Ellis hopes for Hull turnaround
Hull FC skipper Gareth Ellis is hoping his club can use the example of his home-town team Castleford Tigers to turn around their ailing fortunes.
While the Airlie Birds are languishing in 12th place in First Utility Super League, with only relegated duo Bradford Bulls and London Broncos below them, the Tigers are on course to do the double.
They are already through to the semi-finals of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup and a win over Hull at the KC Stadium tomorrow would take them into second place in the table, just a point behind St Helens.
Yet this time last year, Castleford were in the same position Hull currently find themselves in before going on to win three of their last four matches to finish their campaign on a high and they have taken that momentum into this season.
Ellis, who is delighted with the progress of the Tigers, said: "I grew up supporting them. Most of the family are Castleford supporters and they're letting me know about it now.
"They're gloating and rubbing it in. A load of them have already booked their tickets for Wembley.
"They're certainly doing well. They've had a few years in the doldrums and it's great to see them cracking the top four or five.
"I suppose the positive is that we're in the position they were in last year. They've shown what can be done in the space of an off season so we can certainly take some encouragement from that and learn from what they've done this year."
While the Tigers are trophy-hunting, Ellis admits his side are basically playing for pride in coach Lee Radford's disappointing first season at the helm.
A run of five matches without a win has left them six points adrift of eighth-placed Widnes Vikings and virtually out of contention for the play-offs.
"Realistically, the chance of us finishing in the (top) eight is very slim now," Ellis said. "We are probably relying on other teams losing.
"It's been a very disappointing year. We've been so close yet so far in certain games, taken a lot of credit from that at the time thinking a win and a performance is only around the corner, but unfortunately it never came and the more we lost those tight games, the worse it got for us.
"That's why we're in the position we're in and what we have to do for the last two months is put a bit of pride back in the jersey.
"This group of players is going to change, there are going to be players coming in and players going out, and maybe we can just put a few things in place and at least end the season with some smiles on our faces."
One of the players coming in to Hull is goalkicking stand-off Marc Sneyd, who has proved a revelation in 2014 during his season-long spell on loan from Salford Red Devils.
Hull have paid the Red Devils a sizeable transfer fee to prize Sneyd from the Tigers' grasp and Radford knows his side will have to keep a close eye on his playmaking skills tomorrow.
Radford said: "I spoke to him last week and wished him all the best for the rest of the season. I said if he could manage to have an off day tomorrow it would be much appreciated.
"He seems to be a laid-back character and I'm sure will be suited to us next year.
"His kicking game is arguably one of the best in the comp and it's one of the reasons Cas are up there. Our backfield are going to have to be on their toes and our front line are going to have to close him down."
Hull were down to just 18 fit players for last week's trip to Wigan Warriors but will be boosted by the return of centre Kirk Yeaman and second rower Setaimata Sa, as well as Ellis, who has missed the last two games with a back injury.
"I'm looking forward to getting back out there," said the former Leeds Rhinos and England second rower. "It's been difficult when you're on the sidelines and your team is not going too well. At least when you're out there, you're contributing."
Castleford continue to ring the changes, bringing in threequarters James Clare and Ashley Gibson for Justin Carney and Jake Webster, while former Hull prop Garreth Carvell will face his old team-mates after taking the place of Craig Huby, who misses his first Super League game of the season.