“The Hull derby is a different kettle of fish” – Tony Smith looks ahead to derby and gives injury update on two stars

Tony Smith is two games away from reaching his 500th as a Super League coach but before he can focus on that landmark, he has the small matter of a Hull derby on Good Friday.

In front of a sell out crowd at Craven Park and contested by two Hull sides enjoying strong starts to 2022, it should be a classic clash.

Looking ahead to the game, Smith spoke about both the positive and negative selection headaches he’s set to face going into Friday: “I’ve got a few fresh bodies, people who played reserve grade last week who have put there hands up this week and it was tough leaving them out last week. I’ve got a couple of good headaches leading into the derby. I’d rather have that than trying to scrape a team together.

“We have some injury concerns also, a couple of boys we’ll have to run our eye over the next couple of days. Mikey Lewis is not going to make it, it might be too soon for Albert Vete. Korbin Sims rolled his ankle in the reserve grade game. There’s a few things we have to work out.”

Lewis’ injury has now been confirmed as being a six week long meaning he’s also set to miss out on the Challenge Cup semi-final against Huddersfield at Elland Road.

A blow for Smith going into that game but more immediately heading into the derby which is of course his next focus and a big one too with Smith emphasising just how much it means to the city: “When you live there you understand and I’ve picked up the vibe of the city. It is a big derby. I’ve coached in the Leeds-Bradford derbies from years ago, I’ve been to Wigan-Saints games but the Hull derby is a different kettle of fish. It really does split families, split friendships. I’ve got a friend who has text me today saying you ‘red and white such and such. I’m not going to talk to this week but do you want a game of golf next week when we beat you.’ It’s friendly banter, but it’s pretty full on.

“We understand what it means to our supporters and I know Hull FC know how important it is too. It’s bragging rights and we haven’t had those bragging rights for quite a while so we’d like to put our best foot forward.”

Such is the size of the derby, Smith joked he may not even make it to Easter Monday: “To touch on my 500th game on Monday, hopefully I make it there. You never know after a derby what’s going to happen. 499 on derby day is one to remember, hopefully it can be a special one.”

Speaking of Easter Monday, Smith also noted how difficult of a task it will be to go to France and get a result just days after the derby: “We haven’t got enough to rest some people. We have to assess after the game on Friday who’s going to be fit and able to stand on Monday. Fortunately, we have some fresh bodies but you just hope the ones you’ve got available suit the positions you need otherwise you’ve got to patch them up and send them out there.

“It’s a big ask at the best of times but to play a derby and then jump on a plane and go to a foreign country is a big challenge but we’ll role our sleeves up and get on with it.”

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