IT IS sometimes forgotten as the plaudits rightly flow ahead of Gareth Ellis’s imminent retirement that Hull FC are already so fortunate to boast a player of such a very similar ilk to their influential captain.
Mark Minichiello might not be as decorated as the immense former Great Britain international but, at 35, he is just seven months younger than Ellis and certainly possesses many of the same attributes as his distinguished fellow back-row.
Unquestionable professionalism, a tireless work ethic and correct attitude, driving standards continually with such high-levels of performance, the indomitable Australian has been a crucial signing for Lee Radford since arriving from Gold Coast Titans at the end of 2014.
Fortunately, for the double-chasing Airlie Birds, Minichiello has decided to go around one more year; it is hard to imagine this increasingly impressive Hull side being without both of their relentless machines in 2018.
Ellis, understandably, gained most of the headlines as he scored an important try in his final home appearance during Thursday night’s epic 19-18 win over his first club Wakefield Trinity.
But Radford, always aware of the importance of every cog, was quick to praise Minichiello’s “special” effort as he crucially charged down Liam Finn’s drop goal in the closing stages.
It illustrated once more the forward’s indefatigable nature and was testimony yet again to the remarkable fitness levels that Radford regularly refers to.
Moreover, Minichiello was there yet again to apply pressure moments later when Finn tried one more attempt from closer in with just 18 seconds left on the clock – and agonisingly missed.
“Our season was on the line wasn’t it?” said the Italian international, with Wakefield trying to displace them from the top-four.
“Sometimes games come down to small little efforts. I just saw him line up for the first one and just did everything I could to get myself in front.
“It’s one of those things that you do for the team and thankfully it paid off.
“(With the second) maybe I just did enough to make him spray it to the left but I actually didn’t know (it had missed) until I saw the replay.
“I was very happy at that point.”
It was Hull’s first win in four Super 8s games – their Challenge Cup final success coming in the middle of that sequence – and meant their hopes of reaching Old Trafford remain on course ahead of Friday’s final Super 8s game at leaders Castleford Tigers.
“It was a crazy old game and we didn’t start too well,” admitted Minichiello, after Wakefield surged 10-0 ahead inside 21 minutes.
“I thought Wakefield controlled the first half really well.
“We hung in there and then sort of addressed it at half-time; we began to show a bit more energy and control the ball.
“We came out in the second half and I thought we did that really well. We got ourselves back in front and just did enough to hold on. It was a frustrating game but we’re very happy to get the two points.”
Hull had drawn back level 12-12 early in that second period before ex-Leeds Rhinos star Ellis’s 70th minute converted try put them 18-12 ahead.
That proved a crucial point as they went ahead for the first time and it was fitting that Ellis, such a totem for Hull since joining from Wests Tigers ahead of 2013, came to the fore in that manner.
Minichiello, a warring opponent during Ellis’s four years in the NRL before becoming team-mates, said: “He definitely deserves to go out like he has at his home stadium.
“I’d love to send him out with the Super League trophy under his belt, too, as he deserves it.
“He’s a champion player and a champion bloke. Hopefully three more (wins) for him would be the icing on the cake.”
It is the glorious finish everyone at Hull – and many throughout the game – hope will occur for one of the sport’s true greats who lifted two titles with Leeds before heading Down Under.
But, as Radford rightly points out, Minichiello has never won a Grand Final at all throughout his own 16-year professional career.
His sheer desire to alter that record was evident with that lung-busting effort to deny Finn.
If Hull do go on claim the title,, there will be no more deserving Super League winner.