Hull FC progress delights 'transformed prop' Jay Pitts
IF there is one player who epitomises the changing face of Hull FC it is Jay Pitts. Arriving from Leeds last Easter, Pitts joined a club at the start of their journey under new coach Peter Gentle.
A club in the infancy of a transformation, finding their feet with a new style, new approach and renewed determination.
Rough around the edges, both Pitts and his Hull side have been reshaped and added bulk to make them a more powerful prospect.
Approaching his first year anniversary at the KC, the 23-year-old says the changes in both himself and a place he's more than happy to call home are very noticeable.
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"The club has changed massively in the last year that I have been here," explains Pitts.
"They've put a lot of money into the training ground and the facilities and it is very professional. If you train right during the week it makes it a lot easier to play well on a weekend and everyone from the coaches downward have been very professional.
"We are working hard and the training is really intense. What is important is the boys all really want to be there, they enjoy the training and we can't wait for the games to come around each week."
While the transformation of the club in the past year, from training ground improvements, sports science, club travel and of course on-field matters, have been easy for Pitts to observe, his own development hasn't been as visible to him. That is until he stops and thinks about it.
"It is hard to tell when you are training because you see everyone every day and the changes pass you by in a way," adds Pitts.
"But then you look back at photos from last year and you can see how much change there is. The credit for that has to go to our conditioners Paul Devlin and Brent Dickinson, because they've done a great job with all the players.
"It has made me a better player, I feel stronger and more confident on the pitch."
Pitts has every reason to feel confident right now. Having switched from being a wide back rower to the middle as effectively a third prop, the ex-Wakefield man has added size in pre-season and started the new campaign in impressive fashion.
Bringing an off-load and a good side step and agility to the front row, he's an unsung hero, but one appreciated by those around him.
Relishing the challenge of the physical battle in the middle, Pitts is born again at Hull following a difficult end at Leeds that saw Brian McDermott deem him surplus to requirements.
While a key cog in the Hull pack, Pitts knows nothing short of his best will do each week and it's that pressure for places which he says is behind his early-season form.
"I love the challenge of being in the middle. I wouldn't enjoy playing rugby if I wasn't being challenged every week," adds Pitts.
"I go out and give 100 per cent every time I take to the field for Hull. I know I can't afford to do anything less because there are players not in our team who deserve to be in there.
"It is a great thing to have that pressure of knowing if you don't play well you'll be out. It's pressure on you, but good pressure because it drives you to perform better.
"Josh Bowden is just one player who is sniffing around and deserves his shot. If I don't play well Josh will be in and will take his chance, I'm sure.
"Chris Green has done exactly that and everyone can see how well he's done. If everyone does their job to their full ability then we'll be a very good team."
Becoming that good team is the long-term goal, but in the early weeks of the season the need for Hull to find their feet early has been pressed home by their difficult start.
An opening month that has paired them against both last season's Grand Finalists as well as an improving Bradford team, whose only dropped points so far came at the KC two weeks ago, Hull have done it tough.
Pitts says he wouldn't have it any other way and he's confident a tough opening month can be the making of his side.
"I've loved the tough start we've had and I think it will be beneficial to us. I wouldn't have had it any other way, and I don't think any of the other lads would have either," says Pitts.
"We've learnt a lot of things from the tough start. It will only make us stronger as the season progresses and it has made us better in training as we've had to lift things to compete with these teams early on.
"We had a great pre-season and maybe we thought we were better than we were, we definitely thought we were going really well.
"But this tough start has shown us that while we are going well, we still have a lot of improvement to do.
"We are making that improvement, though, and what's nice is all the boys are coming to training wanting to learn."