Wigan v Hull FC: Australia is a long way to come to lose, admits Radford

Lee Radford.
Lee Radford.
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CLEARLY, the hope is that today’s game in Wollongong is a classic to fulfil one of the tour’s main objectives: make the Australian public sit up and take notice of Super League.

If Hull FC and Wigan can deliver anything near their best, then there is every chance that can happen.

Attract new audiences, break into fresh markets, encourage others to branch out further afield are all positive results that could occur.

But, of course, ask either coach and, for as brilliant as the build-up has been – and it has – the main imperative is to garner two points.

Visiting more than 40 schools, getting out into the communities around Wollongong and Kiama, engaging with fans, hosting coaching clinics – FC boss Lee Radford was astounded when 38 attended one course dwarfing figures he would reach in Hull – and such like is all well and good.

But now it is time for the main business.

Radford was particularly miffed with how his side’s final session went yesterday. Too much dropped ball. But, like with many sides, for FC, a wretched Captain’s Run can often lead to a brilliant game day performance.

It does not seem long ago since they were beating Wigan in the Challenge Cup final last August although he expects a different animal today.

“From their round one fixture I’ve noticed that they are putting a little bit more air on the ball this year,” said Radford. “They’ve also given one or two blokes a little bit more licence to play, so that’s something we’re obviously going to have to adapt to.

“Most importantly, it’s a long way to come to lose a game of rugby, so we’ve got to make sure we get the win. Everything else has been great, but what we’ve got to make sure of is getting the final thing right.”

Masi Matongo was a late withdrawal yesterday with a foot infection, Radford conceding the young forward will be “devastated” but it could mean a chance for Danny Washbrook to reclaim a place.

As idyllic as WIN Stadium is, however, perched right next to the beach in Wollongong, looks can be deceiving.

Paul Johnson, the former Bradford Bulls and Great Britain second-row now head of strength and conditioning at Wigan, said a swirling wind had caused havoc with their kickers as they practiced on the ground earlier in the week, something Wigan coach Shaun Wane also alluded to yesterday.

Kicking won’t be much of an issue for Mickey Paea, the Hull prop who played at the ground for St George Illawarra back in 2009.

He said: “I did have a year here at the Dragons and it’s nice to be back here with this group.

“I didn’t play a lot of games back then but they were a good family club, had a good culture down here. I was still young but got a lot of good benefit from that 12 months.

“There’s only Jason Nightingale still here. He’s the last man standing from that playing group and a great steward for them. But we’ve got Wigan first before those guys and we need to back it up after a good win against Huddersfield. Wigan are a tough group. They’re tough club that they pride themselves on and it will be some match-up in the middle.

“Their pack will come put some heat on us. We know a lot of football will be played down that middle section.”

Wigan executive director Kris Radlinski, meanwhile, feels stand-off Albert Kelly is Hull’s main attacking threat.

“Conditions are made for him here and he was one of the shining lights of Super League last year,” he said, about the ex-Hull KR star.

“He’s really found a place at Hull. I know Shaun and his team will be focusing on how to keep him quiet.

“But I also know the head coach is using our recent record v Hull as motivation as well. I sat in on the preview this morning with the players and it was mentioned that Hull won three one against us last year. We’ve got a record to put straight.”

Dave Craven is on tour with Hull FC in Australia in association with Ladbrokes.com