Proud dad Fonua re­pays Radford’s faith in Hull tri­umph

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - RUGBY LEAGUE - DAVE CRAVEN

TWO-TRY Mahe Fonua con­ceded he needed to “re­pay” Hull FC coach Lee Radford af­ter al­most be­ing dropped for the Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal.

The ma­raud­ing Tonga winger im­pressed in the 18-14 win over Wi­gan War­riors cross­ing twice as the Air­lie Birds re­tained the tro­phy he helped win 12 months pre­vi­ously.

But Radford re­vealed af­ter­wards he came close to leav­ing the ex-Mel­bourne Storm star out at Wem­b­ley af­ter a se­ries of er­ror-rid­den dis­plays and deeply con­sid­ered in­clud­ing Aus­tralian Steve Michaels in­stead.

Some peo­ple thought Michaels might play but Fonua would switch to the cen­tre and it would be Josh Grif­fin or Jake Con­nor who missed the cut in­stead. “I am re­ally grate­ful to Lee Radford for keep­ing his faith in me,” he ad­mit­ted.

“The last few weeks I haven’t been show­ing form and I re­ally needed to re­pay him.

“I thought I did that to­day. I just went back to ba­sics, sim­pli­fied my game and did those things so I hope he’s proud of what I’ve done.

“There was a lit­tle bit of pres­sure but that’s what I put on my­self as I needed to re­pay him.”

Fonua, who scored one and cre­ated another in last year’s win over War­ring­ton, also had a hat-trick ef­fort ruled out in the 61st minute fol­low­ing a du­bi­ous ob­struc­tion by Grif­fin.

The 24-year-old, who bril­liantly claimed kicks all af­ter­noon and bull­dozed Wi­gan de­fend­ers count­less times, said: “When I look back I don’t know why that was.

“But video refs get paid to make th­ese calls. Un­for­tu­nately I didn’t get a hat-trick but I’m re­ally happy with the two tries that I did get.

“We made it hard for our­selves but still man­aged to get the win and that’s a good sign. There was some ner­vous times espe­cially that last five which felt like the long­est five min­utes ever.”

Asked if his two-week old daugh­ter had wit­nessed events un­fold, Fonua re­vealed: “She did. And I’m very, very happy she made it. This was her first game. She won’t remember it but I will hope­fully show her some photos one day and she’ll be proud of me.”

Fonua, who heads back to the NRL with Wests Tigers in 2018, clearly put the dis­ap­point­ment of his woe­ful ap­pear­ance against Hud­der­s­field be­hind him.

A bright pink T-shirt, which is em­bla­zoned with a rather crude mes­sage and is what he wore dur­ing Fri­day’s prac­tice, was stuffed in his bag af­ter­wards.

He ex­plained: “Who­ever makes the most er­rors in the last game, then has it awarded – given – at the start of the next week and you have to wear it all week.

“I didn’t want to on Fri­day as there was me­dia there and I didn’t want peo­ple to know I was that per­son. I tried to hide it as much as I could.”

Af­ter this stel­lar per­for­mance, it is cer­tainly safe to say Fonua will not be don­ning it again in the com­ing days.

Radford ad­mit­ted: “I made the right call. It was a tough de­ci­sion, my hard­est; Steve Michaels has been re­ally con­sis­tent.

“There was doubts. I had dif­fi­culty speak­ing to Steve; say­ing he wasn’t go­ing to play was made more dif­fi­cult by Mahe’s re­cent per­for­mances.

“He (Fonua) came very close (to be­ing dropped). But he came up trumps. Credit to him. He did it on the big stage and plays like that win games of foot­ball.”

TRY: Mahe Fonua crashes over for one of his two tries for Hull FC.

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