What can we expect from the Hull clubs in 2019?
11 January 2019 - Written by Zack Wilson
Everything Rugby League takes a look at how the two East Yorkshire clubs might perform in Super League this season.
There has been a certain amount of dismay expressed by FC fans in the close season about the lack of really big signings at the club. The Airlie Birds recruitment has looked pretty modest, especially when compared with some of the players who have joined their rivals in the east of the city.
There are, however, some potential gems in the line-up of new recruits. Lewis Bienek is a giant front rower who made his full international debut for Ireland in the close season.
Levy Nzoungou is another powerful front rower who has arrived from Salford. The 22-year-old French international, who was born in the Congo, was part of the St Helens academy side that won their Grand Final in 2016, so he has talent.
This might be a bit of transition season for Radford’s team. His new players are youngsters who need to develop, and there are still questions about how more experienced players might be deployed.
Danny Houghton is a fine player, but he will need some back-up this season, and may benefit from playing at 13 or even in the halves from time to time.
Jake Connor will be key to the season. If the England stand-off can take his game to yet another level this season, he may become the Airlie Birds’ true star player. He certainly has the potential and the mental strength to lead the team around the pitch and create chances. Now it is up to him to do it.
If Connor really breaks out this season in terms of his talent, then things could go well for FC. As it stands, the fans probably would be wise to have more hope than expectation right now.
HULL KINGSTON ROVERS
This could be a breakout season for Rovers under Tim Sheens. The Australian coach has been in the game for decades, and it is doubtful that there is another coach in Super League who can match the depth of his knowledge and experience.
There is a sense that the challenge of restoring Hull KR to the upper echelons of Super League is a challenge which has really motivated the veteran tactician.
When it comes to recruitment, the Robins have certainly been working hard over the close season.
Two key acquisitions have been Scotland international centre Kane Linnet, and Jimmy Keinhorst, another centre or back rower, from Leeds.
Linnet has hinted that he expects to be deployed in the back row this season.
The likes of Linnet and Keinhorst will add some experience and versatility to the squad, with both able to play either in the centre or back row.
Keinhorst has been handed the number four shirt for the season ahead, perhaps a sign that Sheens expects him to be first choice in the centres.
Another important acquisition is Josh Drinkwater. With Danny McGuire in his final season, and prone to an injury or two, Drinkwater’s presence gives Sheens strength in depth in the halves.
With Chris Atkin rapidly becoming one of Super League’s top halfbacks, the options look good in this area.
Atkin can also fill in at hooker and fullback too, giving Rovers plenty of cover for when the injuries bite.
Danny Addy’s return should also be like having a new player. Rovers missed the Scotland international’s versatility last season.
Weller Hauraki and Ryan Lannon have also arrived to add power in the pack. Youngsters like Will Dagger will develop again too.
Robins fans can probably feel a justified sense of optimism about 2019. It will be interesting to see how they go.