Fonua hails Hodgson impact

Mahe Fonua says that new Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson is already having an impact at the club as the pair renew their working relationship.

Threequarter Fonua worked under Hodgson when he was assistant coach at Wests Tigers, and is relishing the opportunity to team up with him again.

The new Black and Whites boss is approaching two weeks in the job, and Fonua believes that a lengthy pre-season, which was extended by last week’s decision to delay the Super League campaign by a fortnight, will aid Hodgson, who won the Man of Steel trophy in 2009 during his first season in Super League with Huddersfield Giants.

Fonua explained: “We go back to when I played for Wests Tigers and I knew he would bring a breath of fresh air to the club.

“In the two weeks we’ve been training he’s come in and brought in some new processes and all the boys have really bought in to it.

“The feedback from him after training has been that he’s been really happy, especially with some of the weather conditions we’ve had with frozen pitches or muddy grounds with water up to our knees.

“He’s changing things, but doing it gradually.

“We’re not even two weeks in yet and he’s tweaking things here and there.

“With the season being pushed back we’ve still got ten weeks or so until round one, so there’s time to implement his full changes.

“That will help.

“He can implement whatever he wants to ingrain into us boys, building the culture and driving the standards we will be playing with this year.

“It will be good for the group to bond together during that time the way we need to under Hodgo.”

Fonua admits he has sympathised with the situation of leading Premier League players on the topical subject of stopping goal celebrations.

Football has been wrangling with that issue – and the late changing of fixtures – but Fonua says both have to become part of professional sport in the current climate of a global pandemic.

He explained: “It is pretty tough – whether you’ve been playing sport from being a young kid or just started, it’s second nature to celebrate after you score a try or goal.

“Your initial thought is to go to the closest team-mate and celebrate together, but you then had one team-mate running over saying ‘no, no, no’ and doing air fives and touching elbows instead.

“It’s maybe different now as well, as football is playing in stricter times than we got back in August.

“But goals don’t come to often, so I can understand where they’re coming from.

“We were conscious of the fines – I think it was £250 and if you were a repeat offender it could go up.

“A few of the boys had a warning before the fines came into place.

“In saying that, there was the game against Castleford when Ben McNamara scored a try on his debut.

“You can never replicate that feeling on your debut and that was one that the boys were happy to pay a fine for.”

Fonua was part of the Hull side that faced Leeds with just 24 hours notice in October, and he believes that element of sport is one other codes have to embrace.

He recalled: “The boys were mentally preparing for a seven-day turnaround, and then there were rumours about us taking a game the next day.

“The boys were talking on the group chat and said surely not, but eventually it was confirmed at about 8pm that night that we’d be taking a game on with 24 hours’ notice.

“Our coach Andy Last said he wouldn’t have taken it on if he didn’t think we were capable of turning up and doing a job, and all the boys were in high spirits.

“We were all keen when it was put to us and everybody was on board straight away.

“We knew what the season was like, and a couple of weeks before Castleford had to cover a game for us, so in a way we wanted to return the favour.

“It was certainly different preparation for that game – we got together early on the day of the match at our training facility, had a little team walk and had the ball in hand.

“Then we went home for a bit before heading back and meeting up to go to Headingley.

“All the boys were more than keen – I don’t recall any player complaining about it.

“There was a sense of responsibly to the competition. We were told once we resumed after the first lockdown that there could be games thrown at us in midweek with not much notice.

“No one thought it would be 24 hours’ notice, but we all wanted to do whatever needed to be done to get our competition completed.”

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