Pryce’s mission to return good times to Hull FC

ANOTHER year ends and the traditional yearning for a Hull FC half-back of note comes around once more, getting stronger still.

Leon Pryce - in his new Hull FC kit - ready for the 2015 Super League season.

As we approach 2015, though, the man charged with taking on the Airlie Birds’ playmaker role and helping to finally turn them into a consistent force, for once, looks at ease with the prospect.

Since Paul Cooke’s infamous departure to cross-city rivals Hull KR seven years ago, the Black and Whites have struggled to find 
anyone to fill his creative void.

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Many have come and gone, from former Huddersfield Giants No 6 Chris Thorman to a litany of Australians such as Adam Dykes, Daniel Holdsworth and, most 
recently, Jacob Miller.

But in latest recruit Leon Pryce they have a vastly-experienced player who should be able to handle the intense pressure that comes with the job.

For starters, only Jamie Peacock and Paul Wellens, former team-mates at Bradford Bulls and St Helens respectively, actually exceed his nine 
Super League Grand Finals 

The first of those came on his 18th birthday when hometown Bradford lost to Saints in 1999, making Pryce the youngest player to feature in the Old Trafford showpiece.

Now aged 33, however, the tall half-back has a wealth of accumulated playing knowledge and tactical nous stored away, offering success-starved Hull fans hope he may be the right man to guide them to some rare glory after too many seasons of woe.

Pryce, who arrived on a two-year deal from Catalan Dragons in October, believes it will be a fit that suits both parties.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post on the prospect of taking on that troubled creative mantle at the KC Stadium and, with it, all that expectancy of the rugby-mad locals, he explained: “I enjoy it.

“There’s always pressure when you play rugby but there’ll be no more pressure than I put myself under anyway.

“I am relishing the prospect. Everyone knows how much people love their rugby league in Hull and I want to be able to help bring some good times back here.

“It’s going really well. I’ve been back in England now since October and in training since November. It’s been good to get back home. It was great in France, but it was time to get back here to Yorkshire.”

The ex-Great Britain star, the first Englishman to sign for Catalan after leaving St Helens in 2011, has matured his game even further on the continent and feels that will hold him in good stead for life at Hull, who finished a disappointing 11th last season.

“It felt like a big transition in my first year at Catalan as I’d gone through the whole of my playing career in sides that either made the Grand Final, Challenge Cup final – or both – or playing for Great Britain or England, and all of that was since I was 17,” he said.

“France was different. I was playing in a side that had never really had that and I have not made a final since yet, as an experience, it not only made me a better player but a better person, too.

“It was a good experience to play over there, taste a different culture and live a different lifestyle. I was very lucky to be able to do that – but I’m excited to be back in England.

“A lot of people say Hull haven’t kicked on, but they forget they played in the 2006 Grand Final (loss) against us when I was at Saints and won the Challenge Cup the year before.

“They reached the 2008 Challenge Cup final, too, when we beat them again so they know how to reach finals even if they may not be near the top of the table.

“Obviously, rugby league is the talk of the town here anyway, but there is a lot more pressure on now given the return of relegation in 2015 and sides know they could be dropping down to play Championship sides if they don’t perform.”

Pryce, of course, won the last of his three Super League titles as a Bulls player in 2005, playing alongside Lee Radford, the current Hull coach.

“Throughout my career there have been lots of players who have gone on to become coaches – Steve McNamara, Brian McDermott, Paul Anderson, Radders –and often, as players at the time, I’d never have expected them to,” he admitted.

“But they’ve all played for successful teams under good coaches and know how to win finals so it’s perhaps no surprise they have moved into that field.

“It’s been good working with Radders again but, obviously, there are no matches at the minute and no pressure on the players or coaches. The main test will come when the season starts and the games come around. Then we’ll have a better picture.

“But Hull have invested in Marc Sneyd, who looks a real talent, and they have Jordan Rankin in there and Jamie Shaul, too, so some good combinations in the backs.”

While fellow half-back Sneyd – the £100,000 capture from Salford Red Devils who thrived with Castleford Tigers last term – is set to lead the left channel, Pryce is expected to form a right-side link with NRL second-row signing Mark Minichiello and explosive centre Setaimata Sa in 2015.

You sense it will be a healthy formation.

He added: “I’m no different to anyone else; I want to get to Old Trafford or Wembley and win something again.

“There’s no reason why we can’t.”