2021 Season Preview: Hull FC

Hodgson faces great expectations


There hasn’t been a lot of change during the off-season on the black and white side of Hull.

The Airlie Birds’ biggest loss, who has not been replaced from outside the club, is Ratu Naulago who has joined Bristol rugby union club.

The winger was a superb signing after joining Hull from the Army in 2019. His speed will be greatly missed.

Josh Jones’ move from Salford never really worked out and so he has left to rejoin Ian Watson at Huddersfield Giants.

Gareth Ellis has once again retired from the sport, but doesn’t leave the club. He has now moved into an assistant coaching role. Hull will miss Ellis’ huge experience on the field but his aim will be to make sure that comes across on the training field.

Albert Kelly has returned home to Australia, where he is having trials with Brisbane Broncos after spending time in England with both clubs in Hull.

Elsewhere, Kieran Buchanan and Liam Harris have joined Batley and Halifax respectively and Lewis Bienek moves to Castleford Tigers in search of more regular Super League game time.

The new signings

Hull FC have made one big signing off the field and another big signing on the field too.

Their new face on the field is a direct replacement for Albert Kelly in the halves.

Josh Reynolds heads to the KCOM Stadium after a turbulent three years at Wests Tigers. The halfback spent many seasons with Canterbury Bulldogs, his first club in the NRL but moved on to the Tigers in 2018. Since then, he has only played 22 NRL games and suffered heartache off the field.

His move to Super League, at the age of 31, presents him with a fresh start and if Brett Hodgson can unlock Reynolds’ full potential then he will prove a real threat alongside Marc Sneyd.

Hodgson was appointed to the head-coaching role in preference to club stalwart Andy Last, and he will no doubt discover how enthusiastic the Hull fans are, but how unforgiving they can be if their team’s performance is below par.

The spine

Brett Hodgson gave an insight into what we are likely to see in Hull FC’s spine in 2021 when he revealed this season’s squad numbers.

The eye-catching, but not unsurprising, revelation was that Jake Connor will wear the number one shirt this year.

He played well in that position towards the end of last year, benefitting from getting hold of the ball more than in his natural centre position.

The halves are likely to be set in stone if things go to plan with injuries. Josh Reynolds and Marc Sneyd are both very experienced halfbacks who should lead their pack around the field expertly. The club do have young halfback Ben McNamara in reserve and he impressed in his cameos last season.

Danny Houghton continues with the number nine shirt although he was quite often utilised off the bench last year under the coaching of Andy Last.

Still only 32, Houghton has a few years left in him but Jordan Johnstone will be used in the hooking role also and could well start games in Houghton’s place, as he did frequently in 2020.

Connor Wynne and Jamie Shaul are both more than capable fullbacks who could step into the fold, particularly Shaul, who has, at times, been one of the best running fullbacks in the league but who is currently undergoing a long-term recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

The pack

The pack has a familiar feel to it, but there are a few faces missing from last year, which should mean that some of the players on the fringe in 2020 could get more game time this year.

The front row will be led by experienced prop Scott Taylor, with Tevita Satae used off the bench to bring huge impact into the game. Josh Bowden quite often started games last year alongside Taylor.

Both Andre Savelio and Manu Ma’u are formidable players in the second row, although neither completely fulfilled their potential last year, so Hodgson will be hoping he can unlock their talent this year, particularly from Ma’u who, if he does play at the top of his game, could be one of the best forwards in Super League.

Joe Cator’s transfer from Leigh to Hull FC was one of the best of the season last year and, now a year older, he’ll be playing an even bigger part this year in the loose forward position alongside Ligi Sao.

Jordan Lane, Brad Fash, Jack Brown and Masi Matongo add plenty of depth to the Airlie Birds’ operation up front.

The threequarters

Hull will have to do without the talents of Ratu Naulago this year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have some fierce talent in their ranks.

Wingers Bureta Faraimo and Mahe Fonua are both cannonball type players who punch huge holes in defences coming out of their own end, creating fast play off the back of which their pack can thrive.

Carlos Tuimavave and Josh Griffin are both very gifted centres who have plenty of experience, with Tuimavave being voted the club’s player of the year in 2020. Jake Connor and Fonua can both play in the centre positions if needed. But Cameron Scott and Jude Ferreira represent great young talents in that position too.

Adam Swift provides cover in the wing position after signing from St Helens ahead of 2020. He was unfortunate to suffer an early injury last year, but he can be called upon with great confidence by Hodgson if and when injuries occur.

The youngsters

Quite a few of Hull FC’s younger players are now progressing to become regular first-team members.

Players like Jordan Lane, Joe Cator and Brad Fash will likely play big minutes for the black and whites this year in the pack. But there is a fresh batch of young stars coming through too.

Connor Wynne broke through in 2019 while Ben McNamara and Jack Brown impressed last year when they got their chances.

Cameron Scott has gained experience both with Hull and on loan in the Championship, but he faces a tough task to oust Carlos Tuimavave or Josh Griffin from the team, so he may have to bide his time for an opportunity.

And there are high expectations for Jude Ferreira, a highly rated young centre who signed a three-year deal with Hull FC at the end of 2020.

A realistic aim for 2021

Hull FC had a great end to last year under Andy Last, getting just one game away from the Super League Grand Final.

Their lack of recruitment up to this point is perhaps concerning, but their faithful fans will be expecting their side to do as well this year, if not better.

So Brett Hodgson and his side will have to be aiming for the playoffs this year.

Hull FC have also been very successful in the Challenge Cup under Lee Radford so a Cup run would be a great chance for success in 2021.

Squad numbers: 1 Jake Connor, 2 Bureta Faraimo, 3 Carlos Tuimavave, 4 Josh Griffin, 5 Mahe Fonua, 6 Josh Reynolds, 7 Marc Sneyd, 8 Scott Taylor, 9 Danny Houghton, 10 Tevita Satae, 11 Andre Savelio, 12 Manu Ma’u, 13 Ligi Sao, 14 Jordan Johnstone, 15 Joe Cator, 16 Jordan Lane, 17 Brad Fash, 19 Ben McNamara, 20 Jack Brown, 21 Adam Swift, 22 Josh Bowden, 23 Connor Wynne, 24 Cameron Scott, 25 Masi Matongo, 26 Jude Ferreira, 29 Jamie Shaul

Ins: Josh Reynolds (Wests Tigers)

Outs: Lewis Bienek (Castleford Tigers), Kieran Buchanan (Batley Bulldogs), Gareth Ellis (Retired), Liam Harris (Halifax Panthers), Josh Jones (Huddersfield Giants), Albert Kelly (Released), Ratu Naulago (Bristol RU)

Coaching Team

Head Coach: Brett Hodgson
Emerging talent & Attack Coach: Kieron Purtill
Assistant Coach: Gareth Ellis
Head of High Performance: Paul Hatton
Sports Scientist: Tom Bennett
Player Welfare Manager: Iafeta Palea’aesina
Assistant Conditioner: Kirk Yeaman
Sports Therapist: Jordan Mounsey
Sports Physiotherapist: Chris John
Match Day Team Manager: Colin Stephenson

Club management

Chairman: Adam Pearson
Chief Executive: James Clark
Marketing & Communications Manager: Tom Gooch
Commercial Manager: Nick Derbyshire
Finance Director: Nigel Hansford
Finance Manager: Angela Molyneux
Head of Hull FC Foundation: James Price
School Partnerships Manager: Richard Tate
Rugby League Development Manager: Lee Crooks
Lottery Manager: Serena Molyneux

Club Colours: Home Kit: Black and white hoops inspired by Johnny Whiteley
Away Kit: Light blue with black and white Vee.

Betfred odds to win the Grand Final: 12/1

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.