Hull FC: Peter Gentle keen to raise standards from the start
COMPETITION for places in the Hull FC squad is already driving the players on to a new level, according to coach Peter Gentle.
Impressed with the efforts of his players so far in pre-season, Gentle says he has already witnessed a lift in the intensity from last year.
Gentle believes his whole squad, with the exception perhaps of his four new academy graduates, are expecting a place in the 17-man squad for the Super League opener against Leeds in February.
And he believes that raised expectation has resulted in a very encouraging start to a long pre-season camp.
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"It has been evident already that we now have increased competition for places here from the way the players are pushing each other on," Gentle told the Mail.
"There is an expectation from all the players now. They expect to be in the first team each week and they all want that first-team jumper.
"I cannot fault anyone for their efforts so far. It's clear that competition between the players has filtered into the squad already and that's great for the coaching staff to see.
"The players all returned to pre-season in good condition and you can tell they've been keeping their fitness up since we finished. I've been delighted with the first few weeks."
Now in the middle of the third week of training, Gentle welcomed back the majority of his senior players this week, as the likes of Richard Horne, Danny Tickle, Aaron Heremaia and Liam Watts returned to the fold to join the club's younger players.
Hull's four academy graduates, Jamie Shaul, Dean Hadley, Ryan Wilson and Alex Starling, had been the first to report for pre-season, joined by the likes of Danny Nicklas, Ben Crooks and James Cunningham.
Now only missing Australian trio Ben Galea, Shannon McDonnell and Daniel Holdsworth, as well as England's Danny Houghton, Tom Briscoe and Gareth Ellis, Hull's numbers on the training field have swelled in recent days.
Put through double fitness sessions, skill drills and even video analysis at this early stage, the return in particular of conditioner Paul Devlin from a fact-finding trip to Australia has seen the intensity rise.
Devlin spent two weeks in Australia visiting NRL clubs to take a close look at how they operate their pre-season programme and to examine the facilities used by Australia's top teams.
"Paul's trip was a big success, he got a lot out of it and he's come back and put our guys through it this week," added Gentle.
"Coaches always say at the start of each pre-season that this one will be tougher, it seems to be something you hear all the time.
"But we genuinely believe this year is tougher and the players are working harder. It needed to be for us to improve."