THERE have been notable changes around a reflective Hull FC during the last week.
Thankfully, they have been positive changes, much-needed, too, and head coach Lee Radford hopes his squad’s new approach will lead to an alteration in their chances of long-term success.
Victory against Widnes Vikings tonight would be an indicator that these alterations, stemming from “clear-the-air talks” after last Thursday’s dismal derby loss to Hull KR, are not just fleeting.
The requisite response was clearly there as they battled to a 28-20 victory at champions St Helens on Easter Monday, only a third victory of the season, but for this under-performing East Yorkshire club there has been so many false dawns in recent years.
That said, Radford, who was under mounting pressure at KC Stadium, concedes the triumph was timely to say the least.
“It was relieving to get that result,” he said, with owner Adam Pearson saying Hull required two wins from three games over this holiday period to stand any chance of getting back on target with his aspirations.
“After Thursday it was a tough place to be here. We said a couple of things the next day and it was nice to see a response to that.
“It was good we cleared the air, and for me too as I had one or two things to get off my chest, as did certain individuals.
“What was nice was before we all went away we signed off in agreement. We all agreed effort has not been an issue, but there were areas we could improve on and we saw that make their way onto the field on Monday.
“Not only that, in and around the training environment is it noticeable that one or two things that got said on Friday have been picked up and certain individuals are doing the extras that are being asked of them.
“You hope the Saints game will be the spark (to turn the season), but we have to cut out the errors in defence that have cost us and take chances when they come.”
Widnes started their Easter with an impressive 30-10 rout of Warrington Wolves on the same evening Hull were stumbling towards a derby embarrassment.
They rested eight players, however, for Monday’s trip to Catalans Dragons and subsequently lost 32-16, but it means the likes of Super League Dream Team stand-off Kevin Brown, half-back partner Joe Mellor and dangerous full-back Rhys Hanbury will all return tonight invigorated.
Radford, who only truly has Setaimata Sa on hand to bolster his squad, said: “It (resting players) will be great if it pays off for them. Hopefully we will make sure that won’t happen and if we take four points from six over Easter it will be very important.
“We just need to make sure the effort we gave to get Monday’s victory is not wasted on Friday night.
“Widnes may be fresher than us and they’ll bring their spine back in, but we have to get through that barrier.
“It is going to be very tough, but we have to defend with energy and negate their threats. Widnes are playing some really good football and you can see Brett Hodgson’s influence in their offence.”
At least the 10th-placed visitors have lost Danny Tickle, the ex-Hull and England second-row who serves a one-game ban.
And the return of Sa, the former Kiwi centre, after his lay-off with a broken vertebrae will undoubtedly lift depleted Hull.
They are still without another centre in Kirk Yeaman, plus captain Gareth Ellis and scrum-half Marc Sneyd, but Radford said: “It is brilliant to have Sa back for us.
“When you are thin on the ground you need all the troops you can get, and to have him back is great.
“He’s not played much this year yet and it’s been a real shame for him and us because he had a fantastic pre-season.
“Sa started great at Huddersfield and then it went downhill from there. Fit, on the field and available for us, we’ve got a fantastic player who adds a presence which is quality.”
The former Sydney Rooster, 27, has missed the last six games after fracturing his back against Salford, but will bring Hull another threat in attack and greater solidity defensively, too.
Hull are 11th, only two points from bottom yet just three adrift of Wigan Warriors in fifth,
Their season, not just Sa’s, can really begin in earnest tonight.