John Cartwright’s Hull FC in-tray: half-back pairing, contract dilemmas and youth

Aaron Bower

With confirmation that John Cartwright will be Hull FC’s next head coach in 2025, attention is already beginning to turn towards the size of the task awaiting the Australian when he gets to England.

For a club that’s undergone huge issues on and off the field in recent years, it’s clear there’s plenty of work to be done for Cartwright – and that work will already be well underway, as he remains in his post with NRL side Brisbane as their assistant coach.

Here’s the big things that will perhaps be near the top of Cartwright’s agenda.

Lean on a colleague to get to grips with Super League

Lee Briers Brisbane Broncos Alamy

Barring a short spell with Salford in the 1990s, Cartwright’s experience of Super League is, well, nil. That’s not necessarily a disaster: ask any of the NRL assistants who’ve come to England in the past without prior experience.

But what’s essential for Cartwright is that he immerses himself in the product and the competition over the next six months before he gets to England. Cartwright has a fair ally to lean on for knowledge though – fellow Brisbane assistant Lee Briers, who has revolutionised the Broncos’ attacking fortunes.

Find a half-back partner for Jake Trueman

Jake Trueman Hull FC Alamy
Jake Trueman in action for Hull FC

Cartwright will want to avoid the sheer chaos that has engulfed Hull’s half-back positions this year. Nu Brown, Morgan Smith, Ben Reynolds, Jack Charles and Jake Trueman have all had – or will have – a crack in the pivots: and Cartwright will know he needs a settled pairing to start 2025.

One of those positions will clearly be taken by Trueman, who remains an immense talent Hull can build around long-term. But working alongside Richie Myler, the new Hull head coach will have to decide whether he entrusts the reins to Charles, or whether they go big in the recruitment market once again.

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Make brave calls on senior players

Hull FC’s Jayden Okunbor – Alamy

To suggest recruitment has been a mess at Hull in recent years would be an understatement. Of the numerous signings they made in the most recent off-season, one has left permanently in Nu Brown and a number of others, including Franklin Pele and Jayden Okunbor, are out on loan in the Championship already.

Cartwright will know some of those players well from his lengthy time in the NRL, and it may well have to be that he has to have some tough conversations and make some big decisions about the futures of players that already look on the fringes at Hull.

Decide if there’s a future for two icons

Danny Houghton Hull FC Alamy
Hull FC captain Danny Houghton – Alamy

Perhaps the call on the futures of Danny Houghton and Carlos Tuimavave has already been made. But with both off-contract at the end of the season if it hasn’t been made already, it will have to be done soon.

Cartwright has to decide whether he can accommodate two modern-day icons of Hull into his short-term plans. It’s clear neither will be around for the next few years, but it’s whether they can offer something in 2025 as he settles into life at Hull and begins to put together his long-term vision.

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Embrace – and use – Hull’s youth system

Jack Charles
Hull FC’s Jack Charles

If there has been one positive this year for Hull, it’s the amount of youth they’ve blooded in difficult circumstances.

Players like the aforementioned Jack Charles have had valuable Super League experience which, by the time Cartwright arrives next year, will benefit his squad depth immensely. All those young players will have top-flight game-time under their belt, and will be much stronger for it.

There’s been great strides made at Hull in recent years to develop their youth structure – it’s vital Cartwright embraces that and continues to build on it. For all of the talk of big-name signings and marquee money being spent, there’s a valuable crop of youngsters who need to be a critical part of the future.

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