THAT ELUSIVE first Super League title managed to evade them again this term but Marc Sneyd believes Hull FC need only a “couple of tweaks” to remedy matters in 2018.
The Airlie Birds have become masters of negotiating the dangers and pitfalls of Challenge Cup rugby, winning the famous trophy at Wembley in each of the last two seasons under Lee Radford.
A few times last season we got caught up playing summer rugby in wet weather conditions which inevitably killed us.Hull FC’s Marc Sneyd
Indeed Sneyd, their prolific scrum-half, claimed the Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the-match in both victories.
However, they have still not managed to slalom all the way to an Old Trafford success, losing in the semi-final at Leeds Rhinos this time around having previously lost at the same stage at Wigan in 2016.
Now deep into their pre-season training with the opening friendly against Hull KR scheduled for January 14, Sneyd is optimistic about chances of securing a first league championship since 1983, before he was even born.
“We’ve got everything we need to win trophies,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“We’ve shown that by winning two Challenge Cups.
“Coming towards the back end of last season I think it was just about tweaking a couple of things when the weather changed.
“A few times last season we got caught up playing summer rugby in wet weather conditions which inevitably killed us.
“But we gave ourselves a good chance of getting there (Old Trafford). Obviously, we were beaten by two points at Leeds which is no disgrace in anyone’s book.
“As long as we kick on for next year I think we’ll be alright. We do need to push on and tweak a couple of things but I think we’ll be fine if we do that and results will show.”
Of course, there has been some changes in personnel for 2018 but, crucially, not many, particularly in the spine of the team.
Sneyd and stand-off Albert Kelly – who hit it off immediately after his move from Hull KR and gained a place in the Dream Team – have a season together under their belts and, though the talismanic captain and loose forward Gareth Ellis has retired, Radford has numerous options for the No 13 role.
Experienced Tonga prop Mickey Paea returns after a two-year stint at Newcastle Knights, second-row Dean Hadley is also back after an excellent season-long loan with Wakefield Trinity while USA winger Bureta Faraimo, from New Zealand Warriors, is seen as a like-for-like replacement for Mahe Fonua.
“I definitely think that helps, there being minimal changes,” added Sneyd.
“Mickey’s come back but he’s been here before so he walked straight back on from where left off.
“With me and Alby we’re fairly settled.
“We have a settled spine now with (full-back) Jamie Shaul and (hooker) Danny Houghton both playing outstanding.
“I’ve not minded pre-season, either. Cold weather like we’ve had is like summer in Oldham where I’m from.
“It really doesn’t bother me. It’s actually quite enjoyable watching some of the overseas guys dealing with snow in their face. It’s fun.”
When it comes to title challengers, champions Leeds are, of course, expected to be strong again along with League Leaders’ Shield winners Castleford Tigers and the usual suspects such as Wigan Warriors.
However, Sneyd is also expecting big things from Warrington Wolves who – like Leeds in 2016 – endured the ignominy of being trapped in the bottom-four despite finishing top just a year earlier.
Admittedly, Warrington escaped the Qualifiers with some ease – just as Rhinos did before – and, with Australian Steve Price taking over from long-serving head coach Tony Smith plus a raft of new signings including Bryson Goodwin and Sitaleki Akauola, there is a sense of change occurring at Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Sneyd – preparing for his fourth season at Hull since joining from Salford Red Devils – said: “I personally actually think Warrington will be back up there.
“They’ve done similar to what Leeds did the year before and Warrington aren’t the sort of team to back it up with another season like that.
“I reckon they’ll come back strong and obviously really determined to right a few wrongs,” he added.
Meanwhile, having watched from afar as England reached the World Cup final earlier this month, Sneyd admitted he still harbours hopes of eventually earning international recognition himself.
The former Castleford star turns 27 in February and should be reaching his peak years.
With his kicking repertoire especially, many onlookers felt he should have been given a chance by Wayne Bennett by now but – with Man of Steel Luke Gale in the box seat for that No 7 jersey – he will not stress about the situation.
Asked whether he feels he can make a push for it, with New Zealand arriving in the north of England for a three-Test series at the end of 2018, Sneyd insisted: “I hope so but, like I always say, obviously it’s not up to me.
“I’ll just work as hard as I can in this pre-season, look to get a good start to the year and hopefully put my name in the hat.”