Tony Smith: ‘Hull FC’s status as the biggest club in Hull has slipped’

John Davidson
Tony Smith Hull FC Hull KR Alamy

The Hull derby kicks off the new Super League campaign on Thursday

Hull FC coach Tony Smith admits his club’s status as the dominant club in the city of Hull has slipped because of the recent rise of Hull KR.

The Robins enjoyed a fantastic 2023 season, reaching the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, finishing fourth on the ladder and making it one game from the Grand Final.

But in contrast the Black and Whites struggled last year, finishing 10th, missing out on the semi-finals and winning just 10 of 27 matches.

Smith says the strong desire of both Hull FC’s fanbase and its players is to make the club top dog in Hull again after several lean seasons.

“The supporters want and they desire success,” he told Love Rugby League.

“Whether they expect it straight away – some will and some will understand it takes time, and that’s not just a coach looking for time.

“We’re making some changes to make some improvements, and we’re hoping those improvements come weekly. I want it to be as quick as the supporters want it.

“I think the players do too, I don’t think the players that are still there want it to continue to be how it’s been. So we’re all ready for change.

“Now whether we can deliver the success that’s desired, how long that will take – I can’t exactly say. But we’d like it to be sooner rather than later and we’re all working very hard towards that.

“But it’s more they want it, they want to be a big club again and I think even our noisy neighbours have probably taken over some of that mantle. By the time I left FC I want them to be successful, be a big club and be on the right track and we’re the big club in the city again.

“That’s part of my desire and that’s the challenge and what I’m charged with doing.”

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Hull FC boss Tony Smith: ‘I think even our noisy neighbours have probably taken over some of that mantle’

Hull FC have the larger fanbase and bigger average attendance than their cross city rivals.

But in recent years Hull KR have consistently finished higher on the Super League ladder, have had more success in derby encounters and made strong progress with off the field initiatives.

Smith, a former Hull KR coach, believes the Black and Whites’ mantle as the bigger club in the East Riding of Yorkshire has been under attack.

“Yeah I do think it has slipped, with the results and where we’ve sat on the table,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s there to be argued with. I think our support within the city is enormous, and its desire for success within the city is probably bigger, but we’ve been on the backend of some results that haven’t favoured us, although the last time we did play them we did win on their patch.

“But they’ve had some big days on our home ground that is still in our memories. That will have an affect on how we approach the first game as well for those who are part of it.

“For those who weren’t a part of it, it isn’t part of their memories so they can start with a fresh and a clean slate.

“But certainly for those who were part of some of those humiliations, we don’t want it to happen again. We’ll be out there fighting for it.”

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Mouth-watering Hull derby to kick off new Super League season

Hull FC have had a large amount of turnover in the off-season with eight players departing, including the retirement of club stalwarts Scott Taylor and Jamie Shaul.

Nine new players have been signed, with four recruits from the NRL headlined by Newcastle Knights playmaker Fa’amanu Brown.

The Hull derby will launch the new Super League season on Thursday, February 15, and Smith cannot wait for the occasion.

“I just think its captured the attention of the whole game – we’re starting with such a big match on night one, of round one,” he said.

“We feel privileged to be part of it and I think it’s the right choice in terms of which game to be put on for game one.”

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