Peter Gentle: Fighting an injury crisis – and history

Australian coach tells Dave Hadfield that seeking to end Hull's Challenge Cup final jinx in London is a 'wonderful distraction'

When Peter Gentle leads his team out into a wall of sound at Wembley on Saturday, it will be a far cry from his first experience of English rugby league. The Hull coach, whose side plays Wigan in the Challenge Cup final, first came to these shores in 1986 to play for the short-lived, shoe-string operation that was the Mansfield Marksmen.

"We didn't have many fans, but the ones we did have used to boo us onto the field," he recalls.

The young stand-off played 10 games for the Marksmen, between stints in his native Australia with Western Suburbs and St George. Despite missing the target more often than he hit it during his time at Mansfield, though, Gentle's brief stay in England had given him the taste to live and work here. So, when he was headhunted by Hull last year, from his job as assistant coach with Wests Tigers, he did not hesitate. "And we've loved it here, my wife and children included," he says.

Gentle will no doubt love it even more if he achieves the victory at Wembley that has eluded every Hull coach since the final moved to London in 1929. Like all his predecessors, the Australian has felt the weight of history on his back where Wembley is concerned. Hull have won at Cardiff and in a replay at Elland Road, but have never lifted the Cup on its biggest stage.

"People do talk about it in Hull, just like they do about the 1985 final against Wigan, which was probably the best-ever," he says.

That meeting 28 years ago lends this year's set-piece an extra frisson, but it is the present – and, just possibly, some twists and turns in the near future – that has concerned Gentle this week.

His side were magnificent in a 16-12 semi-final victory over Warrington, which few expected, but most of the news since then has been unsettling. There has been a positive plague of injuries in his back division, so much so that it has become impossible to guess how they will line up. Of his likely first-choice 17, Gentle has varying degrees of doubt over the availability of Shannon McDonnell, Tom Lineham, Ben Crooks, Kirk Yeaman and Joe Arundel.

Unlike some past Wembley coaches, Gentle will not keep a shirt warm for a borderline case to prove his fitness on the day of the match. Those gambles have rarely come off. Instead, he has ruled out anyone who could not get through the training session on Humberside on Tuesday.

He has also refused to be distracted by a story which has been circulating around the city of Kingston upon Hull, to the effect that, win, lose or draw at Wembley, Gentle will be sacked before next season.

The club's owner, Adam Pearson, is undeniably an impatient employer and Hull's current position of seventh in Super League is disappointing. But is it really credible that if the coach ends 84 years of Wembley frustration he will be shown the door?

"I don't know where that has come from, but I'm confident that there's nothing in it," Gentle says. "I have a very open, honest relationship with Adam Pearson and, if there was anything like that in his mind, he would have told me."

As far as one can judge, Hull's players would not welcome another change. England Knights' hooker Danny Houghton is typical of those who have thrived under Gentle's tutelage, hardly missing a game since the new coach arrived.

"He's definitely improved my game," Houghton says. "The obvious thing he has improved is our defence, but he has made us more creative as well."

That does not always show in Hull's return for time spent in opposition territory, or conversion of their chances, something that Houghton puts down to "trying too hard".

Gentle has another explanation. "Whether you like it or not, getting to the Challenge Cup final is a distraction," he says. "Don't get me wrong – it's a wonderful distraction, but a distraction all the same."

So is all the talk about history. "We have the chance to make our own history." Gentle says. "With [Hull boxer] Luke Campbell's gold at the Olympics and Hull City going back into the Premier League, this is a tremendous time for sport in our city. We want to play our part."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor