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Salford 19:30 Hull

Hull FC: Hopes are high at the KC Stadium after a heavy recruitment drive

Last Updated: 01/02/13 2:23pm

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Gareth Ellis: Hull's big off-season signing has been named as the club's new captain

Gareth Ellis: Hull's big off-season signing has been named as the club's new captain

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The arrival of a host of new names, including the marquee signing of Gareth Ellis, means Hull FC will want to be more than just contending for the top eight.

Last season

HULL FC

Coach: Peter Gentle
Captain: Gareth Ellis
2012 finish: 6th
In: Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers), Joe Arundel (Castleford), Daniel Holdsworth (Salford), Jason Crookes (Bradford), Shannon McDonnell, Ben Galea (both Hull KR), Paul Johnson (Wakefield)
Out: Jordan Turner, Willie Manu (both St Helens), Tony Martin, Mike Burnett (both retired), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Martin Aspinwall (Leigh), Reece Lyne (Wakefield), Will Sharp (London Wasps RU), Ryan McGoldrick (released)

Peter Gentle's first year in charge at the KC Stadium experienced several highs, and also the occasional low. In the end, the Airlie Birds soared comfortably into the play-offs.

They managed an opening round win over free-falling Huddersfield at home, then saw their Grand Final dreams dashed when they went down 24-12 to Warrington on the road. It was indeed their form away from Hull that meant they finished the regular season in sixth place.

In contrast, they tasted defeat just once in front of their own fans. Their spectators would have been delighted with a 36-6 thrashing of city rivals KR on a very Good Friday, while round 13 proved lucky as a 34-20 result over Leeds finally put an end to a five-year losing run against the Rhinos.

That win over the reigning champions came during a red-hot start to the campaign that saw them win eight of their first nine outings. However, they did also experience a run of only one victory in seven games in the middle of the summer.

Still, Gentle made sure they edged the three-match series with Rovers despite a devastating last-second loss at Magic Weekend. Revenge proved to be very sweet at Craven Park on a lovely summer evening in July.

Ryan McGoldrick and Jamie Foster - mid-season recruits from Castleford and St Helens respectively - played their part in beating Rovers on the road.Gentle showed he was not afraid to shuffle his pack during the year, including capturing forward Liam Watts from their neighbours.

Ins and Outs

Hull didn't just reel in a big signing for 2013 - they landed the biggest of the lot. Gareth Ellis was not short of offers after announcing he would be heading back from the NRL, but the chance to work again with ex-Wests Tigers assistant Gentle proved the key to his next destination.

The England international has penned a three-year deal after wanting to return home for family reasons. He has spoken about how the ambitions of the club under their coach and chairman Adam Pearson swayed him to the East coast. His impact, on and off the field, should be huge.

It's not like the Black and Whites have stopped there, though; Daniel Holdsworth will hopefully solve a problematic position in the half-backs having been superb for Salford, while Watts' path across the city has been followed by full-back Shannon McDonnell and forward Ben Galea.

While the hope is the new signings will bring some immediate success, the club have not forgotten to look long-term. Joe Arundel, Jason Crookes and Paul Johnson are three talented youngsters who all have plenty of Super League experience under their belts already.

Galea's arrival helps cover for the loss of strong-running second-rower Willie Manu, who will find a familiar face alongside him in the St Helens dressing room in centre Jordan Turner.

Sam Moa has also departed, meaning none of the club's 'Tongan Mafia' (Epalahame Lauaki was the third member) are still around. Will Sharp has returned to the capital to play union for Wasps and fellow winger Reece Lyne will hope to get more first-team opportunities at Wakefield.

Daniel Holdsworth: should finally give Hull a solid option at stand-off after arriving from Salford

Season outlook

James Smailes has covered the Airlie Birds for the Hull Daily Mail for six years having previously worked for the Press Association. He is married with two children and two dogs, meaning peace and quiet is a rare commodity in his house. He's also a fan of football, boxing, golf and tennis.

Here are his thoughts on the season ahead...

"Expectation and excitement has engulfed the black and white side of east Yorkshire in the winter with high hopes 2013 could be a breakthrough year for Hull FC.

So often nothing more than just pretenders to the throne, new faces and a new philosophy have increased anticipation Hull can be genuine trophy challengers.

Six years since they last finished in the top four, ambitious owner Adam Pearson and coach Peter Gentle have set that target for the coming campaign.

Their pursuit will be helped by a host of new faces, headed up by England star Gareth Ellis who has returned to Super League from a hugely successful four-year spell in the NRL with Wests Tigers.

Joining Ellis in a new-look Hull team is ex-Salford stand-off Daniel Holdsworth, brought in to add much-needed direction and leadership to the side.

Young three-quarters Jason Crookes and Joe Arundel will form an untested, but attractive all-English right side, while former Hull KR duo Shannon McDonnell and Ben Galea have swapped east Hull for west to add speed and experience respectively.

How Hull cope with the loss of Willie Manu and Sam Moa, two players to provide a real punch to their pack last season will be intriguing and they'll need former Aussie Test prop Mark O'Meley to provide the grunt up front in his last season before retirement.

Decimated by injuries in 2012, Hull fielded close to 40 players. They will be better for that hardship this campaign with young rising stars like Chris Green, Josh Bowden, Ben Crooks and Tom Lineham stronger for being thrown in the deep end and giving Hull genuine competition for places.

Keeping Holdsworth fit and in form is key to their chances, but do that, and Hull could crash the top four party."

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