Hull FC’s Gareth Ellis ready to tackle new chapter of career

Hull FC’s Gareth Ellis admits he is “learning on the job” as one of the club’s assistant coaches but believes his experience of high-performance environments should help bring crucial added quality to their ranks.

New role: Gareth Ellis. Pictures: Allan McKenzie/SWpix
New role: Gareth Ellis. Pictures: Allan McKenzie/SWpix

The legendary former Great Britain forward officially retired at the end of last season although, due to injury, his final game in Hull colours was the Challenge Cup win over Castleford Tigers in September.

He was given a role on the coaching staff which is now headed by Brett Hodgson, the Australian who was appointed in November to replace interim head coach Andy Last.

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Hull begin the new Betfred Super League season against Huddersfield Giants on March 28 and Ellis, who turns 40 in May, has been working primarily on the squad’s defence.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “It’s been really good. The change of coach has allowed everyone to reset a little bit and reflect on what, if we’re honest, has been a couple of disappointing years.

“For the players – who probably are not happy with how they’ve been playing – this has given them an opportunity to reset, refocus and change a few things.

“That’s instigated from Hodgo, as the head coach, and just the change of voice in some respects has made a big difference to the squad.

“Some of the slightly new ideas have rechallenged them as well and hopefully that will start to build. There’s no excuses; it’s the cultural stuff of the club that needs to change and that doesn’t happen overnight.

In charge: Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson.

“But it is something we’re working really hard on. I’ll admit I’m not the most technical or tactical – that’s something I’m learning on the job – but from a cultural perspective, I’ve been around good, high-performing teams.

“Hopefully, I have got a few things that I can pass down from what I’ve experienced and try to instil them into us as a club.”

There is a sense of a fresh start at the KCOM Stadium, even if the bulk of the squad is that of Lee Radford, the long-serving coach who was sacked last March.

He led them to two memorable Challenge Cup final wins, with Ellis his captain, but inconsistencies in Super League and an inability to make Hull a true force, eventually cost him his job.

Ellis, of course, originally hung up his boots at the end of 2017 to become the East Yorkshire club’s football manager and, later, work on their coaching staff.

But the ex-Leeds Rhinos and Wests Tigers star famously came out of retirement in 2019 to help dig them out of a rut. There is no going back this time and, on his role, he said: “I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s like anything when you start a new job and, here, under a new head coach, it means that it’s challenged me again.

“It’s something that gets me nervous and out of my comfort zone. It’s about me finding ways to find those little nuggets of information that I’ve picked up over the years and, rather than me using them, trying to relay them on to some of our guys.

“Hopefully they can use them in their careers moving forwards.

“It’s a big step for me but it is something where I feel valued and somewhere where I can add value. That’s what I’ll be hoping to do. I’m not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination. I have a lot to learn.

“For example, I didn’t spend long during my career thinking how wingers are supposed to defend. I just shouted at them when they got it wrong!

“All those little intricacies and the detail is something that I’m working on but without the other stuff, the cultural stuff, it’s not worth the energy anyway.

“That’s probably the main focus for us as a team at the minute.”

Hull have only made a solitary signing for 2021 but he is a significant one: New South Wales State of Origin stand-off Josh Reynolds from Ellis’s and Hodgson’s former club Wests.

“I think Josh is going to be a great player for us,” he said, about the 31 year-old Australian.

“It’s not just what he brings as an individual. It’s the experience of being an Origin and NRL player for a number of years but also his attitude; he doesn’t mind getting stuck in which is fantastic, especially for me.

“I’m primarily looking after defence and to see a half-back that is prepared to stick his head in places where often some half-backs aren’t, it is really inspiring for those around him.

“I’m really excited to see how he goes. He can add something different. With (full-back) Jamie Shaul’s injury, it leaves us with a spine of Jake Connor, Marc Sneyd, Danny Houghton and Josh Reynolds; that’s pretty exciting if they can click and build those combinations. There’s some real creativity there. But it’s up to the forwards, obviously, to be gritty enough to lay that platform and allow them to reap the rewards.”

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