Where Hull FC’s 2024 start ranks among their all-time worst Super League starts

Ben Olawumi
Tony Smith

Tony Smith

Hull FC have now parted ways with Tony Smith following a miserable start to 2024, winning just one of their eight games across Super League and the Challenge Cup.

Plenty of unwanted records have been set by the Black & Whites over the last few months, with hope amongst the club’s fanbase that the dismissal of Smith will bring a new dawn at the MKM Stadium and a new lease of life.

But as the saying goes, ‘sometimes you have to look back before you can move forward’, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Just how bad was the start to this year for Hull in comparison to years gone by? To make that judgement, below we’ve ranked the worst starts that the Black & Whites have made to a Super League season since their arrival to the top flight back in 1998.

As Smith got seven games before being given the elbow, that’s the measurement we’ve used. We’re obviously aware that FC have already been dumped out of the cup this year too, but with cup games constantly changing on the calendar year-on-year, it would be unfair to include those.

So, here goes, how many victories did Hull pick up over the first seven league games of the season in years gone by compared to 2024?

5. 2016, 2018, 2020 – 3 wins in 7

Lee Radford, Hull FC
Lee Radford, Hull FC head coach between September 2013 and March 2020

It wasn’t plausible to include every single year in our findings, so we chose the cut off of three wins in the first seven Super League games of the year.

After all, if you’re winning more than half of your games (i.e. four or more of seven) then there’s not much to worry about for most teams!

On three occasions, three wins from seven has been the return – 2016, 2018 and 2020. Lee Radford was the man in charge at the start of all three of those campaigns, famously dismissed live on Sky Sports in March 2020 following a defeat at home against Warrington Wolves. We’re sure Hull fans would be a lot happier with three from seven this year!

4. 2007 & 2013 – 2 wins and 1 draw in 7

Hull FC v Catalans Dragons 2007
Hull FC’s Scott Wheeldon is tackled by Catalans Dragons’ Gregory Mounis (right) during the Super League Round 1 clash in 2007, with the game ending in a 10-10 draw

Before golden point became a thing, draws were slightly more common, with Hull picking one up in addition to two victories in both 2007 & 2013 across their first seven games of the season.

In ’07, under the tutelage of Peter Sharp, they drew 10-10 at home against Catalans Dragons in Round 1 and lost the next three before securing back-to-back wins against Huddersfield Giants & St Helens, with the seventh game of the year a defeat at Wigan Warriors.

Six years later, in 2013, they repeated the same points tally across the opening seven with Peter Gentle at the helm. The Black & Whites only had to wait until Round 2 for their first win that year though, beating Bradford Bulls at the then-known KC Stadium. Their draw came away at St Helens, when four tries and three goals apiece saw a 22-22 scoreline.

3. 1998, 2008, 2011, 2015, 2023 – 2 wins in 7

Huddersfield Giants v Hull FC 2015
Hull FC won their opening game of the season away against Huddersfield Giants in 2015, but would win just one more of their next six

FC have won just two of their first seven Super League games on five occasions, including last year under Smith when they beat both Castleford Tigers & Leeds Rhinos to start the campaign before losing a total of seven on the spin, making it two wins from their first nine overall. It’s two in seven for the sake of our comparison however.

It was a similar story back in 1998, their first year as a Super League outfit. Still known as Hull Sharks, the Airlie Birds – under Peter Walsh – kickstarted the league campaign with wins against Sheffield Eagles & London Broncos before losing the next seven.

Notably, ’98 had seen them win two of three Challenge Cup games at the start of the year prior to the Super League season commencing, and reaching the quarter-finals as a newly-promoted side softened the blow somewhat. 2008, 2011 & 2015 are the other years in which Hull have won two of their first seven in Super League.

2. 2024 – 1 win in 7

Hull KR fans at Hull FC
Hull FC have lost six of their opening seven Super League games this year, including two thumping defeats against cross-city rivals Hull KR

Here we have it… as bad as this year has been so far for Hull, that one win against London has saved it from being level as their worst-ever start to a Super League campaign.

BUT… and we must stress this, it has been absolutely dire so far in 2024 and simply not good enough for where FC’s aims and ambitions now lie. Weak in attack, woeful in defence and discipline in the gutter, it’s now up to the players to show that it was Smith that was the problem and not just a distinct lack of quality throughout the squad as some pundits have suggested.

Even the win they picked up against the newly-promoted Broncos, who have been comfortably beaten by pretty much everyone else they’ve faced to date this year, wasn’t convincing and that says it all, really. Not good enough from the Black & Whites in any area at the moment.

1. 1999 – 0 wins in 7

Steve Prescott
Steve Prescott in action for Hull Sharks in 1999, who that year lost their first seven Super League games of the season

The only year worse than the current one for Hull in terms of their start to a Super League season was 1999, their second campaign in Super League. As Walsh neared the end of his tenure, his side began the campaign with eight defeats on the spin, including a Challenge Cup exit at Castleford which kicked off the season.

FC actually won their eighth Super League game of the year in ’99 to bring an end to the winless run, beating Wakefield Trinity 29-22 at Belle Vue to do so on a Bank Holiday Monday at the start of May, with the late Steve Prescott scoring a try, kicking four ‘normal’ goals and a drop goal for good measure.

That was one of just five wins all year for the Sharks, who didn’t come out on top in a game again after that until the end of June, losing the next eight in a row after that win at Wakefield to make it just one victory in their first 16 Super League outings of ’99. With Walsh dismissed in May, they still finished above Huddersfield on points difference though!