As part of a new, regular feature, we map out the key things every club must do in the off-season to raise their chances of success in 2017. Our latest club in focus is Hull FC.
Stand-off: Stick or twist?
Hull finished the year with Carlos Tuimavave in the stand-off berth, playing alongside Marc Sneyd. They do have Jake Connor arriving from Huddersfield (more on him later), but you wonder if there’s still the potential for FC to try and act and get another half-back in through the door. It’s a decision that may have already been made behind closed doors: but on the face of it, it’s a difficult decision for Hull to make – stick with what they’ve got, or take a punt on another half?
Decide on Jake Connor’s role in the team
Connor’s arrival from Huddersfield is an impressive coup for Hull. The youngster was in demand, not least from the Giants themselves, who wanted to keep him for 2017. But with him arriving at the KCOM Stadium, Hull need to decide on his best position in a new-look FC side. Is he a starting centre? Is he in direct competition for the halves? Or will he vie with Jamie Shaul for the fullback role?
Use the World Club Series disappointment as a positive
Clearly it was a blow for Hull FC to miss out on selection for a shortened 2017 World Club Series – but that week break, as well as the distraction being in the tournament can provide, should be seen as a positive now for Hull. 2017 will be a jam-packed year, and for a side who didn’t have a break to speak of last season, not being in the series has to be turned into a positive for Hull’s pre-season preparation.
Trust youth in a hectic 2017 schedule
With so many games packed into a season that sees the World Cup at the end of it – meaning two double-header weekends – Hull will have to blood some youth at some point. Luckily for FC, they possess plenty of talent in that particular field. The likes of Jack Downs, Jack Logan, Masi Matongo are all on the verge of the first-team in one way or another: expect them to not only feature in 2016, but to flourish.
Prepare for the future
It is unavoidable that some of Hull’s best players are nearing the conclusion of their careers. Captain Gareth Ellis, forward Mark Minichiello and blockbuster interchange Frank Pritchard are all the wrong side of 30, and 2017 will be a crucial year for Hull in ensuring that their departures from the club – whenever they may be – are not felt too harshly. The aforementioned crop of youngsters will go a long way to bridging the gap.