Hull fired by their turbulent week

It has hardly been a dull or an unsuccessful year so far for Hull, but the last week has involved enough disruptions to keep most clubs occupied for a whole season.

Last Sunday, they suffered their worst defeat of the campaign - a 46-10 thrashing by Widnes, which also saw their most recent signing, Shayne McMenemy, become their latest injury victim with a dislocated elbow ending his season on his debut.

On Monday, they learned that they had missed out on their big signing for next season, with Castleford's Danny Orr opting instead to join Wigan. On Tuesday, the decision was made that Tony Smith and Steve Craven - both injured for much of this season - will not be offered new contracts for 2004.

And on Wednesday, they were told that their appeal against a two-point deduction for breaching last season's salary cap had been rejected. That matter is unlikely to rest there, but it has been quite a week.

It will be a relief this evening to get back to the relatively simple business of playing, especially if their long-term absentee and captain, Jason Smith, is able to make his eagerly awaited comeback. Smith has been out since damaging his shoulder tackling Bradford's Stuart Fielden in April and his return against Warrington would be a timely boost. Brilliant player though he is, with an injury record no better than his namesake's he also needs to demonstrate his fitness before the club could justify signing him for another season.

Richie Barnett, Chris Chester and Paul King - all of whom missed the defeat at Widnes - could also be back and it is important that Hull get back on the rails at the end of a difficult week.

Like Widnes, Warrington produced their best performance of the season last Sunday, brushing the London Broncos aside to win 50-8. The sting in the tail was that Lee Briers, who was instrumental in that win, broke his wrist and will be out for two months.

The Wolves have had great difficulty playing to their potential without their captain, but at least they now have other influential players, like Nat Wood and Darren Burns, at the top of their form. That could help to compensate for Briers' absence, but he is likely to leave too big a hole today.

Widnes try to build on last week's good work at Bradford, who - astonishingly - have lost their last three home matches at Odsal, to London, Wigan and St Helens.

If they are to catch Leeds at the top of the table they must put an end to that sort of run, but they will face a confident Widnes side with players like the former Wigan stand-off, Julian O'Neill, performing brilliantly.

A fourth home defeat on the trot is unthinkable, but the Bulls will know that they face that possibility if they again fail to produce their best.

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