Hull FC’s Liam Sutcliffe returns to his old club this Friday night.
There will be no dramas for Hull FC centre Liam Sutcliffe when he heads back to Leeds Rhinos this Friday night. The 28-year-old made a try-scoring debut for his new club on Sunday and will now run out at Headingley as an opposition player for the first time.
But it’s not playing on his mind much. A Rhinos player all his professional life, Sutcliffe was actually looking out for another famous fixture before the 2023 release, with his sights set on impressing at Hull FC.
Ready for the task at hand, Sutcliffe is cherishing his move to Hull. Given the number four shirt and a starting berth at left centre, the Leeds-born star has the opportunity he craved.
“It wasn’t one of the first fixtures I looked at, to be honest – the Hull derby was the first one I wanted to see,” Sutcliffe explained. “I’ve heard so much about it before I signed. Then Leeds was my second one, especially away. It’s come around pretty quickly.
“I’ve not spoken to anyone from over there. There’s nothing much to say. I’m only started thinking about it today now that we’ve started to preview them.
“It’s just one of those things. I’ve got a few good mates at Leeds. It’s going to be a strange one I imagine, getting off the coach and going into the away changing room. It’s not something that I’ve thought too much about. I know which team I’m playing for. I’ll just get on with it.”
Still, leaving Leeds was a big deal for Sutcliffe but the opportunity to play week in and week out was too good to resist. That’s the aim now.
There is respect for his old club but the centre has three years at his new club and is playing under a head coach who will allow him to express himself. Exciting times are ahead.
“There were mixed emotions,” Sutcliffe said on his Leeds departure. “I was a bit sad. It’s my hometown club, I’d been there since I was 12 so it was sad to come to an end but on the other side it was exciting and a new challenge for me.
“I’ve been told so many times that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and that’s what I’ve done coming here. Once last season was done and my time at Leeds was done it was time to put that to bed and reflect on it if and when I wanted to. I was looking forward to coming to Hull.
“I still had two years left of my contract but the chats I had with Rohan weren’t really fitting in with me or what I wanted in my career. I didn’t want to have that role where I might not play every week. Once I spoke to Hull about their ideas going forward, it made my mind set.
“Being able to start as a centre was a big thing. I’m not at the stage in my career where I just want to be a backup for positions. I’m not saying I’m certain to start every week but there is a possibility if I put my best foot forward then that might happen.”
It’s happened so far. Sutcliffe looked sharp in the trial game at Wakefield and also gave another solid account in the Super League outing against Castleford.
Taking to his new club, he soon got a feel of his new surroundings in a squad that is motivated by Tony Smith to put the last two years behind them. Sutcliffe, meanwhile, is loving life under his new boss.
“It didn’t take me long to settle in,” Sutcliffe revealed. “I knew a couple of boys before I came here but straight away everyone made me feel welcome, both players and staff. It was pretty easy to fit in. I was pretty nervous before, it was something new, but I’ve enjoyed it ever since.
“I didn’t know what to expect from Tony. I’ve heard little bits from other players about him, but I didn’t know how I’d take to him until I actually met him. He’s great to be working under and the other side of him where he wants to have a laugh, but he knows when to switch on. I really like that part of him.
“He’s got a wealth of knowledge and the things he’s done in the game speak for themselves. I think it would be silly not to tap into what his coaching methods are and to ask questions. He’s seen a fair few things and he’s bringing that in to all of the boys; how we go about training and starting the season with a win as well.”
And as for his debut, Sutcliffe scored the game’s second try after a superb break from Brad Dwyer, starting as he means to go on…
“It was good to get over,” Sutcliffe added. “I don’t think I’ve ever scored in the first game before so I was pretty happy to get that one, especially at home and off Brad after he went through.
“It was class. We had a big crowd – over 15,000. All the chants and the songs, it was nice to be on the end of it for a change. It was a great atmosphere to kickstart the season and hopefully, that can last through the year and we can keep up our performances.”