Tony Smith wants Hull FC to show mettle in steel city

HULL FC coach Tony Smith has Sheffield firmly in his sights as he ramps up preparations for the new season.

The Black and Whites, under experienced Smith’s stewardship since September, head to the South Yorkshire city to face Mark Aston’s men a week on Sunday, January 22 (3pm).

It’s the first of two pre-season matches, with a visit to Wakefield following on Sunday, February 5 (2pm).

Hull, targeting a first play-off involvement since 2020 after two disappointing campaigns in which they finished eighth (2021) and ninth (2022), start their bid at home to Castleford on Sunday, February 19.

Former Hull KR chief Smith is desperate to hit the ground running with a squad which includes Australian imports Tex Hoy and Jake Clifford at fullback and halfback respectively.

And he views the trip to Sheffield as key, explaining: “We’re in touching distance of the first friendly and we want to be able to put out as strong a side as we can.

“I was really happy with the way the players coped with the first two months of training before Christmas.

“They had a break but with home programmes to follow, then we got together again last Tuesday (January 2).

“This period of pre-season is about stepping things up and it’s important the players manage the increased intensity levels.”

Smith says it’s important to temper the hard work with enjoyment and added: “We have tried to make sessions as interesting and engaging as we can.

“There are some things you just have to do, but we’ve tried to stimulate the players.

“There has been a lot of skill involved, a lot of competition involved and a lot of challenges. And all of the players have responded very well to those factors.”