Denive Balmforth challenge set as Francis Cummins explains Hull FC ‘cog’ reality

Denive Balmforth celebrates a Hull FC try with Sully Medforth.
-Credit: (Image: Dave Lofthouse, Hull FC)

Francis Cummins has challenged young Hull FC hooker Denive Balmforth to keep improving and ensure there are no ‘switch-offs’ in his game. The 20-year-old started in the dummy half role for the reserves on Saturday, scoring two tries in the Black and Whites’ 54-0 victory over London Broncos.

One of Hull's highest-profile young players, Balmforth also impressed with the ball in the win at Warrington Wolves two weeks ago, with Cummins pinpointing his ability to get out of the ruck and make something happen. However, the club’s academy and reserves coach is also keen to see the player tidy up other areas of his game and become the ‘complete package.’

The hooker has played two first-team games this year, adding to the four he made back in 2022, with Balmforth, as per his interview with Hull Live back in pre-season, determined to prove his worth at the club and become the long-term successor to Danny Houghton, who is likely to retire at the end of the year.

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Speaking to Hull Live, Cummins said: “For Denive, and the same goes for a few other young boys, it’s the inconsistency of his game. The top end is really good. When he starts to run and he gets a quick play of the ball, he can sense an opportunity quicker than other people, but you've got to be the all-round package or something close to it.

“There's also an all-time great ahead of him in that position. But to get into that squad, you've got to be able to come in and not give much away, and I think, if we're being honest, Denive has a bit to go. It's not quite there where he can hold it all together. He can do something really good, and then there may be a switch-off.

“That's his age. He’s a young man. Danny Houghton wasn't the Danny Houghton that we see now when he was 18 and 19. That's the thing. We've just got to get these players some confidence so they know their roles, they can hold it together, and they can get some minutes and hopefully progress and get a start.”

Cummins’ job, along with the likes of Pete Riding, Richard Tate, Kirk Yeaman, etc., is to get Hull’s young players ready so they can do just that, but while some ‘cogs’ within the club are starting to turn, there’s also a reality that it’s a long and patient process. There's a caution within not to expose or burn young players too soon, particularly with what is a challenging first-team environment, with the club winning just one Super League game so far this season.

"We've got to hold the line as a club,” Cummins continued. “It's tough at the moment. It's tough for everyone. It's very similar to when I came through at Leeds. Leeds hadn't won anything for 20 odd years—not just six or seven years. I was part of those young lads coming through, and while there's a few more bumps in the road ahead, so long as we start to get that top bit right and these lads are stacking up really well, then we’ll be okay.

“What the club has done in the last three, four, and five years is starting to come to light. The cogs are turning around; it's just that we can't get the top one going at the moment. That's been an issue; recruitment hasn't been the best, but we've realigned the club to bring our own lads through, and we’ve got better people in to support that.

“We all know successful teams bring their own players through, but it's not always easy for these young lads; it's not a case of you do this and this and you get first-team; sometimes you're in and out; sometimes you don't play for long; sometimes it takes longer; and sometimes people come in and they stay there. There's no formula for this. Sometimes it's not fair to put players in that position. You need senior players to be playing well to bring them along, and sometimes it's not just right. It wouldn't be fair to them.

“It's not a straight-forward thing. You'd like to think everything is about performance, but sometimes you have to think about the long-term well-being of the player, not only in terms of talent but also emotionally. We see it every day. Sometimes people from the outside will say, 'Why isn't he playing?' There may be other things going on. Certain players are either mature or not. It's never straight-forward, but we're trying to get those jigsaw pieces in and get them up there.

“The club has done a great job of bringing these lads through, and the next lot coming are really strong as well. The club, in that respect, is in a good position. We've just got to make sure that when they do get their opportunity, they're around some good senior pros who are playing well and are full of confidence.”

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