There’s nothing quite like a Hull derby, and when the Betfred Super League season gets underway on Thursday (20:00 GMT) with a barnstorming opener between Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers, the whole rugby league world will know about it.
While you’ll never quite know what the fixture means unless you’re a local, a black-and-white fan from the west of the River Hull or a red and white from the east, news of its intensity reaches all corners of the globe.
Last season saw Rovers record one of the statement victories in the long history of the duel, hammering Hull 40-0 on enemy territory in the Good Friday fixture. The Airlie Birds got a measure of revenge in July with a 16-6 away win at Craven Park, but Rovers’ journey to the Betfred Challenge Cup final and the semi-finals of the end-of-season play-offs spoke to a shift in the balance of power in the East Yorkshire city.
Stalwarts of the derby include the likes of Danny Houghton, who has played for FC against KR 38 times in his long career, but even those who will be experiencing it for the first time on Thursday have been left in no doubt what they will face at the MKM Stadium.
“Even before I flew over here, that was one of the things that was spoken about: how the Hull derby goes and what it means to everyone, what it does to the town,” Rovers’ new fullback signing Peta Hiku tells Betfred. “I came over for the Rugby League World Cup [in 2022] and even then we had a game against Fiji [at the MKM] and the way they spoke about it, how some families have to be sat apart because they go for two separate teams… just seeing that kind of passion behind the sport, behind that game.
“Being that it’s round one, I think I’ll have to try to get over the feelings, the nerves and all that, get that all out of the system. I am looking forward to it and excited to be a part of that.”
A New Zealand international of 10 years’ standing and veteran of 11 NRL seasons with Manly Sea Eagles, Penrith Panthers, New Zealand Warriors and North Queensland Cowboys, Hiku has seen almost everything the sport has to offer at the top level. But he is certain that Thursday’s derby will be a whole new experience.
“The noise the fans make is a bit different to where I grew up back in New Zealand, where the fans aren’t too vocal," says the 14/1 bet for first try scorer. "That’s what I’m excited for as well, seeing the fans get behind both their teams. I’m really looking forward to being a part of that on the field, I’ve obviously not played in this game before but it’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Hull FC’s Herman Ese’ese is another Kiwi import who will be making his debut in the derby this week. The front rower has never played a competitive fixture on British soil before, yet he is already certain of the standing the Hull v Rovers clash deserves.
“It’s equivalent to State of Origin or an international game,” the 29-year-old tells Betfred. “It dates back a while and I’ve just heard that the rivalry is a big thing in Super League and it’s the game to watch here. And with it being the first game of the season, I know a lot of people will be watching.
“It’s a Thursday night game at home at the MKM Stadium, so I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
The season-opening derby is being shown live on Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Main Event, with coverage on both channels beginning at 19:00.
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