WHEN Fetuli Talanoa left Sydney for Hull in 2013 he had been working as a bin man, out of the sport for two years having also suffered a life-threatening illness and wondering if he would ever even rediscover his love for the sport.
Yet the Tongan winger flies back there this evening for the club’s tour of New South Wales having become a true Airlie Birds legend.
That was illustrated once more last night, his quickfire hat-trick ensuring FC started their Super League season with a comfortable win over Huddersfield Giants.
Talanoa is out of contract at the end of this campaign – one of 11 Hull players in that position – but if he continues in this vein the 30-year-old will surely be continuing his love affair with the Black and Whites.
Granted, Hull, who face Wigan Warriors in Wollongong next Saturday, did not have it all their own way having trailed 12-10 at the break following an unconvincing first-half display.
But ex-South Sydney star Talanoa scored his treble in the space of just 14 minutes meaning they were suddenly 34-12 ahead just after the hour mark and ready to board tonight’s flight with the job done.
Marc Sneyd, typically, was central to it all, his 40/20 and then a smart pass from Josh Griffin laying on Talanoa’s first before the scrum-half lofted a lovely chip for the Tongan’s second.
Ex-Huddersfield centre Jake Connor sliced over soon after before Talanoa walked in for his third with the visiting defence left worryingly brittle as Mark Minichiello attacked their left flank.
In fairness, Giants were also missing Jermaine McGillvary, their injured England World Cup star who would ordinarily having been marking the dangerous Hull wideman, and they were without his usual centre and captain Leroy Cudjoe, too.
Hull – with new captain Danny Houghton making his 300th career appearance – had clearly done their homework to expose that duo’s replacements Lee Gaskell and Darnell McIntosh.
When Huddersfield full-back Jake Mamo dropped another kick, the rout was completed as early as the 63rd minute, opposite number Jamie Shaul running in and Sneyd finishing with seven goals from eight attempts.
Initially, Hull – with Bureta Faraimo debuting – had all the early pressure, largely on the back of four successive penalties as Huddersfield struggled to get foothold in the game.
However, strangely, the hosts opted to kick for goal whenever in range, Sneyd taking his first two points as early as the third minute and accepting another soon after.
With the latter, Giants looked on the ropes, Danny Brough hanging onto Sika Manu’s leg too long when the Tonga captain barrelled close.
It was surprising Lee Radford’s side did not apply more pressure for the try, which is something their opponents did when they got a penalty of their own, Connor having squandered possession.
That said, the defensive effort from Hull was embarrassing as Huddersfield’s Ryan Hinchcliffe forced his way over.
If St George Illawarra see that, they may feel they can take a rest from pre-season training in the build-up to their Sydney contest.
Giants added their second try in the 18th minute after a clever play from Adam O’Brien out of dummy-half, his dinked kick finding Ukuma Ta’ai with plenty of time to touch down, Brough slotting his second conversion.
Gaining in confidence, and finding space on the edges, former Hull centre Jordan Turner went close, held up over the goalline, before they immediately switched to the right where Gaskell’s pass seemed certain to furnish McIntosh with a try.
Nevertheless, Talanoa came in off his wing and got the merest of touches while the ball was in flight to divert it into touch.
It was perhaps as crucial as any of his trio of tries; Hull could have been staring at an 18-4 deficit but instead were still in the contest.
Next, Mamo was bundled into touch by Connor and with some poor final plays, Giants lost their way.
Admittedly, Mamo had a penalty harshly awarded against him when in possession on his own 20m. That saw them cede possession for Albert Kelly’s 36th minute try, the Dream Team stand-off arrowing over proving too powerful for Turner, to get Hull back in touch.
However, the second half was abysmal for Rick Stone’s side who host Warrington Wolves at home next Thursday while the Challenge Cup holders Hull prepare for their historic contest in Wollongong.
Hull FC: Shaul; Faraimo, Connor, Griffin, Talanoa; Kelly, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Paea, Minichiello, Manu, Hadley. Substitutes: Bowden, Abdull, Turgut, Matongo.
Huddersfield Giants: Mamo; McIntosh, Gaskell, Turner, Murphy; Rankin, Brough; Walne, O’Brien, Ta’ai, Roberts, Lawrence, Hinchcliffe. Substitutes: Ikahihifo, Leeming, Clough, Smith.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Leigh).