Written by Zack Wilson
Although they have not been the most consistent side in Super League in 2019, Hull FC had put together a decent run of results in recent weeks.
Lee Radford’s side had certainly ridden out the rough times at the start of a campaign which kicked off with a last-gasp defeat to city rivals Hull Kingston Rovers at KCOM Craven Park.
The Airlie Birds headed into Friday evening’s home clash with Catalans Dragons having won four out of their last five games, with the solitary defeat in that run being the Easter Monday thrashing at St Helens, where they lost 62-16.
They sit in third place on the Super League table, four points behind Warrington Wolves in second, and six behind table-topping St Helens.
Most FC fans would probably find putting up with that defeat a little easier, given that they beat Hull KR 56-12 on Good Friday.
Frustratingly, the team looked decidedly mediocre against the Dragons, with the French team winning 37-6.
Perhaps the busy Easter schedule had taken its toll on the players’ bodies, but the result was an annoying blip after Lee Radford’s team had improved in recent weeks.
While they are a long way from being the team who stormed to successive Challenge Cup final victories in 2016 and 2017, Radford’s team are beginning to look a little more coherent and confident.
One player in particular who has helped with this resurgence is young fullback Connor Wynne.
It has often been a criticism of Hull FC in recent seasons that young players break through into the team, but very few actually go on to establish themselves as first-team players.
Wynne looks like the type of driven, talented young man who can go on to enjoy a fine career in Super League, and possibly go on to even greater things.
Hull coach Lee Radford feels that the fullback is far from the finished article, but he possess plenty of the mental attributes that great players need.
“One character trait that he has that works in his favour is that he doesn’t care, he doesn’t let things get to him and just gets on with things,” Radford told the Daily Mirror.
“But that can only get you so far, and if you want to be the finished article at full-back you have to have a high rugby IQ.
“He doesn’t watch a lot of rugby league at the moment and that can be frustrating for me because I’ll be asking him questions about what certain other full-backs did at the weekend and he can’t answer them.
“But again that’s part of his learning process, knowing he’ll have to analyse the game a bit more.”
One of the old guard at the club who is still putting in the big efforts is hooker Danny Houghton.
Some observers, this writer amongst them, felt that perhaps the time had come for Houghton to take a less prominent role with the Black and Whites.
Houghton looked to have less to offer in attack this season than in previous years, while his fearsome tackling seemed to be taking some of the energy out of his attack.
It is pleasing to report that that assessment looked premature at the very least, as Houghton has continued to offer inspiration and organisation to his team, and is still playing the big minutes too.
Houghton leads the Super League tacking charts at the time of writing, with 587 tackles to his name in 2019. He has missed just 34 tackles.
If the old guard like Houghton can continue to nurture talents like Wynne, the good times could be back at FC very soon.
They just need to iron out the inconsistencies that cause results like Friday’s defeat to Catalans.