites after making his mark in Super League during a two-year stint at city rivals Hull KR, is an astute piece of business by head coach Lee Radford.

More precisely, of course, it was the club’s football manager Motu Tony who initiated the deal, the Kiwi who has had such success with signings for Hull before ending his life in the UK to return to New Zealand last month.

“It wasn’t a tough decision in terms of coming back to Hull,” explained Paea.

“I’d spoken to Motu and he ran the idea by me. At the time it wasn’t a decision I’d take lightly as these decisions are big ones. It’s not just that you’re going to the other side of the world, but you want to make sure you’re right upstairs in your head as if you do come back you want to give a good account of yourself.

“A couple of weeks later I spoke to him again and, having spoken to my wife and after two tough years at Knights, it was great to get the opportunity to go back to a place I love.

“It’s a place I know can bring the best out of me and where mentally I feel I can contribute and really add to the squad.

“They were all the things I had to run by myself. It wasn’t a quick decision, but an easy one in the end. For Radders to give me that opportunity, too, he sees value in me. I can’t wait to repay the faith.”

Radford knew he needed a player of Paea’s experience, however, given loose forward Gareth Ellis, the club’s inspirational captain both on and off the field since arriving from Wests Tigers in 2012, has now retired and taken on the role vacated by Tony.

“You can’t replace a Gareth Ellis,” said Paea, a former Junior Kangaroos captain.

“There’s only a few can do what he’s done – playing in the elite for such a long period of their career.

“People like Jamie Peacock and I’d chuck Mini (Hull’s Mark Minichiello) in that category, too – just special types of players.

“Obviously if I can help ease some of that load then great. But the players from when I left have really kicked on. Liam Watts, Josh Bowden, Chris Green... that’s only going to benefit the squad.”

One thing Hull did not achieve during his sojourn was a Grand Final appearance, falling at the semi-final stage both seasons, meaning they still have not won a league title since 1983.

Remedying that will be uppermost in the club’s minds in 2018

With his power, stamina, defensive ability and leadership quality, Hull’s pack will certainly be well-served by the determined player who admits this could be his final move.

“I’ve signed for two years and I think that will do me,” he said.

“You never know, but we’ll reassess later. I’m just focusing on doing well in this first year and then I’ll take a year at a time.”