HULL FC legend Gareth Ellis is training again to be “prepared” in case he becomes the club’s latest player to come out of retirement.
The former Great Britain forward played the last game of his decorated career when leading the Black and Whites at Leeds Rhinos in the Super League semi-final last September.
However, more than eight months later and now aged 37, Hull’s football manager is contemplating taking to the field once more to relieve the burden on FC’s injury-hit squad.
Ex-England centre Kirk Yeaman, who retired at the end of 2016, has already done likewise and was yesterday re-registered in time for Sunday’s Magic Weekend derby against Hull KR.
Hull have lost prop Josh Bowden for the rest of the season after he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament at Featherstone Rovers last week, fellow front-row Brad Fash (broken jaw) is missing for another two weeks while loose forward Jordan Abdull is out for some time with a broken leg.
England front-row Scott Taylor remains doubtful for Sunday and head coach Lee Radford will also leave it until Saturday for another prop – Mickey Paea – and centre Jack Logan to prove their fitness.
With the injuries mounting up and with how tight things are with salary cap, it sort of dawned on me that maybe I should start training again if there is a chance of me playing.Gareth Ellis
But Hull are also mainly stricken in the backline with halves Marc Sneyd and Albert Kelly, centre Carlos Tuimavave and winger Fetuli Talanoa all sidelined for lengthy periods while wideman Bureta Faraimo is due to start a two-game ban.
Indeed, Radford revealed he only had 12 players training on Monday although he did yesterday complete the signing of Doncaster half-back Liam Harris.
Ellis, who famously captained FC to successive Challenge Cup final wins before calling time on his career, has been in training with FC this week but - unlike Harris and Yeaman - is not expected to be immediately in contention for Sunday’s game in Newcastle.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “With the injuries mounting up and with how tight things are with salary cap, it sort of dawned on me that maybe I should start training again if there is a chance of me playing.
“I thought I should start doing a little bit so I am more prepared if the opportunity does then come.
“To be fair, it is probably backs where we’re struggling most and it was 20 years ago since I started as a centre. I have definitely got slower since then!
“But it’s one of those things that if the chance does come I’ll be in a better position by training out there with the boys.”
Ellis added: “I still can’t make up my mind whether it’s a good idea or not.
“In theory it seems like a really good one but I don’t know when it actually happens – if I am to play – how I will be feeling the next day.
“I have quite enjoyed being out training with the lads again. It doesn’t feel much different to how it did last year so from that point of view it’s been really good.
“It might not come around – it might – but at least if I’ve trained I’ll be in a better position than if it was dropped on me just a few days before a match.”
Ellis would not be the first player to complete such a U-turn.
His former Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain team-mate Jamie Peacock did just that in 2016 when Hull KR’s head of rugby appeared for the Robins 11 months after his last game.
Similarly, Radford himself came out of retirement when Hull assistant coach to face Rovers in the 2012 Good Friday derby although he was still just 33 at the time.
And now Yeaman - who made 374 appearances over 16 years for the Black and Whites - is set to do the same.
He has been on the club’s coaching staff since retiring, working as a conditioner, but he has been in practice of late.
“Straight after the Featherstone game, Radders gave me the nod and told me that I might be needed in the coming weeks with the injuries we picked up,” he said, Tuimavave, Talanoa and Faraimo all sidelined after incidents in last Thursday’s controversial Cup game.
“I’ve had my head down training hard since I found out I could be needed and I’m ready to go.
“I’ll find out Friday for certain if I’m going to be playing this weekend, but there’s no better game to make your comeback in than the derby game.
“For me personally, the match means a lot to me and I love being involved with them.”
Now aged 34, no player has scored more tries in the derby for either side than Yeaman.
But he admitted: “It’s a tough sport and I’d be stupid to think coming back after 20 months out was going to be easy.
“I know what I’m up against but I can’t stress how excited I am to get back out there and get the boots back on once again.
“I’ve kept myself in shape and always thought at the back of my mind that there could be another chance like this after staying on as part of the coaching staff.
“I retired when I’d just turned 33 so I was still reasonably young.
“If I can help while there’s all these injuries, it’s an honour.”