White Christmas forecast helps deliver ideal present to Hull FC fans

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IF it does not snow in Hull this winter, the man they call ‘Cranky’ Frank Pritchard might be banging on Motu Tony’s door.

Pritchard, the burly New Zealand forward who toured here in 2005 when the Kiwis won the Tri-Nations, is one of the biggest – both figuratively and literally speaking – Super League signings ahead of the new season.

Frank Pritchard one of Hull FC's new signings for 2016.  Picture|: Bruce Rollinson

Frank Pritchard one of Hull FC's new signings for 2016. Picture|: Bruce Rollinson

He has left Canterbury Bulldogs to join Hull FC on a two-year deal, hoping to have a major impact on both the under-performing East Yorkshire club and the competition as a whole.

But Pritchard, 32, admits it was Tony, his former international team-mate who is now Hull FC director of rugby, who helped secure his prized signature – with a little weather talk.

“There was St Helens, Leeds, Wakefield I think, interested but I eventually narrowed it down to Hull and Catalans,” he explained.

“My kids said they wanted a white Christmas. Motu said it snows in Hull and that sealed it!

“This one was the most suited to myself and my family. The long history I have with Motu helped. It’s not easy negotiating a contract but I played with Motu and know his wife and family.

“He reassured me that Hull was the place for me. He said there’s some good kids here and he identified me as a leader to help those guys come through.

“I’ve been here for two weeks and everything’s been great. My wife and kids arrive on Saturday and I’m looking forward to picking them up.”

There was some drama when it emerged New Zealand Warriors had made a late play to try and persuade Pritchard, who starred with Penrith Panthers before moving to the Bulldogs in 2011, to stay in the Australian National RL.

But the powerful second-row –also dubbed “Frank the Tank” for those wanting to gain an image – ignored their advances and substantially more money to try and revive Hull’s waning fortunes.

“Sometimes money’s not everything,” he added. “Who’s counting? I’m not. I’ve come here to help the club make a change. Earlier in my career when I left Penrith Panthers to go to the Bulldogs, we made some real positive changes and kicked the club on another level.

“It was a real goal of mine and it’s a goal here, too; Hull make the top eight but not the top four and it’s a goal of mine to help the club do that and win a Premiership by the time my contract is up.

“It’s always good to feel wanted by another club, but, in all honesty, everything was sorted with Hull.

“I’d signed my deal and I’m a man of my word, so I told Motu and the coach I’d be here – that was just a minor hurdle, I was always coming here, 100 per cent.”

Hull fans will be thankful; Pritchard is a world-class forward and, if they are to improve on last season’s eighth, the sort of position that has become a worrying trend for the Airlie Birds, then players of such stature are required.

Most critics would say they need creativity more than anything – in fairness, their pack has been sound enough for the large part – but, at the same time, Lee Radford’s side have been accused of lacking snarl when it matters most and Pritchard definitely brings that.

Famous Australian broadcaster Phil Gould, known for his caustic remarks, came up with the ‘Cranky’ line and Pritchard said: “He was having an off day and it stuck ever since.

“I’ve been to the judiciary a couple of times in my career and haven’t been the cleanest bloke on the field with a couple of shoulder charges, but that’s footy.

“The nickname is more playing style rather than personality; I like to play the game wholehearted and if I get red-carded I deal with that after the game!”

Hull also need a winning mentality, something Pritchard brings with him after claiming an NRL title in 2003 with Penrith – his debut year in first-grade – and a minor premiership with Canterbury.

Add on 27 Tests for the Kiwis before switching to Samoa last year and it is easy to see why Radford chased him so hard.

He has played in two more Grand Finals while at Canterbury, alongside England prop James Graham, who told him “to pack warm and expect a battle” for his stint in the UK, and now hopes to follow in a long line of successful New Zealand imports at the Black and Whites.

“There’s a lot of history with the Kiwis here at Hull with people like Stephen Kearney, James Leuluai, Gary Kemble and Richard Swain,” he said, with two more New Zealanders – Sika Manu (Penrith) and Carlos Tuimavave (Newcastle Knights) – joining him along with Tongan Mahe Fonua.

“I’m looking forward to carrying that on in 2016 and beyond. Hopefully, we can push on and join the illustrious names that have played on that list.”