Leeds ace Anthony Mullally hopes to get one over Hull’s Mahe Fonua


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Rhinos prop spent 2011 on loan at NRL giants Brisbane Broncos

ANTHONY Mullally will turn the clock back to face a familiar foe, who is just as big a threat on the other side of the world.

The Leeds ace spent the 2011 season on loan with NRL giants Brisbane Broncos’ Under-20s side.

Leeds ace anthony Mullally faces a few familiar faces in today’s Challenge Cup semi-final

His then team-mates included current Queensland State of Origin stars Dane Gagai, who looks set to play for Australia at the World Cup, and Jarrod Wallace.

But one man remains engrained in his memory – Mahe Fonua, who will be one of Hull’s main weapons as they aim for a Wembley return.

“I remember playing against Mahe Fonua when he was at Melbourne and him being a handful,” said Mullally, who may also have faced then New Zealand Warriors junior now Hull ace Carlos Tuimavave.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan has watched a landscape shift at Leeds Rhinos

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Leeds star Jamie Jones-Buchanan hopes to be able to win at Wembley this year

“He was the same size back then as he is now. He was pretty physical back then.

“That was the biggest thing I noticed, the size of the players, who were supposedly young.

“I was playing against Kiwi blokes who were like 120kgs, they were a similar size to the blokes playing in the NRL

“It was one of the best years of my career – off the field mainly! Brisbane is a great place and I’ve a lot of fond memories of it.

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Leeds have had Challenge Cup success before, as Tom Briscoe scored five tries in the 2015 final

“Dane and Jarrod were in my team and they’ve really kicked on. I still speak to them now, so it’s really good to see them doing well.

“I’d say 50 to 60 per cent of that team have either gone on to the NRL or gone to rugby union and playing top flight over there.”

Mullally, who was on loan from Widnes in 2011, stands 80 minutes away from his first major final.

The biggest games he has featured in so far are the Million Pound Game for Wakefield in 2015 and the Championship final for Batley in 2012.

Hull player Mahe Fonua took his place in the team of the season after some sterling performances

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Hull ace Mahe Fonua came up against Anthony Mullally in the Under 20s competition in Australia

But if he does make Wembley, it would represent a remarkable turnaround from last year, when the then treble champions found themselves in a relegation dogfight through the Qualifiers.

And the 26-year-old prop, who hopes to play for Ireland at the World Cup, revealed just how difficult 2016 was, both on and off the field.

He added: “Getting to the final would be massive, especially after last year with where we were and how everyone wrote us off. I don’t think anyone thought we’d be where we are this year.

“Last year was tough. Mondays now compared to what Mondays were last year are very different. It was like coming in with a dark cloud hanging over our heads.

Hull FC's Mahe Fonua scores their first try en route to famous comeback


Mahe Fonua scored a try as Hull won last year’s Challenge Cup

“Now it’s a lot more positive, especially after getting a few decent results.

“Last year, we were in the Qualifiers but we pretty much dominated them, it was a pretty cruisy competition towards the end.”

If Super League form is anything to go by, Leeds have the upper hand after defeating Cup holders Hull twice.

But Mullally knows that will count for nothing, which is why Brian McDermott’s side has been preparing for some time.

Hull celebrate after winning the Challenge Cup at Wembley

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Hull hope to keep their hands on the Challenge Cup after winning it last year

He said: “Things have been done in much more detail and we’ve been preparing for quite a while. I think everyone knows where they’re at.

“But I’ve not been in too many big games and you can let the occasion get on top of you at times, so I’ve just been trying to keep my cool.

“It’s going to be completely different. Even though we’ve beaten them twice in the league, we’re not thinking too much about that.

“They’re a big, physical team who are probably going to try and come out of the blocks and outmuscle us, so we’ve got to be ready for that.”

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