IT has been an eventful start to Hull FC’s season, and far from a satisfying one for irritated head coach Lee Radford.
Approaching their fifth game – weather permitting, at least – a return of just one win for the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup holders has certainly troubled the Airlie Birds’ chief.
Granted, one of the three defeats so far was the trial game against St George-Illawarra that formed the second part of their New South Wales tour after the league loss to Wigan Warriors in Wollongong.
That two-week trip was always likely to cause some form of disruption, but it will not be used as an excuse by the East Yorkshire club who were well aware of the potential negative impacts when undertaking the challenge.
Still, with Warrington Wolves arriving at the KCOM Stadium this evening, Radford accepts there has to be swift improvements made after Saturday’s 28-18 loss at likely title rivals Castleford Tigers.
Hull have not prospered since the opening night 38-12 success against Huddersfield Giants – admittedly their last home game – on February 1.
“I wanted to win all of our games during February; I want to be at the top of the table and challenging,” said Radford.
“We’re not and we haven’t been at it. Consistency is an issue after we started like a house on fire against Huddersfield.
“We need to be more clinical. We didn’t do that against Castleford and we got burnt.
“You don’t forget how to catch a rugby ball after jumping off the plane from Australia.
“We need to be better with our skill set this week because you can’t afford to face eight defensive sets back to back, like we did against Cas.
“We are playing a team this week that if we don’t play our best, we’ll get beat.
“If you’re in this camp – and you know anything about the game – you don’t need any more evidence that you need to be bang at it on Friday.
“If you do you’re probably in the wrong environment.”
Warrington may have endured Qualifiers turmoil last term, but, under new coach Steve Price, the club that pipped Hull to the 2016 League Leaders’ Shield are beginning to show signs of revival.
Following defeats against champions Leeds Rhinos and at Huddersfield, they beat Widnes Vikings and last week overcame Wigan.
Radford said: “The biggest thing for them this year is they have signed unbelievably well and I imagine it’s cost them a pretty penny.
“We are playing one of the best squads in the competition. If we are not at it, we’ll lose.
“We’ve got a couple of boys missing this week, so that’s up to the other boys now to step up.”
One of those will be centre Jake Connor who, with prolific stand-off Albert Kelly missing due to a concussion, gets to feature in his favoured No 6 role.
“There is a real opportunity for him to stake his claim,” said Radford, about the versatile former Huddersfield Giant.
“I have always said he has the tools to be a future pivot and he is one of the most talented players I’ve coached.
“It’s a great chance for him and hopefully we get the ball in his hands as often as we can.
“We would love for the players who are missing to be out on the field, but it’s part and parcel of the game. It’s about adapting and other players stepping up and playing well.”
Hull have also lost experienced prop Mickey Paea after his progress in his second stint at the club was slowed by injury.
“Mickey has fractured his hand so I think he will be out for three or four weeks,” added Radford, who is still without captain Danny Houghton, too.
“I thought St George Illawarra and Castleford were his two strongest performances so it’s a blow for us and him.
“It’s timely to have Scott Taylor back in this week, but he’s had a staggered pre-season, so it could be a while before we see his best again.”
England prop Taylor underwent appendix surgery in Sydney after the Wigan game, but is back earlier than expected.
However, fellow front-row Chris Green – whose only game was against St George-Illawarra – remains on the sidelines, but not for much longer after the birth of his child on Wednesday.
“Congrats to them,” Radford continued.
“It (the birth) has taken longer than anticipated, but it’s all good. That was why he wasn’t included last week as well.”
Warrington, meanwhile, are missing injured England duo Kevin Brown and Ben Currie.
On his first visit to face Hull, Australian Price said; “At their home ground it’s going to be a tough game.
“Hull have a lot of good individual players. We need to build on our last couple of weeks.
“A solid defensive backbone will be needed on Friday.”