This story originally featured in League Express’ Challenge Cup final preview special. To read the full issue, click here – and don’t forget to subscribe to ensure you get our digital edition celebrating this year’s Wembley winners as soon as it is released on Sunday night!
Hull FC captain Gareth Ellis has warned Wigan that the Black and Whites are more confident ahead of this weekend’s Challenge Cup final than they were when they won the trophy 12 months ago.
Hull lifted the proverbial monkey from the club’s back last year when they beat Warrington to record the club’s first-ever win at Wembley at the ninth attempt.
But Ellis believes that with that pressure no longer on Hull’s shoulders, they can head to the capital in bullish mood about retaining the cup this weekend.
He told League Express: “I think we’re just more confident going into it. As a club, a team and as players we’re going into that game with real belief.
“I think we’d be stupid if we hadn’t learned from our experiences in the past. I firmly believe we’re in a much better position than in the past. The thought of going to Wembley and knowing I’ve got another one to look forward to before I retire is very special.”
Ellis also admits that as the final weeks of his career approach, he has personal motivation aplenty to end his career on a high by doing something no Hull side has ever done before.
He said: “We’ve given ourselves a great opportunity to make some history.
“It’s not been our greatest year yet but I don’t know if that leaves us perhaps nicely poised to go and step it up and go into unchartered territory for Hull FC.
“This group now have the chance to do something no Hull side has done before – that excites me, even in the final few weeks of my career. Wembley is a big part of that; to retain the Challenge Cup would be a massive deal for this club and it’s not lost on any of us.”
Ellis also believes that after their season petered out after Wembley 12 months ago, Hull are better positioned than in 2016 to win further silverware.
“The staff have planned for us to be better prepared for the run-in than 12 months ago,” he said.
“They want to structure our season so that we peak at the right time – and that’s us learning from last year as well. I still believe we probably haven’t hit the heights of last year but we’re approaching a key period now and it’s time for us to up the ante.”