Hull FC's Danny Houghton: 'There's no such thing as a friendly derby'
ADDRESSING the media this week, Danny Houghton was asked by one out-of-town reporter how friendly tomorrow's derby actually is.
A smile breaking out across his face, Houghton's answer was quick and to the point.
"It's a little more important to win this one than Castleford last week," quipped Houghton in his usual dry style.
An old hand at this derby lark by now, the 24-year-old knows all too well the expectation that greets these games.
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Regardless of points on offer or not, both sets of fans demand victory.
That expectation is seemingly increased for the now annual pre-season meeting of east against west following a winter of building excitement in the Hull camp.
Hope is high for a campaign of challenging for honours on both fronts.
But before Super League gets underway again in two weeks' time there's still much to work on and improvements to be made.
With that in mind, the hooker suggests tomorrow's clash at the KC Stadium is about more than just picking up a win against the old enemy.
"No disrespect to Castleford but this game will be a much tougher test for us," says Houghton.
"This is more than just a friendly and while we want to work on things and improve on last week, we also really want to win.
"Most of all, though, we want to put wrong what we were disappointed with last week because this is our last game before the start of the season.
"That doesn't take away the fact we really want to win and give the fans a reason to cheer."
Reflecting on their opening 26-6 win against the Tigers last weekend, there is a sense in the Hull camp it was a good first hit-out, but one that underlined there is still much more to work on.
Having been handed a 10-6 half-time lead by the younger members of the Hull squad, the senior players added another 16 points and kept a clean sheet to easily win the second half.
Defensively sound, the Black and Whites' attack stuttered, firing at times, off kilter at others.
Houghton admits it was as much as they expected in their first game together with a new half-back pairing and full-back.
"The main focus going into the Castleford game was to get our defence right first of all and in the second half we didn't concede a point," said Houghton.
"We took a lot out of that and I felt we looked very good in defence. In attack, we were a bit rusty with our new half-back pairing but I think that was expected.
"It was new to them and new to me working with them too, so the Castleford game left us lots to work on in that regard.
"It was probably the ideal result, though, as we kept a clean sheet and we didn't blow Castleford away by 70 points. Sometimes after a big win you can get carried away and I think we all left the game last Sunday knowing there is lots to work on, so that keeps everyone focussed."
The need to iron out their deficiencies early on is highlighted this weekend as their test against Rovers is the last for Hull's senior players before opening their Super League campaign at Leeds.
While a trip to York will hold a last chance for the fringe players and club's youth to catch the eye, none of the squad who will play at Leeds will be involved in the York match.
Having only played 40 minutes against Castleford, it leaves the likes of Houghton with a truncated pre-season in terms of minutes on the pitch.
The England Knights captain is unconcerned, however, confident the amount of game time is just enough.
"I think two pre-season games is just right. The season is long enough and as good as you want to start the season, it is all about the end and that's when you want to peak," added Houghton.
"If you play too many games early on you're increasing your chances of burning out later in the year.
"The more games we play the better we will be, but with such a smart player like Daniel Holdsworth leading us around the park we'll be fine until we hit our best form."