We all know just how important Friday nights Hull FC fixture is against Dog Dish-winners Castleford.
Realistically, nothing less than a win will do for Lee Radford’s men to secure their place in the semi-finals of the competition. Strangely enough, though I’m always wary of Castleford, at the moment I have a strong feeling of excitement before big Hull games. We have talent across the pitch but this forward pack we are blessed with at the moment is surely the best in Super League.
It’s to be hoped that this fierce forward line can outmaneuver and overpower a much changed Tigers team. It’s sapped the energies of various teams over the 2017 season and each individual has their own attributes. Gone are the days of prop forwards with a gut; FC’s forward-line are a well conditioned fitness machine. With differing skills and experience levels, how has FC’s forward line been so effective recently?
Scotty Taylor: TAG is more than just a battering ram in this team. In recent weeks we’ve seen Scott use some nifty footwork to gain those vital extra metres, take note of his try in the Challenge Cup semi-final against Leeds. He is one of the strongest on the field and his refusal to be put down makes life very difficult for opposition defence. He’s aggressive, vocal, passionate and England selection is inevitable next month.
Liam Watts: TAG & Wattsy go hand in hand on the field, we are extremely lucky to be blessed with two differing yet equally effective forwards. In another life Watts would have been born a half-back; he’s got vision and handling skills that even Albert Kelly would respect. He has a different running style to Taylor but his height makes him difficult to handle. He’s been scapegoated by the RFL this season and you can’t blame him for having a little joke at their expense. As Daz said in his article about the man yesterday, he’s probably the best forward in the competition right now and international recognition must be due this year.
Sika Manu: Many will have heard little of Manu’s name when he arrived ahead of the 2016 season. Overshadowed by Frank Prichard’s arrival at a similar time, for me, he’s probably the most intimidating forward in Super League and it’s no coincidence most of the team seem to hold him in a similar regard. He’s a modern day ‘Mr Nasty’ in the tackle and yet he does it in a subtle manner. You need that little bit of needle within your side and Sika has it down to a fine art. Consistent in metre-making, busts and tackles, he’s another player like Watts who has good handling skills and the perception to run into gaps with a turn of pace.
Mark Minichiello: Mini compliments Manu in the second-row as another experienced pro. His style is similar in that he has a natural attacking game with the added skill of a killer side-step. He may be one of the elder statesmen in the team now but his nutritional routine is apparently the secret to his longevity in the sport. Mini’s defensive game is one of the strongest and sometimes goes under the radar purely because he’s so consistent in what he does.
Gareth Ellis: The retiring Captain is in a similar echelon to Minichiello in that he is a consummate professional in all that he does. His impact on a game is slightly different given he’s used for shorter periods of time but Lee Radford has an uncanny ability to bring him on at crucial times. His aggression in the tackle is probably only rivaled by Manu and sometimes it’s caused him to get injured in the process. Another forward who plays in an intelligent manner on the attack, we’ve seen Gaz roll back the years to his days at centre with well executed runs.
Josh Bowden: Josh’s rise is perhaps the most impressive of the forward-pack. He’s really started to mature as a prop-forward and breaks the line consistently as compared to previous seasons. Bowden has no developed into an automatic starter in Radford’s line-up and given the aggression and purpose that he runs with, you can see why. The crazy thing is that the 25 year old hasn’t even reached his peak yet and UTC think he can go to the next level in seasons to come.
Chris Green: It seems both Bowden and this man have really reaped the rewards of surrounding themselves with top-drawer professionals. Chris was at a cross-roads with his FC career prior to 2016, he simply needed to step-up and thankfully he did. He’s not as explosive as Bowden but runs the ball in hard with the added benefit of a cheeky side-step and offload. Making his return after appendix surgery, that won’t cause Greeny to take a backward step.
It’s the beauty of Hull’s pack that they have such an eclectic mix of personnel. It makes exciting viewing and we’ve not even mentioned the likes of Brad Fash, Jordan Thompson and Masi Matongo, who are knocking on the door for regular first-team action.
With such a formidable forward line you revel watching the physical battle unfold and tonight will be no different.