WATCH: Hull FC's Mark Minichiello not going to make the same mistake twice

Ahead of his 400th career game and edging ever closer to retirement, Mark Minichiello insists Hull FC won’t “let our guard down again” in their pursuit of a maiden Grand Final victory.

Mark Minichiello hoists the Challenge Cup for a second time with Hull FC in 2017. (SWPix)
Mark Minichiello hoists the Challenge Cup for a second time with Hull FC in 2017. (SWPix)

The Australian second-row has been one of the East Yorkshire club’s finest-ever overseas signings since joining from Gold Coast Titans at the end of 2014.

A model professional who has helped drive up standards on and off the pitch at the KCOM Stadium, he will head home at the end of the season with at least two Challenge Cup winners’ medals in his luggage after Hull’s Wembley successes in 2016 and 2017.

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But Minichiello, who will reach the 400 milestone against Hull KR tomorrow night, wants more.

Mark Minichiello hoists the Challenge Cup for a second time with Hull FC in 2017. (SWPix)

In-form Hull sit handily-placed third in the table and are in a Cup semi-final next month so they could yet secure a double.

They had chance to do that in 2016 but slipped up painfully in the aftermath of their famous first-ever win at Wembley.

Minichiello, 37, recalled: “As young players you take it for granted and think you’ll play for ever and chances will come.

“In 2016 we were probably victims to that. We won the Cup, had a chance to take the League Leaders’ Shield and play in a Grand Final and we let our guard down.

Mark Minichiello on the charge against Castleford. (SWPix)

“We got beat in the final league game against Warrington, finished third instead and had to go to Wigan in the semi-finals and lost.

“That year we missed an opportunity to do something special and win a Grand Final.

“For someone who has played 20 years and is still striving for a Grand Final, I know how rare they are. Hopefully I get the chance to play in one this year.”

Hull have not been crowned league champions since 1983 and it would be a fitting way for the former Italy captain Minichiello to bow out.

Mark Minichiello scores for Italy against Wales in the 2013 World Cup. (SWPix)

Recollecting his professional debut, he said: “I remember it quite well.

“It was round 12 in 2002 for Sydney Roosters against Penrith, at Penrith.

“We got smashed by the way.

“I came off the bench and played hooker, it was a quick little stint off the bench.

“It would have been nice to have won and we had a quality team… Brad Fittler, Craig Fitzgibbon, Adrian Morley, Craig Wing…. there were a lot of real quality players who went on to dominate and win the Grand Final that year.”

Minichiello was set to make his 400th appearance last week in the win at Catalans but was nursing an injury so instead does so against Rovers at KCOM Craven Park.

“I love playing in the derbies and for it to be my 400th game and playing in that match it makes it a little more special,” he said.

“Or it will if we get the result we want…”

He has still yet to officially finalise his retirement plans but would Minichiello reconsider having seen his former Hull captain Gareth Ellis - now 38 - come out of retirement so successfully this year?

“When your body is feeling good like mine is you always have to consider whether you want to keep playing or not,” he said.

“But there are a lot of other factors. You have to think of your family and the lifestyle we want to live and mentally the challenge of getting up week in and week out; it’s not as easy as everyone thinks and you have to put the work in day in and day out.

“It’s a tough decision after 20 years of professional rugby league. It is a decision I will confirm pretty shortly.”

That game in 2002 was his only match for the Roosters with Minichiello instead making his name at South Sydney, playing 85 times from 2003 to 2006 before moving on to Titans where he made 173 appearances.

He earned six Italy caps, playing in the 2013 and 2017 World Cups and also represented NSW City on five occasions while tomorrow night will be his 130th game for Hull.