IT is not often you will find a Hull FC head coach openly waxing lyrical about one of Hull KR’s players or vice versa.
It is just not the done thing in a city given the fierce rivalry between the two clubs.
Yet for Lee Radford, as departing Rovers co-captain Josh Hodgson prepares for his England debut against Samoa, the sense of pride and delight is unavoidable.
This is because he first started coaching the 24-year-old when he was still in primary school and watched him grow into one of the most talented players the rugby league-obsessed city has produced in recent memory.
“I’ve known him since he was eight years old and coached him from the age of eight until 16,” explained Hull chief Radford, who was Hodgson’s first real mentor at East Hull ARLFC.
“I’m really pleased for Josh and it’s a great achievement for the kid. With him going to Canberra (Raiders) next year, too, this will give him a taste of international football and he’ll certainly benefit from that.
“He was a pleasure to coach growing up and to see him now play for England is a proud moment for me.”
Radford was an industrious back-row forward for the all-conquering Bradford Bulls when he first came across Hodgson while coaching his local amateur club in his spare time.
“Josh always had talent,” he recalled, Canberra having now paid £100,000 for his services.
“We did have a difference of opinion, though, when he was younger at East Hull as physically he was always a big kid. I thought he’d end up at 13, not hooker.
“It’s strange then that he’s ended up playing both for Hull KR and I know physically he is really suited for the comp’ over there in Oz; he’s quick around the ruck and with two referees in the NRL and how fast their rucks are, I’m sure he’ll be dynamite for Canberra.”
Fittingly, Radford also played alongside Hodgson with the Black and Whites early in the hooker’s Super League career, before he made the cross-city switch in 2009.
“I was still playing for Bradford at the time when he signed here but I spoke to Andy Last at Hull about him,” he said. “We had a great age group with East Hull that year with about eight kids signed up professionally.”