2016 was a seminal year in many respects. The Black & Whites made great strides, some of that can be attributed to the excellent fitness levels of the squad. Conditioning seems to have been key in Hull FC’s ability to deliver a series of impressive victories over the regular season. Nonetheless, after the Challenge Cup, the level of performances started to drop. Part of this can be explained through the usual emotional and physical rigours of our great game but there’s no doubting Coach Lee Radford will have wanted a different outcome to the finale of the Super 8s. No sooner is 2016 over and the fixtures for next season are out. There’s no let up for Hull as they face a series of demanding on the road games. With that in mind, let’s take a closer analysis at how FC will potentially deal with this hectic schedule.
More rotation is inevitable
Let’s not kid ourselves, as FC fans we are used to a full treatment room after years of cruel luck on the medical front. Not only injuries but serious ones that have ended players’ seasons. 2016 really did buck that trend and it was refreshing to see. Paul Hatton – Hull’s Conditioning Coach can take a bow, his hard work definitely hasn’t gone unnoticed by the band of Black & White supporters. The sceptic in me suggests we’d be incredibly lucky to have such a good run with bumps & bruises a year on, so it is crucial that Radders manages his squad wisely. It’s likely come February, that the squad will roll to 34-35 members deep once again and there will be plenty of potential first-teamers eager to make an impression. Stalwarts with impeccable endurance such as Mark Minichiello & Gareth Ellis cannot be expected to carry the torch for an indefinite amount of time. Inevitably, they are reaching stages of their career where their gametime must be managed. Last season, we perhaps didn’t always see Radford hand opportunities to the squad players. In fairness, in the middle of a prolific run of results, it’s madness to change a winning formula. Nevertheless 2017’s fixtures sees some arduous battles. May presents trips to Newcastle for the Magic Weekend, France and a home game at Leigh sandwiched inbetween. Later in July, Hull face Castleford, Saints and Leeds for three consecutive away games. With varying turnarounds Radders will more than likely turn to his squad for able assitance. 2016 saw the emergence of Dean Hadley, Jordan Thompson amongst others as trusted first-teamers. I’ve picked out 5 players who could make their mark next season:
1.) Ross Osbourne
As one door closes, another opens and while Welfare Wonder: Feka Paleaaesina moves onto pastures new, Ross is presented with a great opportunity to join a formidable pack. Feka was able to making fleeting appearances as a squad player last season and Osbourne with added bulk and youthful exhuberance, could finally cement his place in the team.
2.) Jez Litten
Probably only halted from making appearances last season due to a certain Man of Steel who’s ahead of him in the pecking order. While we love having a player with the fitness and consistency of Danny Houghton, the ideal scenario is to definitely start offering the opportunity for an understudy to have gametime. Given international recognition for the England Academy side in May, it would be great to get a glimpse of what he can offer.
3.) Jansin Turgut
Having earned a new deal this month, Jansin was able to make a handful of appearances in the first-team last year. A starring performer in the Under 23’s, it is important he is not left behind with his development and is able to challenge with the likes of Hadley & Thompson to break into that sacred 18-man squad.
4.) Jack Downs
In a similar vein to Turgut, he is another player who you may recollect from 2015. At 21, his best years are clearly ahead of him but he will be expecting to make that transition into the first-team on a more regular basis. A Captain for the Under 23’s, working closely with his first-team equivalent in Gaz Ellis might prove to be the catalyst to his first-team fortunes.
5.) Masimbaashe Motongo
Weighing in at 106kg and standing tall at 186cm, there’s no doubting Masi has the physical attributes to knock dents in Super League defences, all he needs now is the attitude and opportunity to shine. Another Under 23 star performer, much expectation rests on the young Prop’s shoulders. After the success stories of Chris Green & Josh Bowden in 2016, there are high hopes that Masi may follow suit next season.