Could you believe some of that rugby … because I couldn’t!!!
For a bloke who is 69 this week, I find that you get to a
point when you don’t believe that anything can surprise you anymore. But, in
the life of a sports fan there are very occasionally, times when you are just
lost for words, when your team is just so good that is hard to believe that (in
this case), it’s the same group of players that got absolutely mullered at home
by Warrington not so long ago. The fact is I think, that when this team really
has their ‘heads on’ and move the ball around they are nothing short of glorious
Griffin, who was named in the pack, played a traditional
wide running second rowers role and was almost unplayable and a real back-row
forward for the future. Connor when he injected himself into the game was
mesmerising and in Ratu, who we were reminded is eligible for GB, we have a
finisher as good as anything you will see in this country. His try, which was
recorded as a 105-meter effort, was just amazing. [PA1]
But on the day it was another real team effort, Sneyd again
controlled things and kicked impeccably both from the Tee and in play, while up
front we took on and eventually overcame one of the biggest packs in the
competition. Taylor, Green, Manu, Paea and the visibly improving Bowden worked
so hard down the middle, Houghton provided the service and Griffin, Savelio and
Westerman just ground it out!! By the end, the much vaunted and pretty hefty Catalan
pack were visibly blowing for a tug!!
It was a game that under the circumstances (the heat, the
travel and the opposition smarting from that London reversal last week) was a big
ask for the FC, but a great chance to go 4 points clear in third, 6 points
clear of 6th and put a massive 12 points between us and the relegation
place held by the hapless Dobbins at the bottom. I doubted we could do it, because
usually in such situation Hull FC just don’t do it, but we took that big chance,
in quite ‘un-Hull like fashion.
I say that because for a team that have been so unpredictable, to the point of being down right inconsistent, we just went out and carried it all on from that second half at Castleford and with the confidence flowing, we at last strung two quite unbelievable halves together, in what was at times a breath taking win.
were the final words on the Sky end credits, when you watched it back
afterwards and there is no doubt that when we are ‘on it’ we can score some
amazing tries and really entertain the spectators. 10 points down at half time and
looking slightly second best, you should never write this FC team off, as long
as, of course, we have our ‘heads on’!!
that moment I was ecstatic and so was everyone at home and there in Castleford.
And I mean everyone, for as you watch it back and see the joy on Lee’s face and
the happiness he and Andy Last embraced as Kelly dived in, you realise just how
lucky we are to have a set of guys running our team who are as big a fans, as we
when we lose and dance when we win, for I’m a fan and its expected of me. But I
was proud of our lads on Thursday, as we witnessed a second half renaissance of
amazing magnitude. Once again the tries were well engineered, full of
individual style and exciting to watch. In games as tight as this one was,
true quality is key and Hull FC had marginally more, as we edged past
Castleford Tigers and then blew them away. Our right edge was lethal and in
Ratu we must have the find of the season!
With 3 assists in the game, Connor was quite amazing and a relieved and still
elated Lee Radford afterwards praised him for responding to his pre-game
instructions. He was outstanding as was ‘Commander’ Sneyd and ‘Hat trick
hero’ Albert Kelly, as our spine sparkled and shone in the second half
Castleford gloom. It was again a wonderful effort by all concerned and with
Ellis, Manu, Tumavive, Griffin and Bowden missing, all of whom would have a big
call on playing if fit, or not suspended, it was a heartening win for the squad
Realism is needed as well, for we are I guess still a bit in
and out. Against Cas and Catalan it was our second half display that got us
home, whilst against Salford it was that compelling first half blitz that just
saw us win. In the other halves of those games we have been bested by the
opposition, but as they say, it’s the points in the table that matter at this
point of the season, and another two saw us on 22 and sat in third on Thursday
those Disaster Movies of the 70’s and 80’s where everything is going smoothly
before catastrophe strikes and the heroes just get out by the skin of their
teeth at the end? Well once again the Towering Inferno had nothing on being an
FC fan on Friday night!
Convincing was it!!”, seemed to be a universal assessment of what we saw at the
KCom and convincing it certainly wasn’t!
said, I would wholeheartedly agree with Lee Radford that it was all about
getting the two points, but again it was tough to watch. From a position where
we were in command and almost cruising, Salford just wouldn’t go away. So, in
the dying embers of the game as we watched every second tick by on the clock we
were saved again, with a minute to go, by a bit of Marc Sneyd’s restart kicking
for the fight, there is no doubt that Salford had enjoyed a week off to sort out
their bumps and bruises. They are a good team who had previously destroyed
Catalans in France, won at Warrington at Easter and pushed Saints to the brink
a few weeks ago at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Yet, it wasn’t that much of a
surprise that on the night one or two of our lot still underestimated them,
however, as a rival for the 4th or 5th spot in the
League, we have now done the double over them and thus consolidated our place
in the top half of the table!
For the casual observer it was a wonderful end to end game of open flowing rugby which held the interest right up to the final hooter. However, for us lot, the long suffering FC pilgrims huddled together on the terraces, it was again by the end excruciating to watch. Playing with just 11 men we almost capitulated in the face of a resurgent Salford outfit that smelt blood and you’d better believe that we’ll have to be so much more switched on at Castleford on Thursday.
Don’t ask me to explain that, the Club can’t, the Coach
can’t, the Players can’t, so I’ve no chance!!
Instead I’ll pose the question, “Are Hull FC ‘the Forrest
Gumps’ of Rugby League???” Well they might well be just that!! Undoubtedly with
our team this year, life IS like a box of chocolates because ‘you never quite
know what you’re gonna get’. I can’t take credit for that gem, because reader
Richard Hall actually text that to the Club, straight after the final hooter
and so surreal is this season becoming, no one could really put it any better!
After Huddersfield we were battered, bruised, deflated and
despondent and that was just the fans, BUT, as a team we had just 5 days to
turn it around. As supporters we wondered if that was ever going to be possible.
Catalan on the other hand, as the Cup holders, were the darlings of the media in
the build up! They’d gone four games
undefeated including wins in ‘Big’ fixtures in Barcelona and at the Magic Weekend,
(where their pack looked awesome), they had rested Mcilorum and Tomkins last
week, just for this game, and no doubt Steve McNamara was licking his lips at
the chance to get one over his old Club and in so doing get back to Wembley. For
the tie the Dragons even stayed over in this country between matches to ensure
they had no distractions, they were fully focussed and right on it! They
couldn’t lose could they?
No one gave us a hope (if I’m honest you can include me in that
too) yet we produced a quite phenomenal display and when Catalan were two tries
down in that second half, it was their turn to run out of steam and look as if
they were playing in lead boots.
As performances go it was convincing! We just ran all over them in that second half, but whoever we had been playing in the British game that night, we would probably have beaten them! It might not have been by as many points, but the old adage that we can beat anyone on our day, was never more pertinent than it was at 10-00pm last Thursday night. It would be nice however if someone could tell us (and apparently Lee Radford as well) in advance, exactly when it is going to be our day!
Writing this Diary straight after the game what can you really say eh??? I’m fuming after another capitulation against a team that if we had any sort of aspirations as far as the League is concerned, we should have beaten. What’s more it was another real kick in the teeth to all those folks who made the journey to Liverpool and spent their hard earned cash doing it.
We were simply a shadow of the side that ground out victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium so brilliantly last week and there are absolutely no excuses whatsoever, for on Saturday the score-line told exactly the story of the game. What’s more, after a week when we were told several times that ‘we had got our Mojo back’ that was the twelfth time since the last Magic Weekend that we have conceived 30 or more points!!!!
12 times in a year!!!!!!!
I’m not one for Coach and player bashing, you all know that, but few groups of coaches and players in professional sport would survive completely intact such statistics as that! Fact is once again we are back to square one, and left wondering just what the hell is going on. Even after 60 odd years of watching when we have been great at times (and dipped occasionally) and utterly crap at others (but peaked occasionally) I defy anyone to remember a time when we have swung so much, so quickly, so often.
That for many just points to one thing and that is that the players only play when they want to (apparently in the Cup, when they are heavily criticised or when someone winds them up on social media) in other words they do as they like. That might not be the reason at all and there might be some deep sporting psychological explanation we are all missing, but in the perception of FC fans that is how it looks. None the less Lee himself doesn’t, by his own admission, even know what FC team will turn up each week once the players are left to their own devises on game-day, so what chance do we have?
So is the tail really wagging the dog? Well to many who have got in touch since Saturday it looks like it might be, because the Coaches and administration seem to have absolutely no control over which FC pitches up on any given weekend.They are according to what Lee has seen, World beaters at County Road and by what we’ve seen at times, egg beaters on the field. Our Coach in fact just says it happens, ‘Because it’s the sort of team we are’ and perhaps that is the real worry.
Its heart-breaking stuff, but however bad we all feel there are always more important things out there and even that performance paled into insignificance this week when the situation concerning Jansin Turgot eclipsed anything that was to happen on or off the field. We have to get things in prospective because the tragic circumstances surrounding that news put everything else in the shade, as our heart-felt thoughts went out to our ex-player (and his family) who had earlier in the week, been fighting for his life. We all certainly send our love to Jansin!
You know someone once said, that there’s more to life than rugby and ironically after Saturday, as far as some Hull FC fans are concerned, it seems that’s something that a lot of fans are contemplating finding more about.
What an amazing victory against all the odds that was!!
If ever there was a time when the FC fans travelled ‘More in
hope than expectation’, this was it!! But as my pal Sarah said straight after
the final hooter, ‘On this occasion, hope overcame expectation”.
I’m in danger of being over the top again here, but why not?
That was for every true FC fan a most unexpected victory and after the
announcement of the team before-hand, it was one that exceeded everyone’s expectations.
The Coach and players had been quiet all week, whilst the
social media from Warrington was, I thought, a bit arrogant yet I guess that’s
understandable from a team that are starting to become the self-styled ‘Billy
Big Heads’ of the game. We all hoped that it would get a response and I
suspected that something was stirring down
at County Road!!!
You must have felt it too and so it was that with around 9
players missing, our resolve was unyielding and Lee’s game plan spot on. We followed
it to the letter, battled for each other to grind it out until every one of the
players was out on their feet; yet always believing that they could do it! As
the much fancied opposition got more and more frustrated some of the backs to
the wall defending in that second half, particularly inches from the line, was
nothing short of super human. In fact, some of their massive pack were shaking
their heads as they got up from being hit by some of the smaller FC lads.
Smaller guys maybe, bigger hearts definitely.
Pretty it wasn’t, but well done to the team, to Lee and to all those who went. This will once again (and this time for all the right reasons), be a display that will be hard to do justice to in here, but it’s going to be fun having a go
You’ve got to be in it to win it and we’re in the hat for
the quarter finals, two games away from Wembley and what’s more, our passion
and wanting is back (although what’s still pretty baffling now is how it went
away altogether last week only to return in abundance 7 days later!)
In the end, it was the old scrapping, cup fighting FC that
saw us unbeatable in the glorious 2016 and 2017 Cup campaigns that suddenly
manifest itself once more on Friday. Despite blowing them away in the first
quarter, it wasn’t our best ever performance, nor was it that cultured and at
times it certainly wasn’t flowing, but that special, ‘all in it together’ fighting
spirit was back and it was great for every FC fan to witness.
We came out energised and buzzing just as we have against so
many teams in the cup in the past. Our forwards hit the ground like a steam
train and rolled right over the much fancied Castleford pack. That saw the
Tigers rocking and panicked into mistakes, which thankfully we capitalised on, just
as we had done against Rovers.
However, then, when the tries dried up, we found the
strength the passion and a Plan B that we always seem to find in Cup games.
That attitude, so different from last week, saw us keep our shape, defend like
hell and tough it out. It wasn’t a good Castleford performance by any means, in
fact you had to feel for their fans when at times in the first half they looked
like us last week!!
However, we had a plan to unsettle them and it worked and
what’s more, unlike last week, in the end we had the wanting and grit to both out
smart and out muscled them.
Paea and Taylor targeted their big front row and rolled
right over them, whilst they both bottled up Watts perfectly, Houghton then buzzed
and goaded them around acting half, our wingers were so much stronger and
tougher than theirs and in Sneyd we had the consummate game manager, as he led
us around the field ably assisted by his generals, Albert Kelly and Jake
In the end it was so good to get a win, but after last week it’s even better to report on the return of the desire and passion that we so obviously missed against Catalan, how long it will stick around is anyone’s guess, but battered and bruised it was job done and we could look forward to 8 days off and the Quarter Finals!!
I don’t really feel like writing this journal at all this week.
I know a lot of you read it and some even enjoy it at times, but I feel guilty
to even put my thoughts into words, because at present, I really can’t find
anything at all positive to write about that game on Friday. I know all the
excuses and the ‘reasons’, let’s face it we have heard them trotted out time
and again, but that was disappointing to say the least.
Those who weren’t there will no doubt read what follows and say
I’m over reacting and being too doom and gloom, I mean, “Let’s face it we did
have 17 players out!” On the other hand, perhaps those who were there will have
had time to digest some things and gloss over others in their minds and probably
won’t agree with me after they have had a couple of sleeps to get over it. I
love the Club and the players and everything to do with Hull FC but, right now
I think myself that what I have just witnessed, was one of the most passionless
performances we have seen from an FC team for a long while.
As a team we are so up and down, its just unbelievable really!
This week we were certainly down, so don’t read on if you want
to be enthused and excited because no one who sat through any of that, will,
right now, be feeling anything but the same dejection and frustration that I’m
feel. Regular readers know that I write this from the heart, usually straight
after the game and thus whilst I am still if you like a bit ‘raw’, so sometimes
it is so far over the top its euphoric, whilst on other occasions, such as this,
I am despondent and totally frustrated. That’s being a fan and buying into it,
if we didn’t care so much and couldn’t take such doses of disappointment, we
wouldn’t go would we? But by the same
rule we pay’s our money and as such have every right to speak our minds and this
week I’ll be doing just that!!
I’ve got my lap top on my knee and a bottle of Bud on the table, its 10-30 pm, the game has only been over for an hour and I’ve seethed about a massive opportunity lost, all the way home!!!
Well another two points, a gritty performance, a great
showing from Albo and some well worked tries …. And otherwise? Well it was
hardly a classic, but it was job done!
In all honesty, it was scrappy, unconvincing and frustrating
to watch at times, but we found a way to win and regular readers will know that
at this point in the season, all ‘glass half empty’ old me looks for every year
is that 20 or 22 points that you need to survive relegation. Once that’s
attained and ‘we live to play another season’, I can look upwards and that win
gets us well on our way!!
Wakey had injuries, but according to Lee Radford we were
down to our last 18 fit players before we even started and soon we were
managing with a two-man bench and therefore it was pretty much ‘even Steven’s’
on the adversity front. So, to get the points in a game which also featured the
worst refereeing performance thus far this year (which was totally baffling at
times for both teams) and saw one player sin binned and a few either leave the
field or soldier on with knocks, was certainly satisfying.
Of Mr Moore the referee, my pal Kathy turned to me and said,
“No doubt he was at that meeting about the play the ball this week, he looks
like he’s remembered all that and forgotten the rest of the rules completely!”
But in fairness it was a game that never really rose above
the run of the mill, but the points are ours and we move on to Friday and a
real chance to consolidate our position of 3rd in the table. That bit
seems pretty surreal really, because as a team we don’t seem to have got going
at all this year, yet we’ve got 8 wins and with County Road resembling the
A&E at Hull Royal, the only healthy thing about Hull FC at present is our
As for us lot on the terraces, well it wasn’t a performance that allowed anyone to settle until we were well in front and even then you didn’t quite know what would happen next. Still we prevailed and whatever the circumstances, it was good to see those precious two points in the bag.
“Hopefully we’re saving a special performance for this week”.
So said Craig
Hall on Thursday and you have to give him some credit, for that absolute
humbling of the old enemy was, as far as I’m concerned, certainly pretty
What a game, what a victory and what a humiliation it was for
the boys from ‘the Land that Time Forgot’!!!
I said last week that the next Diary would be after the
Saints game, but I couldn’t resist this one and once I’d started I just wrote
and wrote, for it was fabulous afternoon for everyone who has ever had the
slightest leaning towards the FC.
Glorious Sunshine, over 20,000 through the Turnstiles, a record defeat in the history of local Derby’s, two 37-year-olds, one 18- year-old and a hat trick for a player who so richly deserved one, all added up to the absolute humiliation of a shambolic Dobbins; if you’re an FC fan what more can you want really to make a really GOOD Friday. I’d have taken four points from our 4 Easter games before the trip to France and yet, by mid-afternoon on Friday, we already had them in the bag. Bigger battles lie ahead but for now that was simply phenomenal stuff!
Let’s all, as well, give great credit to Lee Radford for our
game plan last Friday was close to perfection and our substitutions and bench interchanges
inspiring. I have a go at him at times as you know, but I have to give credit
where it is due and after Friday, Lee
deserves a big pat on the back.
The game plan was superb, as, thanks to Danny Houghton, the ruck
speed when we had the ball was as fast as we have seen all year, yet we toned
it all down with some clever defence and working hard in the wrestle, so that the
game was much slower when KR had the ball. It all worked to perfection, simply
because everyone carried it out to the letter.
In addition, the way Lee managed the bench and took Wynne
off at half time, switched Connor to full-back and then brought Albo to half
back, (where his introduction was electric), was inspiring; and was all done in
the same spirit that Lee had switched it around in a different way last week in
You know, someone once said, “You should never underestimate the power
of sport” and with Tiger Woods, Man. City v Tottenham, Hull and Catalan and then
that mullering last Friday, who could ever really argue with that. Wherever I
went today, (Saturday) Cottingham, Beverley, Morrison’s and Marks and Spencer’s,
everyone was wearing their colours, stopping to chat and smiling from ear to ear.
You know, The Housemartins once released an album called ‘The People Who
Grinned Themselves to Death’ and that just about summed us lot up this weekend!
All that said, it’s hard to forget as well that the time
leading up to the match was fraught with nervous anticipation and a deal of
dread. You see, I still hate Derby’s! There is little doubt that there is no
better atmosphere or occasion than a Hull Derby at the KCOM on a sunny Easter
weekend; the pity is that you can’t fully enjoy it even when it is as
conclusive as it was on Friday! You see, by the time you can sit back and try
to enjoy it you’re totally wrung out and you feel like you’ve been through a
liquidiser!! Why??? Well I guess it’s
the nagging prospect of always being wary of what could happen, even when your
miles in front!!! That’s being an FC fan, always has been and always will be, but
of late we have certainly seen some spirited and gutsy performances and on
Friday, although that was to be repeated in spades, we were about to be
thoroughly entertained as well.
Nevertheless, as usual, once kick-off had arrived, it was
with great trepidation and a deal of hyper tension that I settled down to watch
through my fingers, as the drama began to unfold in front of that massive Derby
As the sun shone down I just wanted it to get started and if
you like, get it over with. However, after a tough first set, a brilliant
return from Connor Wynne up the middle certainly settled him and us lot down a
bit, but we soon had to drop out. Rovers certainly looked lively as Tommy Lee thought
he had scored (bless him) but a great slam tackle by Mini ensured it was a
double movement and with the Rovers line open to their right, ‘Knock on Tommy’
had certainly missed a great chance to put KR in front. Then as we charged
forward we lost possession because on a couple of occasions we appeared to over
play things a bit. In fact, I guess at that point both sides looked nervy, making
mistakes and giving away penalties, but Connor brilliantly dummied and a great
show and go saw him over the line and we were on our way.
Then, almost as we expected after an opening FC try, Wynne
dropped the ball near our line and straight from the kick off, we were under
the cosh as almost predictably Keinhurst rolled in wide out. At 6-6 mistakes
were costing us dearly and although I declined to admit it at the time, they
looked good as we gifted them field position. But an absolutely brilliant leap
from Logan saw him get his first try of the season and we were back in front. Almost
immediately some brilliant fast hands across the line through Connor, Wynne and
Logan saw the winger in again from a pass that was far beyond the tender years
of our young full-back, who read the situation and over-lap play brilliantly. What
a start it had been in a game that must have been a white hot spectacle for the
neutral, if still purgatory for us lot. True to type, the immaculate Sneyd missed
an easy penalty (which was to be his only miss of the afternoon) that would
have stretched it to three scores and that seemed to give the Dobbins some heart again.
Both teams looked good on each other’s lines and the trick
was to keep the opposition away from your end, but with mistakes and penalties
it was really nip and tuck, although our forwards were doing their best to
batter the opposition down the middle. However, you felt that disaster was coming
and a try late in the first half saw us go in just 6 points up. It was so tense
I could hardly make any notes at all at this point and the start of the second
half couldn’t come quickly enough if only to get it over with!!
It started poorly! Carlos immediately lost the ball but it
was to prove a small set back that belied the excitement that was to come. Next
up came an absolutely fantastic moment as we saw a massive break and run from Mark
Minichiello, as he rolled back the years and strode through the Rovers cover as
if it were 2016. The way he just kicked on away with the last chasing tackler just
at the right time was vintage Mini and it was a fine game breaking touch down
that had the FC fans dancing in their seats. He’s struggled a bit of late and I
was so pleased to see him score, He was as well, as a grin as wide of the
Humber spread across his face. What a try to start the half that was. With
Kelly on for Wynne, we looked to be rolling plays out everywhere, there were
dummy runners at both sides of the play the ball as Houghton scooted out of
acting half and at times the Rovers defence looked incapable of catching up.
Sometimes we looked just too expansive moving from side to
side as if we almost had too many play makers out there and we just had to
steady it down. A fortuitous penalty when Mini was ‘robbed’ of the ball by a
clutch of Rovers players saw Sneydy stretched the lead and Faraimo almost got
in twice as at our end of sets, Marc was kicking them to death. Lunt dropped it
near the line in a rare Rovers sorte into our ten-yard area as across the park
one or two of the ‘more porky’ Dobbins, appeared to be either melting in the
heat or ‘Blowing for a tug’.
A brilliant ‘captains tackle’ from Danny Houghton stopped
McGuire on the break-out and we were just playing it all too fast for the opposition,
but perhaps at times too fast for ourselves as well. As three-quarter time
loomed Minichiello, who belied his years with what was a classic performance, did
one of those cross-field runs were he draws and beats tacklers, before he poked
Westy through a gap and Joe crashed in off the post under the sticks. Houghton was at his absolute best, snipping
and running like a human dynamo from acting half, as the speed of our play the
ball was just too much for the Dobbins to handle.
Then we witnessed a bizarre score when Griffin was the
victim of a ball strip and Kelly touch down the loose ball in front of the fans
that once adored him and we were cruising. At last in a Derby we were able to
sit back and enjoy it and yet there was more to come. Radford shuffled his
cards again as Wynne returned for Connor who was rested for future battles.
The ironic despondency for the Dobbins fans continued as next up another old boy Mickey Paea crashed over in front of them under the sticks after more great work at acting half from Danny Houghton. However there then followed the try of the game to complete Logan’s hat trick, as he nut-megged Craig Hall wide out and ran 60 yards to the line after Kelly had made some great space as the extra man running around the tackler. Next followed what can only be called the icing on the cake as a massive take and bump off from Kelly straight from the kick-off, saw the now rampant Albo shoot down field fending off tacklers before there was Wynne to gallop in under the sticks. Back on as our eighth substitution to saver the last few minutes, the 18-year-old was in fairyland! Marc slotted over his 9th kick from 10 and that was it, a total annihilation was complete.
What a blooming victory it was as well, a record Derby score
a record Good Friday gate and a great afternoon for everyone who was there. All
that battling and bashing through the tension and pressure of that first half saw
the damage done by our forwards, because in the new game of 8 substitutes, its
who does the most in that period that reaps the benefits later on and we
certainly did that on Friday.
It was just an
unforgettable afternoon coming as it did hard on the heels on another totally memorable
game in France last weekend. We all worried when we were so comprehensively
beaten by Warrington yet here we were with three victories following on from
it, two of which we will all recount and retell for a very long time.
You, know there are two guys in the FC ranks who are classed
by the rest of the players as true FC fans, supporters who have made the
journey from the terraces to the pitch, Scott Taylor is one and Jack Logan is the
other. So, how great it was to see that smile of Taylors at the end and to
witness Logan scoring that hat trick. A particular well done goes to Jack,
after all those months of injury, weeks at Toronto and all that suffering from
lost form, I was so pleased for a guy who as a kid in early 2016 was keeping
Yeamo out of the team. But, on Friday, there were so many heroes.
Six years ago we couldn’t buy a half back now we have three
of the best in the game, two years ago we worried like hell when Shaul was
injured because we didn’t have a decent replacement, now we have Connor to step
in and a great 18-year-old prospect in Connor Wynne whose knocking on the door
and in danger of keeping Jamie out.
As Talanoa retired we looked light-weight out wide, now we
have Ratu, Logan and Fairamo, with Dawson Jones waiting in the wings. So it
goes on and from a season that looked to be in tatters a few weeks ago when those
unprecedented injuries struck, the resilience we have shown in bouncing back
from the Wire debacle is just amazing. Returning afresh, Taylor, Paea and
Matongo absolutely bashed them down the middle, Houghton was a dynamo and in
Tumavive we had a centre that seemed to make yards every time he got the ball.
As I say, everyone was a hero, but credit to Marc Sneyd who
managed the game on the field and Lee Radford who did the same stuff off it!!
It was a fabulous afternoon to be an FC fan and great to see so many FC shirts
out in the sunshine in Beverley on Saturday morning!!
On another note wasn’t that gate magnificent eh? But does
anyone else like me think that ditching the pre-season game and changing the
structure of the Magic Weekend has made Derby’s a bit more of a rare
occurrence, a little more anticipated and therefore a bit more special? Well,
with a record aggregate across the games in the first part of the Easter
weekend, I think that Rugby League might just be moving in the right direction
again and that Elstone and Co. are making an impact. Let’s hope so eh!
But, you know, after all that stress and worry, Derby’s
always throw up some comical moments as well and watching it back afterwards my
pal said at some point in the second half, “Why do they always manage to zoom
in on half-wits when the TV cameras pick up on their crowd?”, to which the unanimous
reply came, “Probably because they’re all half-wits in the first place”.
Throwing bottles beer and flairs around indeed, what a disgrace a few of their
I had some fun too and I’m sure that regular readers will
remember I related in here how, wearing my Hull shirt, I had been absolutely
ragged by the Dobbins supporting guys on the greetings card stall in Beverley
Market after Rovers finally managed to break that 7 game losing streak in
Derby’s at the KCOM last July. Well, it actually went on for weeks afterwards
but this Saturday I wasn’t wearing my colours and I think by now anyway they
had forgotten me. So, in the spirit of friendship, I just walked up and
politely asked, “Do you have any condolence cards for Rugby Teams” they
certainly remembered me then!!!!!!
Oh the fun I’ve had, I could go on all day, but reluctantly
again, I’d better have a bit of a look at what’s been happening in a busy week
in the game and at Hull FC.
For starters, let’s look at the best news we have had for
yonks. You all know that I went a bit over the top with my headline about it
last week, but boy was I pleased to hear the news about Marc Sneyd’s new
contract when it was announced on Tuesday. Of all our out of contract players
this year, there are a couple I’d be sorry to see go and a lot that I would
understand being released, but there was just one that had to be sorted out for
the good of the future of our Club and thankfully now it’s done.
With Marc and Jake now on board for at least a couple more
seasons the prospects for us all, on and off the field are so much brighter. Everyone
likes to see open and exciting rugby and these two can, given the right
platform, instigate it ‘all day’! The fact is that ‘game managers’ like Marc
are few and far between, as are players with his kicking ability and his play
making skills. Add all that together and we have at Hull FC, one of the most
coveted players in the game.
The sarcastic shouts of ‘Sneyyyddddd!!!!’ from the opposing
fans when he occasionally misses a goal kick and the way that so many fans on
social media, from other clubs, played down his feats last weekend as ‘lucky’
or ‘a fluke’, shows how jealous many are of our half-back. On top of all that he
is a prolifically accurate goal kicker and a natural number 7 and there ain’t
many of those around these days either! But most of all he really is the ‘Ice
Man’ when it comes to playing under pressure, making the big plays and
converting the big kicks.
Marc seems to thrive when the opposition is trying to
compress the play around first or second receiver and that is a skill that is
admired by his peers and something that several players have pointed out to me
over the years. You simply can’t teach or coach that, it’s something that comes
natural. For me his signing is a big weight off my mind, because as I said to
Mrs R last weekend before he signed, I couldn’t really ever contemplate seeing
him run out against us for anyone else.
I was also pleased to see that Lee Radford has come out
and said things about this crap that is going on around the play the ball
particularly when the tackled player is getting up, stepping over the tackler
playing the ball at him and getting a penalty for off side. I even thought that
in the weekend games the referee tidied the ruck up a bit too. For me its
cheating and it seems Lee agrees, when in mid-week he said, “I’ve spoken to the
RFL about it and we need a coaches meeting for it to be sorted out. The NRL
have sorted it and it’s working for them so we need to revert to what they’re
doing over there. It could have cost us a game today which I don’t believe we
deserved to lose. Ultimately, it is cheating.”
I looked at the law on playing the ball this week and it
clearly says at clause 10(d), “The tackled player may not play the ball before
the players effecting the tackle have had time to clear the ruck”. It seems
pretty clear to me and all I can think was happening is that the officials were
trying to keep the game going and allowing players latitude to do this. But,
what about players stepping over the tackler to play the ball? Surely that is moving
off the mark? I’m glad Lee said something because it’s spoiling the game and it
needs sorting. For me it just doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the game at
Talking of Lee, it was good to hear an extended interview
with him on Humberside the other night but it was spoiled somewhat by a fan
taking him to task. The supporter raised some great points, but I was
interested to hear more about recruitment and future plans etc. but as usual
all that got side-tracked as the Humberside guys lost the focus, although one
interesting point did come out when Lee announced that he was only on a 6
monthly rolling contract. I though he was given a three year one after Wembley
2016 and it was up for renewal around now, but apparently that must have been
split into 6 monthly review periods. It’s a strange one about which I have no
answers at present, what’s more, I’ve asked some questions but no one seems to
know what is happening?
When the Cup draw took place last Monday, we were certainly
given a tough start on the road to another Wembley appearance, as we came out first
and at home, but against Castleford. Before the draw I have to admit to
thinking, “The way things are at present, I’ll take anyone ….. away!” Then when
it came out, I did worry a bit about that Castleford team that beat us earlier
in the season and wondered if we will be wearing that nice new Challenge Cup
strip many more times this year.
However, it’s a tough one whichever way you look at it! It’s been scheduled for Friday night and on Sky
so it’s also a bit of a worry how many spectators we’ll get there too. Still
it’s the sort of game you have to win if you’re to progress to a final again
and so that should be our mindset as we approach the match. With the Challenge
Cup, all most clubs long for is to come out of the hat first to secure a home
draw, but with what has been happening at the KCOM this term, when compared
with our form away from our home turf, It’s now an even tough prospect isn’t
Well we don’t hear much from Adam Pearson these days but
last week in the League Express there was an interview with him that I think a
journalist grabbed whilst he was in Catalan. Under the headline ‘Hull to Plunge
into the Market’ it stated that we had the largest off contract list in the
game with 15 players out of contract by the end of the year and commenting on
this Adam said that we would be making some new signings in the coming months
in preparation for 2020. Despite everything he has said on the subject he even
indicated that one might be a Marquee signing as well.
When asked about the likelihood of Hull being able to afford
such a signing he said, “Absolutely we can. Our wage bill this year had we not
gone down the big squad route would have allowed two such signings this year.
Our cap is £2.2 million so we could easily afford one but our coaches are
‘fixed’ on the problems that could cause. That is having a player on £300,000
sat next one on £50,000 and that second player giving better value. Lee
fundamentally finds that a problem with such a small cap. However, I think
we’ll be smaller next year even after bringing in 6 or 7 new players”.
On those signings he added, “We’ll be bringing five or six
in from Australia at the end of the year and I’d be surprised if our ‘no
marquee’ policy isn’t tested because the sort of players we want will have seen
their price go up until perhaps they will become marquee signings”. He then
said we will be reducing our squad next season, but keeping the reserves and
topping that team up with academy players, trialists and first team players.
Now I know that Adam does at times tend to err a bit on the
side of exaggeration in such matters, for we have seen it in the past, but it
looks like we are in for a big clear out and some new faces arriving who’ll
hopefully have the same effect as the 6 we brought in when last we went through
such an exercise, pre 2016. However, it does seem that perhaps we are suffering
from not having some long term vision moving forward because just months after
being told big squads, lots of bodies, big reserve rosters and quantity rather
than quality was the way to go, here we are apparently planning to now go the
other way? Just at the time that the big squad seems to be working for us! It’s
hard to fathom really but looking through the players that are free to talk to
other clubs from 1st May, we certainly have some work to do on retaining
or replacing our current assets.
Despite what he says about going around again I think that Mini
will be returning home and Gareth Ellis will surely be retiring (again), Washy
will probably go, as might Micky Paea too. I like to keep Faraimo who, although
not quite as popular, actually has a slightly better strike rate that Fonua had
and his 191 meters on Friday is case of point really. But then we get into
uncharted waters. On top of those there’s Westerman, Green, Hadley, Manu,
Litten, Sanderson, Scott and Logan. Westy is a great player on his day, but a
bit injury prone and then for me the jury’s out on Green, Logan and Hadley,
Manu is still a 100%er, but slowing up a bit, Litten is for me at present a
must keep, Sanderson will probably go to Doncaster and Scott will be retained. Whilst
it looks now like we will have to keep Logan.
Well that’s how I see it anyway, but the big one was Marc
Sneyd, because we can do without any of the others at a pinch, but not Marc. Thank
goodness, as I say, that he is signed up and sorted and as for the rest, well
it should be an interesting few weeks watching what happens next!
When I was working on the Council one of my areas of
responsibility was Tourism which in Hull was always a tough ask. However, what
did become apparent is that the image of the City didn’t match the reality and
once we had got folks into Hull they invariably spoke well of the array of
cultural and heritage sites and even came back. So the challenge was to
introduce the City to new people. One of our biggest coupe’s was a great two
page article that we secured after months of work, in the New York Times. That
was envied by other authorities across the country as it is placed in the most
influential newspaper in the States. The response from American tourists coming
to the city in the next two years was marked and although things have slipped a
bit since, back then the City was doing well from the exposure it received.
All that waffle is by way of leading up to the fact that
last week the same newspaper led with a long article about Rugby League
following the British lower league clubs agreeing to the bids of both New York
and Ottawa being considered for inclusion in 2020. It was a well-researched and
informative article promoting the game big style to the US audience. If that is
an example of the sort of exposure a team there could regularly generate, you
can see why some feel that it is simply massive for the game.
Quite frankly, I’d much prefer to see the British game
thriving, playing to packed houses at Oldham, Swinton and South Wales, having
record TV viewing figures and gaining the ensuing revenue that all those
scenarios would generate! But, let’s face it I’m old and a bit of a dreamer and
such imaginings are perhaps pitched somewhere between far-fetched and totally
ridiculous. Truth is, none of those utopian scenarios are ever likely to
happen. So, perhaps the North American experiment using Toronto and these two
new bidders should be given a go, but if we do that and want to capitalise on
the opportunity, whilst ensuring that we keep the two new clubs interested and
thriving, then I fear there will have to be a radical rethink of exactly how
the whole game is structured.
Rugby League is
only going to get one chance at this. So, do we really want the first glimpses
of a New York Rugby League team to be them playing at, with all due respect,
the Vestacare Stadium in Oldham or Moor Lane in Swinton? The main
justification for this experiment is that it opens rugby league up to new
markets and potentially lucrative sponsorship and broadcast deals, but those
sorts of fixtures and venues are hardly going to
have the blue chip companies and massive TV conglomerates in New York State falling
over themselves to get involved is it?
That’s where the
radical bit come in because perhaps if we are intent on this sort of exercise
and there really is an opportunity to open the game up to millions of new
supporters and sports hungry TV viewers, then we have to revisit the Franchise
system again, because how long will these teams hang around trying to get into
Super League, before their interest wanes. They need, I guess, to be seeing the
games top player’s week in week out from the off, for it to really be a
success. I hate the idea, but I’m trying to look at things from a common sense and
perhaps business angle.
thought that a breakaway by Super League Clubs from the RFL was a possible
scenario in years to come and perhaps if this is to work, an NRL sort of set up
embracing 16 teams with two French, three North American and 11 British outfits
fighting it out over 30 rounds would be the best structure.
Before you stop
reading this any further, I’m certainly not condoning that point of view and
don’t particularly like the idea much at all, but in the end radical solutions
may be needed to make this latest expansionist experiment (which potentially
promises the possibility of millions of Dollars coming into the game) work. Most
expansionist efforts in the past have failed because the game has seen them as
an add on rather than embracing the opportunities they present. But this isn’t
Kent Invictor, Gateshead Thunder, South Wales or the London Scholars, this is
big time and an opportunity that will only ever come once. Perhaps as a game, we
have to either decide it’s not for us, or embrace it totally.
Fact is that to
get column inches in an influential publication like the NYT is massive and
brilliant for the game and I guess just shows what could happen should a New
York Team be welcoming Wigan, Saints and the mighty FC to the Big Apple.
Franchises work really well in the NRL and in the North American NFL and like
it or not perhaps the most successful and stable time we had in the British
Super League, was when they were in operation here.
As I say I don’t
like the idea, but, I also like to think that even at my age I’m open to a bit
of lateral thinking now and again, I don’t think that promotion and relegation
into a league of just 12 is working at all, because it doesn’t give a promoted team
time to grow into the competition. It’s such a big leap from the Championship
to the upper echelon which I think will just see teams yo-yoing back and forth.
Then of course as with Widnes and Leigh there is the imploding of the relegated
team to consider as well.
Issuing 4 or 5
year franchises with set criteria and that set review period would give teams a
chance to grow into the competition and allow teams such as New York to welcome
the best players in the world which would, in a sports mad country, immediately
attract large scale media attention and blue chip sponsorships. Let’s face it
the only team to be catapulted straight into Super League is the only
expansionist Club to really succeed; The Catalan Dragons.
Had the lower
division clubs turned down the New York and Ottawa application, I’m told on
very good authority that it could have perhaps seen Super league act and even
break away, but they didn’t and so at present at least due process continues.
There are strong
arguments (as with these two new potential franchises) for a closed shop Super
league and many as well for relegation and promotion but, you can’t have both. It’s
all just conjecture on my part at present, I don’t like it one bit, but I do
recognise that this Stateside development does offer a massive opportunity to
boost the game beyond our wildest dreams, it might not work but perhaps, just
perhaps, we have to give it a go. Do we have the bottle. balls or brains to
pull it off and make it work? As always with our great game, the answer to that
one is who knows?
Many traditionalists like me, like the idea of promotion and
relegation in a traditional format (as long as Hull FC ain’t involved J), and I know I’ll be criticised by some readers for even
raising the issue of franchises again. The whole North American thing, as with
the Franchise debate, sets the message boards on fire as soon as it is
mentioned and it appears as with Brexit, that there is no middle ground. You’re either in one camp or the other. You can’t
have reasoned debate with those who have decided you are the enemy before you
It has been painted as, your either for expansion and the bids, and for
progress and innovation, or against them and closed off/small-minded/stuck in
your ways. Of course in reality most of us fall somewhere in between the two
camps and just want to see what is best for the game. I’ll wait now and see what the next
moves from New York and Ottawa are, but It’s all very interesting isn’t it?
listing of my favourite scrum halves and comparing them to Marc Sneyd last week
seemed to gain much approval but many also quoted the fact that I had missed
out one player who was a great servant to the Club over many years. He is an
individual who was without doubt one of the greatest local hero’s that I have
had the honour to watch in my 50 odd years of supporting Hull FC and perhaps I
was remiss not to include him.
Market Place ta few months ago I happened to come across Chris Davidson, who
although pretty skilful was without doubt one of the toughest half backs I have
ever seen pull on a black and white shirt. We have been and are still blessed
with some great half back some were more skilful, but none were harder and more
tenacious than Chris! So here are a few random memories I have of a full on
well my dad going with me to see him in the Yorkshire Cup Final at Leeds in
1967, when he got the man of the match award despite us being narrowly defeated
by the Dobbins 8-7.
amazing that day, and I always remember my Dad said to me, “Just watch Davidson
when he comes out of the tunnel”. The team ran out onto the pitch and Chris
hung around waiting for the Rovers players to enter the fray! I swear, he then
glared at each one of them in turn as the Dobbins ran out. From the first
minute he was really fired up. Soon he had scored a great try with a dart from
acting half and that before Rovers had even had possession and although we lost
he was a hero for me from that moment.
later he got his one and only winners medal when we played Featherstone in the
same final as this time we ended up winners 12-9. Chris was only 20 then, but
had an amazing game and with Joe Brown was instrumental in what was a great
victory. However, over the years it was his dedication to the club that
impressed me the most. He actually played from 1963 until 1979, clocking up 296
games, 87 tries and 157 goals. I remember his debut well, it was played against
Wakefield at the Boulevard when the visitors included the flying winger and ex-British
sprint Champion Berwyn Jones, and from then on he was a regular in the side.
great performance by Chris came in the Yorkshire Cup semi-final in 1967, which
led to that defeat by Rovers in the final. We were particularly excited about
the game, because it was on a Wednesday night and one of the first to be played
under our new floodlights at the Boulevard. Firstly, Chris intercepted a Leeds
pass from Bev Risman and sent Terry Devonshire away on a 70 yard run to the
line and then he started another move that saw Stocks score in the corner.
(Incidentally, does anyone remember Geoff Stocks, what a sight he was, he used
to run like a chicken, with his legs almost appearing to touch his chin).
to come back in the second half, but then came an incident involving Davidson
that sticks in my minds-eye and will probably do so forever. Chris got the ball
from acting half and was immediately enveloped by four Leeds players. He lost the
ball out of the front of the ruck but got his foot to it before it hit the
ground. He then shrugged off three tacklers, and took the remaining one with
him on his back as stumbling forward he chased the kick for ten yards to the
line, and touch down. He got up and turned to the crowd with the opposition
player still hanging on; it was just an amazing piece of rugby, which had the Threepenny’s
dancing for joy.
again before the end and we beat the mighty Leeds by 31-6. Chris had a
fantastic game and I was on the pitch at the end, as the 14,600 crowd (many of
whom were initially attracted by the new floodlights) flowed onto the pitch and
carried Chris shoulder high across the field. Had it not been for his loyalty
to his hometown club, through difficult times, Davidson would have won many
more honours, than his two Yorkshire caps. But he was a Hull lad through and
suffered some bad injuries because he would literally run into brick walls for
the club he loved and later in his career he switched to loose-forward. However
right up to the end of his playing days, and I saw his last appearance which I
think was against Saints in 1978, he continued to play the only way he knew how
to, hard and tough! He was a great player and a great servant to our club! Over
the years it is players like Chris on which our great club is built and I’m
pleased here to mention him again.
So there we
are and what a six days that has been with that almost dream like ending to the
game in Catalan the like of which you’ll probably never ever see again in your
lifetime and then that record win against the ‘Wizards Wonders’. As we walked home
after the Warrington game no one, but no one could have predicted that! It was
so great to hear from so many readers at the end of the game and to see how
much that win meant to us all, for in tough times, it’s just what some of us needed.
I was so proud
of our efforts and the way that the lads finished the Dobbins off so clinically
and what a crowd and what an atmosphere too. The game had everything, but now
we look to Monday and the trip to Saints. Will we win? Well that’s debatable to
say the least, but quite frankly, I don’t really care too much at this moment
and because I felt so elated and wanted to share that with all of you
likeminded individuals, I ditched the idea of covering that game in this
edition and dedicated the full Diary to the total annihilation of the old
enemy. I’m still buzzing and still so proud; wasn’t it great and doesn’t it
make all the heartache pain and frustration so worthwhile!!!
reading the Diary, enjoy next week at work and I’ll speak to you next time
after the Wakey game.