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Crooks makes NRL switch

Hull have released centre Ben Crooks to enable him to take up a contract with NRL side Parramatta.

Ben Crooks is leaving Hull FC and heading Down Under Credit: Hull FC

The 21-year-old was named in the Super League Dream Team just 12 months ago after a sensational first full season in the top flight but he struggled to maintain his form this year and spent the second half of the season playing on a dual-registration with Doncaster.

Crooks had a year left on his contract but sought a release so that he could follow in the footsteps of his father Lee, who had a successful spell in Australia with Western Suburbs and Balmain in the 1980s.

Hull say they will retain the player's Super League registration in case he returns to England.

The club feel the circumstances are right for Ben to pursue this significant lifestyle and career move in a new country, particularly following recent recruitment activity.

"He leaves with the best wishes of everyone at the club."

– Hull FC spokesman

Hull have been impressed with the form of centre Setaimata Sa since he joined them in mid-season and they recently announced the signing of former Gold Coast Titans threequarter Steve Michaels.

Coach Lee Radford says he is hopeful of having two more new signings finalised within the next fortnight, with one of them expected to be former Bradford full-back Curtis Naughton, who spent this year with Sydney Roosters' reserves.

Hull FC sign Australian centre Michaels

Hull FC have made Australian centre Steve Michaels their fourth signing ahead of the 2015 season.

Michaels joins FC from Australian side Gold Coast Credit: Pre

The 27-year penned a one-year deal with the Black and Whites, subject to international clearance.

I'm excited about the move. I've heard good things about the fanatical fans and the proud history of the club. It's a big challenge for me.

I've got an understanding of the club. I spoke to Lee and he informed me of the young players coming through whilst there is a bit of experience in there too. So it is exciting to be joining the club and the first thing I want to do is earn a spot and have some input in the team. We want some success in 2015.

– Steve Michaels

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Rugby League braced for Hull derby

Both head coaches from cross city rivals Hull FC and Hull KR have been building up the significance of this Friday's derby at the KC Stadium.

FC coach Lee Radford all but admitted defeat in his club's quest for the Super League playoffs after last weekend's defeat to Bradford.

But his opposite number Chris Chester, who signed a new three year contract yesterday, knows a win for his side will put them in the running for a shot at the end of season playoffs:

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Hull FC move for Minichiello

Hull FC have secured their third signing ahead of the 2015 season with a move for the vastly experienced Gold Coast Titans back rower Mark Minichiello on a two-year deal.

Mark Minichiello signs for Hull FC Credit: Press Association

The 32-year old has agreed deal to join the Airlie Birds for the start of the 2015 campaign, making the Italian international the third player to switch to the KC Stadium, following half backs Marc Sneyd and Leon Pryce.

Minichiello, much like the latter, brings with him a wealth of experience to a young looking Black and Whites squad, having played over 250 appearances during his thirteen seasons in the NRL.

It is going to be a new challenge for me and I am really looking forward to it I can’t wait to get over there and experience a different league. I have always had dreams of playing in the Super League, and when this deal and opportunity came about, I just thought it was the right time to jump in and experience something new. Hull is a club with a long history, is one of the bigger clubs over there and from what I hear the fans are very passionate about rugby league, they have a good culture for rugby.

– Mark Minichiello

Hadley extends Hull contract

Hull FC forward Dean Hadley has signed a new contract that will keep him at the KC Stadium until the end of 2016.

The 22-year-old Hull-born back rower, who made his debut against Catalan Dragons last season, has established himself in Lee Radford's side this year, appearing in 13 of their last 19 matches.

"What Dean brings to training and what he has brought this year on the field has been immense," Radford said.

"And he has taken huge strides in his development, which is why we were keen to offer him this extension."

Chester seeking Rovers reaction

Hull KR caretaker coach Chris Chester claims his team's Super League play-off hopes will be on the line when they host reigning champions Wigan on Thursday night.

A 28-10 defeat at Widnes in their last match left Rovers three points behind the eighth-placed Vikings, but a win over the Warriors, who have the chance to go top of the table, would keep the campaign alive for Chester's men with three matches left of the regular season.

Chester, whose own position would be strengthened with a third win under his temporary charge, is hoping for a response after accusing his players of "dishonesty" in their last outing.

"We've done a bit of soul-searching and had a few heart-to-hearts," Chester said.

"We were dishonest against Widnes and we have addressed that in training over the past two weeks.

"Hopefully we'll get some kind of reaction with a much more professional performance against Wigan.

"We still believe. There are still eight points up for grabs and we have to make sure we put a good display in on Thursday and get a result. If we don't get a performance, it probably throws away our chances of making the play-offs.

"It's a tough ask but I watched the Bradford game in depth and they showed it can be done. They got in their faces early and we have to make sure we have a good start and stay with them."

Wigan's shock 16-8 defeat by Bradford last month means they have lost on five of their six trips into Yorkshire this year, but they won at Hull FC in May and inflicted on Rovers a club record 84-6 humiliation in the corresponding match in 2013.

The Warriors had to work for their win over Hull KR at the DW Stadium in March and coach Shaun Wane is determined not to under-estimate his team's opponents.

"Hull KR is a tough place to go," Wane said. "It is an old-style ground and they are a good team.

"They are well coached by Chris Chester who I know well. He will have them very motivated as they want to get into the top eight and ensure their season does not end after four games.

"We got our fingers burnt at Bradford and Wakefield so I am sure we will go there with a good attitude and our players understand that the games left are all like Grand Finals."

The 2013 double winners, who have already relinquished their hold on the Challenge Cup, are two points behind St Helens but have a superior points difference so would leapfrog their arch rivals, at least for 24 hours, with a win at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

"We want to win the League Leaders' Shield so we have four Grand Finals left, which if we win, then puts the pressure all on St Helens," Wane added.

Wigan's former Hull KR stand-off Blake Green will make his comeback from a three-month lay-off, caused by a ruptured bicep, and Wane is also able to call on forward Eddy Pettybourne, who has been out for a month with a jaw injury.

Hull KR have forward Rhys Lovegrove back from injury while utility back Craig Hall is set to take over at centre from the axed Kris Welham, who was sent to partner club Gateshead last weekend in an attempt to re-discover his lost confidence.

Hull's Horne to retire after this season

Hull's one-club half-back Richard Horne has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

Richard Horne will retire at the end of this season Credit: Press Association

The 32-year-old has been with his home-town side all of his playing life, having made his debut aged 16.

Since then he has racked up 383 appearances for the Black and Whites, including a victorious Challenge Cup Final in 2005.

Horne has earned Dream Team recognition in that time, while also making 12 appearances for Great Britain.

Horne will remain at the KC Stadium as an academy coach.

The latter part of Horne's career had to be tailored after he was diagnosed with diabetes, while he also came back from a career-threatening neck injury in 2008.

It has probably taken about two to three months to allow me to get my head around the idea, but it just feels the right time to retire from playing.

If somebody had told me when I made my debut for the club back when I was just 16 that I would still be playing for Hull at 32, I would have laughed and then quickly snapped their hand off for the opportunity. For me to be able to live my childhood dream, what more could you ask for?

It has been an amazing 16 years, unfortunately though at some point you have to make this decision and it just feels like the moment has come for me.

The decision has coincided with the club offering me this role within the coaching staff, which I am extremely looking forward to and I'm glad I am able to stay with Hull to take up this new challenge.

Hopefully I will be able to have an equally long coaching career at the club as I have managed to achieve playing.

– Richard Horne
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