Osman: Stingrays have stepped it up
DOMINIC Osman believes Hull Stingrays will be a more competitive force this season.
Stingrays secured a seventh-place finish in 2011-12, but rarely managed to beat any of the top-five sides in the Rapid Solicitors Elite League.
They did, though, cause a major shock by beating Sheffield Steelers to reach the play-off semi-finals, only to lose 10-3 against Nottingham Panthers.
But buoyed by a narrow 4-2 loss to Panthers in the Challenge Cup on Saturday, Osman reckons Stingrays will be a tougher nut to crack in 2012-13.
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He said: "Sylvain Cloutier has put a great side together. I think we have a more competitive team.
"It will take a little while for us to gel together, and see who fits where on each line, but overall I think the team looks really good and we showed what we could do against Nottingham."
Due to a delay in receiving his visa, Osman only flew into Britain 24 hours before the clash with the Panthers.
Not surprisingly, it was not the 30-year-old's best game in Stingrays' colours.
And he is still lamenting his one big chance, that could have turned the tide in Stingrays' favour.
"We had a chance to win as we stayed with them until the last two minutes," he said.
"I had a chance to bury it right in the slot, but I didn't so it's something to work on.
"If it goes in it's a different game.
"I don't think Nottingham were expecting us to play as well as that. We have a great team this year, better than last year and that was a positive."
Stingrays host Cardiff on Thursday at Hull Arena, also in the Challenge Cup, before opening their league campaign in Dundee on Sunday.
Osman says it will provide another chance for Stingrays to mould the core of last year's squad onto this year's new recruits.
"Hopefully we can play like we did on Saturday," he said.
"We need to work hard again and hopefully we'll have a little more idea about our systems. The guys like me, Jason Silverthorn, Kurtis Dulle and Matty Davies pretty much know what Sylvain wants as a coach, but for the guys new to the team it's a bit more difficult.
"I feel we're already a team, we just need to gel together as a unit."
Osman says the togetherness of the team was a big reason for returning for a second season at the club.
"From last year it was always on the cards," he said. "I talked to Sylvain before I went home.
"I wanted to come back because I believe we are going in the right direction and I believe in Sylvain and Bobby McEwan.
"I wanted to be part of something special, but it takes time to build.
"The guys coming back shows what a good core we have right now, and it's something I want to be a part of."