Assistant coach Lee Radford thought Hull FC chief Peter Gentle was joking when told he would be playing in today’s cross-city derby.
The ex-Black and Whites captain retired at the end of last season to take up a position on the Australian’s coaching team.
However, a prop injury crisis means he has been drafted in to the squad for the lunchtime kick-off against fierce rivals Hull KR at the KC Stadium.
“After last Friday’s game against Bradford, Peter said I’d better get ready to lace my boots up,” Radford told the Yorkshire Post.
“I thought it was a wind-up but our Under-20s played the next day and he told me: ‘About last night, I was being serious.’
“It was certainly a bit of a reality check and I’ve had to do a bit more training this week but really it’s the only option.
“If we brought someone in on loan over the Easter period they’re not going to get to know the plays – or players – that quickly whereas I’ve been coaching the lads and so know what we do.
“There may have been an opportunity to buy someone but there’s not enough room under the salary cap to get anyone worth it. I’m happy to do this.”
Indeed, you cannot imagine a better fixture for the fiercely competitive Radford to appear in and he certainly did not need to be asked twice.
Hailing from east Hull and having played nearly 200 games for Hull FC, the intensity of this tribal derby affair was always something he would miss.
But Radford, who turned 33 last week, insisted: “I don’t want to be there just to make the numbers up; I want to make a contribution.
“My fitness isn’t where it should be but I shouldn’t be massively out of shape as I still play rugby union and had a boxing fight on Saturday night.
“I am hoping, though, adrenaline plays a massive part in Friday’s fixture and I can do my bit.”
His unexpected return could be likened to that of Manchester United schemer Paul Scholes, whose calling out of retirement has fired the Red Devils towards another Premier League title.
Radford, however, believes his reappearance will be more fleeting and less seismic.
“I did joke to Peter that it’s like Queensland flying Alfie Langer back from Warrington for the State of Origin,” he added.
“But he bluntly said he wasn’t thinking along those lines.”
Hull, who have lost just once since Gentle arrived from Wests Tigers, hope to prove they are genuine title contenders by defeating Rovers and winning on Easter Monday at fellow high-fliers Huddersfield Giants.