Hull FC chairman Adam Pearson says he hasn’t known adversity like the past 12 months as he masterminds a re-build at the MKM Stadium.
The Black and Whites were thrashed by St Helens at the weekend, their third successive home defeat that has seen them ship 168 points in the process.
They currently sit three points adrift of the play-offs, with three home games left in their last four.
Missing out on the top six for the second successive year would be a disappointment for Hull FC, who continue to struggle to find the consistency that the infrastructure around them perhaps ought to bring.
They have invested in big money signings, brought players in from overseas and changed coach, but it still hasn’t unlocked the door to league success.
And Pearson is now committed to a new strategy, and he says that champions St Helens are an obvious inspiration for change.
In his programme notes for the Saints game, Pearson said: “Our recent progress and announcements regarding youth development and our new facilities are all with our long-term strategy in mind, and it is the sort of pathway that Saints have been one of the best exponents of in recent years.
“They have a team, underpinned by an exceptional youth programme, which many clubs aspire to and we hope in the medium to long-term future we can deliver something akin to that with the significant steps and investment we are making at the club.
“In 25 years in professional sport, I don’t think I’ve known a club face the adversity we have over the last 12 months, but as they say, whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!”
Reducing the average age of the squad
Hull have handed out 12 debuts this season, including seven since the start of July as they introduced new half-back Will Smith, loan signings and more young players.
They have already added Castleford stand-off Jake Trueman, Leeds utility Liam Sutcliffe and Australian playmaker Tex Hoy for 2023, with more moves expected.
On-loan Warrington back-rower Ellis Longstaff is tipped to make his move permanent, while Hull are being heavily linked with Leeds hooker Brad Dwyer.
But as well as signings, it will be the impact of the club’s youngsters that may prove key for Hull’s improvement.
Their academy side has enjoyed a strong season, winning their first nine games, before recent defeats to Leeds, St Helens and Warrington.
It has seen the likes of Charlie Severs, Harvey Barron, Denive Balmforth and Matty Laidlaw handed first team debuts.
Balmforth was signed earlier this season from Warrington, who had rated him as the best hooker at his age group.
Pearson added: “We continue to reduce the average age of our squad and are looking to add a bit of creativity and pace, whilst still pushing hard to spend the salary cap despite the obvious financial pressures we’re facing.
“Everyone is working extremely hard to continue to steer the club away from the recent pandemic and now the ever-challenging financial climate for businesses and homes alike, as we face concerns around significantly reduced central revenues, huge cost increases and the potential effect the current economic landscape may have on consumer spending on match days, memberships and merchandising in the future.
“It is a challenging and concerning time but one we continue to tackle head on with drive and determination to come through the other side.”
Hull have only finished higher than six twice in the past 14 seasons – in 2016 and 2017, when they also won the Challenge Cup in both years.
The defeat to St Helens saw them slip below city rivals Hull KR on points difference.
The two meet at the MKM Stadium in the final round of the season, with Hull FC hosting Wakefield and Toulouse either side of an away game at Salford between them.
It could well have been a clash not only to decide city bragging rights, but to secure the final play-off spot.
But both teams now have lots of work to do to bridge the gap to the three teams above them.
Castleford sit in fifth on 24 points, with Leeds sixth on 23, a point ahead of Salford.
Hull KR and Hull FC are two points further back on 20; with all five teams having five games left to play.