Gareth Ellis 'could make Hull FC a real force', says Leeds coach Brian McDermott
THE arrival of Gareth Ellis could be the turning point which makes Hull FC genuine title contenders, according to Leeds head coach Brian McDermott.
McDermott's Leeds will welcome their former player back to Headingley on Friday night when the Black and Whites get their season under way against the champions.
The anticipation ahead of the televised game has increased with Hull's new captain going back to a club where he enjoyed great success.
McDermott is aware of that anticipation and expectation and, rather than shy away from talking up Hull's marquee signing, McDermott expects Ellis to take Hull to another level.
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"I'm delighted to see Gareth Ellis back in Super League," McDermott told the Mail. "He's having an influence over Hull which makes them stronger and his presence in Super League makes the competition stronger.
"Gareth has been a fantastic player for Leeds in the past, he went over to the NRL and nailed it over there and I'm sure he will have just as big an influence for Hull now he's back over here."
While many of the pundits are tipping the Rhinos to hold on to the trophy for a third successive year, Hull have been spoken about as a side on the rise and one which could break the traditional top-four domination of Leeds, St Helens, Wigan and Warrington.
McDermott admits there is every chance of that happening and, ahead of his side's tough start against the Black and Whites, he concedes Hull will give his team the toughest of openings.
"We are ready for the season now and are keen for it to start," added McDermott. "We've had a decent pre-season but we can't get too excited and we can't be shouting about it from the roof tops about how good we look because it is pre-season.
"It all starts properly on Friday night against a Hull side who, by all accounts, have gone very well in pre-season. They have some big individuals at Hull who have a big influence on their team and it is going to be a tough start for us on Friday night.
"I expect Hull to be stronger this year and I expect them to be challenging for honours."
The Rhinos have made slow starts to the season in recent years, missing out on the top four for successive campaigns, before winning the Grand Final from sixth and fifth.
Eager to avoid a similar start, McDermott is not concerned with where Leeds finish as long as they are in the Grand Final.
He added: "I don't care how we do it, as long as we are there at the end. You want to win every game, but it's where you finish that counts."