So here we are, the last Diary for three weeks and judging by the lack of activity that we have seen forthcoming from our club of late, then perhaps a break is a good idea. What a great season 2017 was though and although not as significant as the previous historic campaign, we still have a trophy in the cupboard and what’s more I’ve really enjoyed an absorbing campaign following the Club we all love. After last week’s look at what could happen next season if we ain’t careful, this week I’ll have a look at a couple of interesting areas and developments within the game and in Codgers Corner there’s a look at happier times at Leigh, back in the early 1980’s.
Season tickets are on sale, Old Trafford has come and gone and the lads are off on their holiday and despite the up-coming World Cup, it has all now got a real end of season feel about it, hasn’t it! However, this year, with that Tournament, it’s going to be a truncated closed seasons spanning either side of the four-yearly bun fight that is our premier international extravaganza, which kicks off at the end of the month.
But closed seasons always bring out all sorts of traits in the fans and this week there have been a lot of folks out there, probably fuelled by disappointment, who have been expending time and energy comparing us with the eventual Grand Finalists. Several I have spoken to have been despondent because we weren’t at Old Trafford and lamented the fact that we haven’t won everything on offer. In fcat I guess as the teams lined up to be introduced on Saturday night, none of us could really fail to have not thought, “That could have been us!” However, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy” and although I was a bit fed up myself after the Headingley finale, I’ve avoided much of that and I still feel 9 days on, that 2017 has been a pretty good season.
I guess the fact that we aimed from day one to peak at the end of the campaign and then didn’t quite make it, is a bummer, particularly because I think that those grumbling fans have a point when they say that we were the best team in the competition ‘on our day’. Nonetheless, as often happens when you put your eggs in one basket we came a cropper and fell at the last hurdle, simply because on that Friday night in Leeds it wasn’t ‘our day’!
But, of course we didn’t quite put all those ‘eggs’ in that ‘basket’ as we won the Challenge Cup again and that has to count for something. The British game boast just two real trophies, we win one of them and get within a goal kick of competing for the other and people are saying that it was a disappointing year. Well if nothing else, I guess that just shows how far we have come and how high we’ve all set our sights this past season. Yet we have won a trophy for the second straight year whilst leading clubs like St Helens, Warrington and Wigan all went home entirely empty handed from the 2017 campaign.
I had a great time at Wembley and experienced some gripping encounters on the way there and indeed at the end of the season, which for me make for some fine memories from 2017; not fine enough this time around to write a book about, I’ll grant you that, but good memories just the same. One things definite though and that’s the fact that I’m ready for a bit of a rest now and quite looking forward to all the rhetoric, intrigue and anticipation that the closed season brings.
However, as I’ve been accused of being a bit of a ‘Happy Clapper’ of late, this week, as the dust settles on that 2017 season, I’ll have a look at the miscellany of problems, plusses, issues and pitfalls that I think face Hull FC as they tackle the next campaign which could well be fraught with difficulties.
PRIDE; (mass noun). A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired by you and your kindred spirits.
So says the Oxford Dictionary and boy, despite the disappointment, once I’d ‘boxed off’ the frustrations and wiped away the tears I was very proud on Friday night and I’m so, so pleased that I’ve been honoured to witness another quite amazing season. How my Mum and Dad and thousands and thousands of FC fans that have passed on, (some of whom you’ll remember well), would have enjoyed these last two campaigns. Yeh, I know we have had some hard to take defeats and a few disappointments, but boy have I had my £185 worth of ‘season ticket’ over the roller coaster that was the last 8 or 9 months.
Playing there with the very best, right at the top of the British Super League for most of the season, before in the end falling just two points short of glory, saw us destined to not live out the dream next week at Old Trafford. Nonetheless, we have the Challenge Cup and wow, what a season and again what an effort it was to get that far! I was gutted after Friday, of course I was, but in the afterglow of that defeat I realised that it was simply a case of tons of spirit, tons of endeavour, but not quite playing as well as we know we can for the full 80 minutes on the night. In the end fatigue took its toll and come the final hooter as is often the case at Headingley, it was ‘Close but no cigar!’ But all the same, what an effort eh?
KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE!!!!
Still battling, still hoping and still alive!
Whatever anyone says and whatever else happens, it has been an amazing two years! Two Challenge Cups back to back, four semi-finals and three Man of Steel nominations in two seasons is pretty unprecedented at any Club, never mind at the FC. And it ain’t over yet!!
We are back in that ‘bubble’ where we are challenging for a place at Old Trafford, as everyone, with the exception of the best four clubs, are left to look on. It’s a place we are beginning to cement for ourselves at the very top end of the British game, because now its ‘official’, last year was NOT a flash in the pan and whatever happens on Friday, it’s been another tremendous season when it’s been great to be an FC fan.
Before you read on any further, just pause for a moment and dwell on how lucky we are and how much we perhaps take for granted, particularly when you consider just where we have come from and how good an FC side we are now watching. This is our best team and our best set up since the 1980’s and if time travel were possible, I would love to transport every reader of this Diary back with me, so that we could all sit in the East Stand a few years ago in the reign of Auntie Kath and Richard Agar. Then perhaps we’d all realise just how far we have come under the Radford, Ellis and of course Pearson regime.
As fans of any sports team there are always hard times in which we crave success and distinction and often wonder if it will ever come our way. In fact, for many supporters of many Clubs it never does manifest itself at all. However, for us lot it’s here, we have won ‘the unwinnable’ …twice, got within 80 minutes of Old Trafford twice in the same two back to back seasons and in the process, shut up the protagonists across the game and indeed more importantly those ‘Dimwits in the East’, completely.
You might be different to me, but I’m still finding the significance of all this hard to rationalise. We might see the end of our season this weekend, who knows, that’s sport, but the prospect of our Club becoming a force in the game is now, I believe, a real one and the dream is no longer a fleeting fantasy but fast becoming a reality. The problem is, it’s all happening around me and I don’t think I fully appreciate just how good this all is? In essence I suppose being positive isn’t something the rank and file of FC fans are particularly good at, for time, disappointment and adversity have made us very wary of that scenario indeed. Negativity seems to have crept (stealth like) into all aspects of modern society and I guess I’m no different either, in fact, I think in the end, when it comes to trying to explain just how good we have become as a team, even I found it easier when I was kicking off and grumbling because we were crap!
ONE hell of a battle, TWO precious points, THREE departing Heroes and ‘FOUR Seasons in One Day!!!’
It was as tight a game as you could ever imagine and excruciating to watch at the end. However, it was also 2 points that kept our season alive ….but only just, although there were certainly 3 departing heroes out there who were worthy of all the accolades they received. Nonetheless, all that said, what a nerve racking night it became. It was a game that firstly plunged us all to the depth of the way we played four seasons ago and then raised us again to the heights of the best of the fighting spirit we have shown in the last two campaigns. In fact, it was a match that spanned 4 years of FC performances in just 80 minutes of rugby. It was good, it was bad and at times, boy was it ugly! But after a game that certainly was ‘Do or Die’ we are still alive, but only by the skin of our teeth.
Of course, in the bigger scheme of things, I guess you couldn’t ask for more drama as a neutral and the TV guys got what they wanted as far as the much vaunted jeopardy was concerned. However, for us lot, sat with our heads in our hands, it was, in that last two minutes, almost impossible to watch, for then, it was only Minichiello’s heroics, charging out of the line to somehow defuse those two drop goal attempts, that got us home.
The week ahead will certainly be a nervy one as we all become a Salford supporter for a day and it will be a good old fashioned time for the fingernails as well, as the fans nervously bite theirs and the team prepare to fight and scrap as they just hang on by theirs!!
FIRSTLY …..what a wonderful performance that was!!!
On Friday night I was proud to be there, even in defeat. In fact, in hindsight it was a game that we should all have been remembering for years and one that we might well have been talking about in the pubs and clubs for generations to come, because that’s how good 12-man Hull FC were and how close we came to a famous victory. However, as the mists of time gather around the 2017 season, I don’t now expect it will be that memorable at all really, because even after circumstances saw us fall just short of a historic win, as usual we left the match talking about just one thing; an uninspiring display by the official. AND this one really was uninspiring!
Whilst we should all have been marvelling about that wonderful Fonua try, when a brilliant pass back from Connor saw our winger run over the opposition to score, or another wonderful and at times mesmerising showing from Albert Kelly, instead once again it was same old, same old as we walked home. After the farce of Ellis’s sin binning and suspension and Burrows thuggery at Leeds last week, which very likely robbed us of two points, it was business as usual on Friday as we were once again robbed of a win by ineptitude and a referee that completely lost control of the game and the players. It’s not about the big decisions but everything that goes on in the tackle and on the floor and with the niggle and leg lifting all of which he ignored completely. Mr Hicks was, in that first half, reduced to ‘ad hoc’, ‘on the hoof’ decision making and appeared at times to be just making it up as he went along.
When back home in the cold light of your own easy chair you watch it back and listen to the platitudes of Cummings and Co always defending the referee whatever he does, you realise that the heat of the moment and the reality of watching it all unfold in real time at the Stadium, does make you a tad biased. However, there was still so much going on in the contact and on the floor and off the ball that the referee either ignored or blatantly misinterpreted that it was at times nothing short of a travesty.
Seldom have I seen such an animated crowd and rarely has the support at the KCOM been more vociferous and passionate and in turn I think that was all instrumental in our magnificent fight back in that second half. Get that response every week and it really would be fortress KCOM, but sadly it was all ignited in the first place, not by that gargantuan effort, the sheer will to hang in the game or our lad’s obvious passion and wanting, but by frustration at the total ineptitude of the officials. It was something that resounded around the Stadium both on and off the field; Mr Hicks lost control and Tomkins took over, oh boy, what a bloody mess our great game is in!
THAT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE TOUGH!
Thursdays was a horrible game and it’s hard to describe it as anything else really! Our lads did their best and in the end it was a lot better than many of us expected, but we were beaten not so much by the expected lack of energy but by bad luck, the bounce of the ball, having to force the play a bit late on and some baffling decisions and omissions by the officials …. again!
However, although we lost, I’m still smiling and furthermore I’m pretty confident that after that glorious day at Wembley, I will be grinning my way to the end of the season, whatever happens. I watched the Final again on Saturday afternoon in sort of real time – 7 days on, (we won again) and who knows I’ll probably do the same next Saturday as well!
But, that’s just me and talking this week to a lot of fans it appears that their feelings about the rest of the season are split pretty definitely along ‘age’ lines. The younger fans are by and large with the Coach and owner in wanting a Grand Final finish at all costs, with for some, only us winning the Super League Trophy being seen to make it a successful season. Conversely, many of us older members of the Hull FC community, although happy to enjoy whatever else comes our way, have already got what we wanted, because that famous old Challenge Cup is back in the cupboard again, we have been blessed to see history made and anything else that transpires now, will be a very welcome bonus.
Winning the Grand Final would be brilliant, although I think the possibility of that is fading a bit myself, but if you ask Adam where we are overall at present, he would admit to us probably still being a couple of years away from being where Leeds or Wigan are as Clubs, but to win back to back Cup Finals must give us a massive boost on that road to the top of the game.
Leeds was always going to be a big ask and in the end we put up a valiant and gutsy performance under difficult circumstances in a match, the result of which probably hinged on that Ellis sin binning and no action being taken against Burrows for a blatant head butt on Jake Connor.
Still we played well, gave it a real go, scored some good tries and could even have won it at the end. It gone now and there is little we can do about it, but even if you’re in the ‘Grand Final or bust’ camp, don’t despair, because we live to fight another day next Friday! But we do it in a game that will I’m afraid, be a very tough proposition indeed!
Can you believe it? No neither can I! As I sit here on the train travelling back home on Sunday morning with a happy heart, a smile on my face and a raging hangover, I’m absolutely bursting with pride and I’m so, so pleased for everyone who is in any way connected to our quite amazing rugby club. However, I’m particularly thrilled for our soon to retire Captain, (seen above in a wonderful pose) because that win made it official; Superman really does wear Gareth Ellis pyjamas!!!
As another chorus of ‘Mark Sneyd’s on Fire’ rings around the train, how can I really explain just how honoured and indeed privileged we are as a generation of fans to watch a team that despite spluttering and stuttering at times this season, has probably more spirit, heart and will to win in such big matches, than any other Hull FC team in our clubs glorious 152-year history. Well, certainly, no other team can have had more spirit and wanting can they? Some will talk of the early 80’s and quite rightly so, but remember, back then, there were more cups to win and we were the big spenders and like it or not we bought a team. Now, with the salary cap we’re all equal and so it’s down to tactics, coaches, recruitment, the level of team spirit and the will to win of the team.
We’ve got all that right and these are for all of us who have suffered so long, very special times indeed!
That Final, a credit to the game and the two teams that played in it, was a contest of brutish strength, gargantuan effort, feisty fracas, acrobatic catches and personal sacrifice and you simply couldn’t take your eyes off the action for a moment. These guys really are the heroes, these are the history boys and these are fast becoming the FC ‘Hall of Famers’ that will be remembered forever as we say, “I was there” and of whom future generations will say, “I wish I’d seen that team!”.
We all know dozens of family and friends who have over the years died wondering about winning at Wembley, but we haven’t and our generation is just so lucky, for we have seen it done twice in successive years. I’m just so pleased that I have been spared to stick around on this mortal coil long enough to witness history being made in such an unbelievable fashion.
Sat writing this on Hull Trains on a hazy, headachy Sunday morning it’s pretty hard to believe even now that it actually happened. It was such a great moment, which was, once again, all gone much too quickly. For once we actually got the breaks, and that bit of luck that so often alluded us in the past, we were undoubtedly the best team and our reward was to taste sweet success once more and to do it on another baking hot August afternoon, when all the rugby league world stopped to watch. Anyone who wasn’t there missed a real treat and another seminal milestone in the Radford/Pearson revolution. For all of us lot, it was simply a must be there moment …again!
We all knew that there would never be another 2016 Final, for that was the ultimate instance for all of us, that was our time and it is now etched on the hearts and minds of every Hull FC fan who witnessed that epic win, but last Saturday ran it pretty damn close and I’m so, so proud to be a Hull supporter this weekend. Does it get any better? Some will tell us it will, but for this fan the answer to that one has to be, probably not!
Again …. Yep, that’s right, we went to Wembley and won the blooming thing there last year and now we are back at the National Stadium on Saturday to defend it! A few years ago it would have been hard to imagine it and yet these day, as fans, we pretty much take it all in our stride. However, having failed to get there at all between 1985 and 2005, when you actually sit back and reflect on things, it’s all pretty blooming hard to believe isn’t it? Particularly when you consider it’s the third time in five years that we have been there! In that alone we are as fans so, so lucky!
However, some things never change at Hull FC do they? There we were early last week approaching the final with probably for the first time since 1983, a modicum of confidence as we seemed to be on a roll; rotating the squad, steering clear of injuries, targeting the big games, blowing away Leeds in the semi in some style and preparing to face a Wigan team that had spluttered and stuttered all season. But, what a difference one night makes eh? All of a sudden after an abject display against Huddersfield and with Wigan producing probably their best performance since the Grand Final last year, we are doing what we do best before Wembley and wobbling a bit!!!
No wonder years ago we used to sing “We’re on our way to Wembley, our knees are getting trembly”. Oh and by the way many reading this will, like me, also remember what happened in 1983, as we defended the trophy last time around all those years ago.
Wembley is the maker of dreams and the breaker of hearts and we all know to our cost how painful that second option can be! Last year just as we were about to kick off Lisa Yeaman, whose husband was out there preparing to do battle, text me the single sentence. “Do we dare to Dream” and now 12 months on her words return to me and still ring so, so, true.
But nevertheless here we are again, on the threshold of Lisa’s dream once more, as our moment in the spotlight has just about arrived, the talking is almost over and its time for the flags, scarves, shirts and lucky underpants to be produced all over again. But just remember too that…..
“LIFE IS NEVER EASY FOR THOSE WHO DREAM!!!!”
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC IS RETIRING!!!!
When the excitement should have been growing, it’s been a sad old week really! That breaking news on Gareth Ellis made for a miserable day for the fans, because with everything else that is happening it’s still a really big deal for everyone on and off the field. For me it’s been an absolute privilege to watch him play in that world famous irregular hooped jersey. He is an icon, a leader of men and a real winner and perhaps it will be a few years before we can all look back and eventually appreciate just how good he actually was!!
Then of course we were subjected on Friday to possibly the worst performance from Hull FC we have seen in two years and that on the eve of a Wembley Final which made for an even more down beat and worrying end to the week for us all. In here I’ve never ever been afraid to tell it as I see it and despite at times the protestations of the Club, I have to say what I’m feeling because usually its pretty much in line with what your all thinking anyway. For me Friday was so bad that quite frankly I just sat there for an hour and then just wanted to go home. I stayed to the end but many around me didn’t and from around 20 minutes before the hooter went, there was a steady procession of folks heading for the exits. Who can blame them for on Friday our attitude was sadly pretty appalling!
What’s more, this week I reached another milestone with the 550th edition of this weekly diatribe and since it began that’s around 3.5m words (with some actually in the right order and spelt properly) which equates to the equivalent of writing around 29 books!!! Thanks for all your support over what is now almost 12 years of the Dentists Diary and I’m always so grateful to Joe Bennett from blackandwhites for his continued patience and perseverance, he’s certainly become a big mate over the years! Oh and before I go any further can I just say, you’ll read very little in here about Wembley because as had become tradition (and you know my feelings on that before a final) The Dentists Diary 2017 Wembley Special is coming out on this site on Tuesday morning!