After a season of steady progress in 2015, Hull FC have hit new heights this time around, with Lee Radford’s men currently sitting top of Super League, and preparing for the hotly-anticipated Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final against Warrington Wolves.
Lee was at the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final press event at the iconic Doncaster Racecourse, and the Airlie Birds coach was in confident mood when he sat down for an exclusive chat with Ladbrokes News.
Ladbrokes News: Hull FC have nilled your last two opponents, Widnes and Catalans, notching up 82 points in the process. How impressed have you been with your players of late?
Lee Radford: I’ve been really pleased with our performances throughout the season, and results like the last two games are a real credit to the group we have at Hull.
We really deserve to be where we are – top of Super League and in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final. The lads have produced some very convincing victories, and I’m delighted with what they’re doing.
LN: On that note, you crept into the Super 8’s last season, but it was a very mixed season. What do you put the huge improvement this year down to?
LR: I think it’s a number of things. We’ve recruited some excellent players and coaching staff, developed facilities and we worked flat out in pre-season to try and solve some of the issues we had in games last season.
We finished the regular season in Super League with the second-highest number of clean breaks and were also second for tackle busts. That tells you we were breaking the line, but failing to take all the opportunities we created.
That’s something I think we’ve resolved now, and those things we’ve worked on are bearing fruit for us.
LN: You had to come through a very intense, tight game against Wigan in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final to reach this point. What did you make of that game?
LR: It was such a tough game, and I knew leading up to it that there wouldn’t be much between the two sides.
The manner in which we won the game was really pleasing, because we had to fight for it and really dig deep.
Throughout the cup campaign, we’ve won in different ways. Against St Helens, we blew them off the park and scored 47 points. Then in the quarter-final against Catalans Dragons, we kept them at arm’s length and never looked in danger of losing.
Then the Wigan game was physically tough and we had to fight like hell to beat them. We’ve got the characteristics that are needed to win in different ways, and that’s something the guys have shown on a consistent basis throughout this season.
LN: You’re battling it out for top spot in Super League and the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final against Warrington. What’s your view on the Wire?
LR: They’re a quality side. Tony [Smith] has built a side with so much attacking quality, and I also think they don’t get the credit they deserve for being a strong defensive unit. We have to be at our best to beat them on Saturday – it’s as simple as that.
LN: You were born in Hull, captained the team and now you’re about to lead the Airlie Birds out in a final at Wembley. Do you think that makes the experience even more special?
LR: Yeah, I think so. I was very fortunate to lead the team out in the final against St Helens in 2008, and I had my eldest child there alongside me, and you don’t get many experiences like that in your career.
It’s something I’m going to savour on Saturday. I might look a little bit older than last time, and I definitely have a few less teeth, but that buzz never changes!
LN: Three wins on the bounce for Hull over Warrington. They’ve all been tight, close games, but are you confident of another win over them?
LR: We’re confident in our own ability, whoever we’re up against. Saturday is all about opportunities. I’m sure it’ll be a close game, and we need to ensure we take those opportunities, and if we do so, we’ll win the game. That’s what we have to focus on doing.
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