Smith vital to reviving Hull's fortunes

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The Independent Online

Jason Smith holds the key to the rest of Hull's season as they try to continue their revival at Wakefield today.

Smith's return last week marked the end of his side's losing streak as they overran St Helens, so his coach, Shaun McRae, was a relieved man when Smith came through without any adverse reaction. "He's been absolutely fine, which is a bonus for us after his problems this season," McRae said. "The other point is that he is fresh, because he hasn't been through the rigours week in and week out. If he stays healthy, it makes a big difference to us."

McRae also has Shayne McMenemy back seven weeks after he dislocated his elbow on his debut after signing from Halifax. He replaces Richard Fletcher, who needs an exploratory operation on his knee.

It has been a turbulent week at Wakefield, who have released three players and an assistant coach, and remain non-committal about the future of their head coach, Shane McNally. "The club are making some hard decisions," McNally said. "I try not to dwell on the uncertainties."

One certainty is that Trinity will finish next to bottom, regardless of their last four results. McNally hopes to have Jamie Rooney and Brad Davis back at half-back to face Hull, but he too sees Smith as a pivotal figure. "He makes them a different team, but they have a lot of good players," he said.

London's game at home to Bradford tomorrow will be Steele Retchless's 171st for the club, equalling Steve Rosolen's record, and his captain, Mat Toshack, wants to make it one to remember. "I know all the players have a great respect for Steele and I hope the fans turn out in numbers to see him reach this milestone," he said.

Widnes' chances of sustaining their push for a play-off place when they play St Helens are weakened by Jules O'Neill's absence with a knee injury that could finish his season, plus the possibility that Paul Sculthorpe could return for Saints.

Wigan will expect to improve their points difference at doomed Halifax while in the struggle to replace them in Super League Salford are at home to Leigh in the match which will decide which of them goes into the National League One play-offs in first place.

The Conference grand finals have been switched from Cheltenham to Warrington and put back 24 hours to a week tomorrow. Bridgend Blue Bulls and Carlisle Centurions will contest the main match, kicking-off at 12.45pm, followed by Warrington's Super League match with Halifax. The Shield final between Torfaen Tigers and Bolton Le Moors will complete the day's programme, kicking off at 5.15pm.