The Dentist’s Diary – 464th

Welcome to another edition of the Dentists Diary!

Having last week expounded a few personal thoughts on the past few seasons and where we are as a Club, I certainly got a ‘monkey’ off my own back, although it appears that it did in turn upset a couple of readers and some at the Club itself. It was only really an attempt to ‘out’ a few home truths about the way Hull FC has gone during the life of this blog and I certainly don’t take any of it back!

There is little doubt in fact that it certainly made me feel better and now I have to admit to be getting a bit more upbeat again as I look forward to the 150th dinner on the 29th and indeed the most important date in the upcoming calendar the 9th November, when pre season training begins in earnest. Then again, I always find it’s easier to be positive at this time of year when there are no games to bring me back down to earth!

Some players already have an eye on the start of pre season too, as Washy and Mini have been spotted at the Total Fitness gym, while Yeamo has being doing a bit there every day in the run up to the family holiday as well. The fixtures are out and on the financial side the Club report that season ticket sales are moving along steadily, but progressively, due I hope to the fact that most fans now realise the importance of subscribing this year. Plus, bringing the release of the impressive new home shirt forward about a month to last Friday evening will certainly boost the coffers further too and why not, needs must in these situations.

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Pretty smart with black shorts, I would have liked hooped socks but you can’t have everything!!

On sale since last Saturday from the Savile Street store, the new offering is I think a really nice shirt. The introduction of any new strip is always really a matter of taste and I’ve slagged a few ‘fancy dress’ offerings off in here over the years, but it must be really hard to find something different, particularly after having issued 4 or 5 different ones in our 150th year. Although most of us could predicted what was to come (because there weren’t really many permutations left) I think the Club have still managed to bring out a good option to what has gone before. For me it’s one of the best alternatives to irregular hoops we’ve had for a home shirt for years, ‘homers’ would always be irregular for me, but that said, I like it!!!

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The Chairman ‘gets it’ and joins in with the shirt launch!

It was always going to be difficult for the Club to match the amazing virtual launch of last year home shirt when the new offering started appearing everywhere, on statues, railway stations and roundabouts etc across the region. However this time, last Friday night, the owner got out there and ‘pressed the flesh’ with competition winners who had won the new shirt and ‘the face of the Club’ at present, Scott Taylor joined him. Let’s hope we sell tons of them because the cash will certainly come in handy and no doubt, as usual, I’ll be getting one myself.

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Still probably my favourite V shirt but I think that the new one comes in a close second!

The release of the fixtures last night threw up a few surprises and a couple of disappointments. I got them early as usual from a ‘well wisher’ last Thursday and was immediately taken by the news that despite being the club that took the most travelling supporters to Catalan last year, we have been deprived of a summer game when we would have taken well over 1300 and instead, have to travel to the South of France for our first away game on 13th February, possibly to face a frozen pitch…again; remember that farce? Of course temperature wise it will suit us better but it’s a real bummer for the Salou crew and all those who go over and make it a week in the sun, still perhaps it’s our turn to suffer and the timing gives us a better chance of a win!

Someone also said another negative was the fact that we have 4 Thursday games, which are generally accepted as crowd killers, but I guess with 12 teams in the competitions and 23 rounds in total, that’s about par for the course. One of our Thursday home matches is the Derby at the KC so it shouldn’t affect the gate. Having only 3 Sunday games that are all away, with only one Saturday game in May at home to Saints at the KC, is certainly harsh on the exiled fans that can only make the long trek to Hull on Sundays. Otherwise, with three home games in the first 4, we have the chance to get a flying start and the pressure will be on if we don’t, but we have to play everyone anyway, so the rest is pretty academic!

I guess we are all expected to jump for joy at the news that The Hull Derby will act as the ‘grand finale’ of next season’s Super League Magic Weekend, which will once again be hosted at St James’ Park, Newcastle with our game played on 22nd May at 5-30pm. My feet however will hardly be getting off the ground!

I suppose it’s our turn to be last, but the FC and Dobbins fans will all have to hang around to the very end of the Sunday session by which time I’m sure some ‘spirits will be high’ and we’ll have to be watchful for a bit of ‘boisterous’ behaviour between the two sets of supporters. 67,000 attended the event last season (with us again taking the most) but I wonder how many of those will stay till the end this time around. I’m also hearing that being the last game sees the Club torn between travelling down on Saturday and staying over or doing it all on the day. That’s all apparently down to concerns from the boredom and inactivity angle!

However you already know my feelings on that that anyway don’t you, another contrived fixture list with another bloody derby, another shirt and another massive fork out for the fans, but it’s just becoming a necessary evil where Leeds, Wigan and Saints play (for the 3rd year running), none ‘derby’ games and we play Rovers……again!!

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While back in Australia, Curtis Naughton (with his brother) is working really hard on his fitness; the weather looks a bit different to Beverley as well!

So, here’s a question for you, which team in Super League were second in metres gained and third in clean breaks made, in the regular season? Well believe it or not (and I didn’t) it was Hull FC. The fact is however when you step back from it all our pack led by Paea, Ellis, Minniciello and Wattsy dominated most Clubs in most games and yet despite all their hard work down the middle and out on the fringes, the backs on the edges simply couldn’t capitalise on the advantage the big men gave us. That record seems all the more impossible to believe when you consider that after all that pressure, we were also the third worst scoring team in that same period.

Those statistics suggest a real lack of a cutting edge and the inability to make the most of a go forward that many teams must have envied. But poor backing up and creativity by the half backs and support play in the final third from the three-quarters, did for us last term and so the statistics show in the end we were in fact pretty inept at finding the whitewash. There was one exception of course, the one man who did manage to score a shed load of tries; Tom Lineham. Tom in fact crossed 26 times in 23 games in all competitions and his departure for Warrington really could leave a big hole! Lee Radford is hoping new signing Mahe Fonua (who created a brilliant try with a flip pass in last weekend’s internationals) will fill the void, but also states that he needs the other backs to step up and come to the fore.

That’s the challenge I think and it’s a big one, but it certainly where we have to improve. Yes, it’s possible, it has to be, but converting pressure into points is something that must be our top priority. The promising Jack Logan has displayed his talents, particularly at the back end of the season and let’s hope that continues, although as fans we can’t help but remember too what happened with Ben Crooks in his second year. However I do think Jack is made of stronger stuff than that. Take for instance the interview with him in the Mail last Friday where he expounds the importance of diet and cutting out the alcohol and that being as important as going to the gym in the closed season, which showed a dedication and mentality way beyond his years and one a couple of his more senior mates would do well to note! But, on the other hand I’m sure the Club don’t want to be responsible for the bars in Xscape going bust do they?

You know strengthening at Centre was for me a big priority and I was hoping for another signing there, but that ain’t gonna happen now. However although I do feel we are a bit light in the backs, we’ll just have to see how things unfold. Frank the Tank and Manu should join Minniciello and Ellis in opening things up wider out, but points on the board are what we need and they invariably come in the end, through the speed and dexterity of the three-quarters. For me it’s therefore imperative that they sharpen up and become more predatory, otherwise it could be business as usual whoever we have in the pack!

Of course we also have to find a way to win those close encounters, which again we usually lost last season, in the final quarter. In 2015 we lost 13 games by 12 points or less because our attacking ability simply seems to fizzle out close to the line and was particularly absent in the last 20 minutes of most matches. Whether our failure in closing games out to get a win in that last period is down to fitness or a confidence thing, it’s certainly costing us the points way too often. We have to find a way to get over the line and must try, I think, to ensure that we have our best 13 out there for the last 20 minutes of the game as often as possible.

We have endeavoured both last year and this to sign up mentally stronger, proven leaders, to help with this but there is little doubt that teams that can find a way to hang in games and then finish at a gallop, invariably win a lot more matches than they lose.

I think it’s the secret of Leeds’ success over the last few years myself, and that was borne out by an interesting statistic I read the other day. Did you know that Leeds have featured in 9 Grand Final winning 7 of them, but more interesting still, in all those nine finals they have never conceded after the 61st minute of the match!! Leeds always seem to find a way to rally in the last quarter of the big game, shut the opposition out and somehow push on. We’ve seen it on many occasions at the KC, simply because the Rhino’s are masters of it and for me it’s something else we would do well to note and work on! It’s certainly going to be a busy pre-season!

I was again pleased to read a piece in the Mail about Scott Taylor and how much he is looking forward to getting stuck into things at his new club. But, they all say that don’t they? However in Scott’s case you can detect a real underlying excitement about playing for his hometown Club and the team he has supported since he was a lad. He’s taking a holiday, then hitting the gym for two weeks before training commences. I have said several times that although Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu are the names on most fans lips when it comes to anticipating the next campaign, I am really looking forward to seeing Scott in the front row next year with Danny and Wattsy.

Now the latest buzz from the new merged academy is that they have ditched the Leeds strip idea that fits in with the ‘City’s’ colours and are now opting for, as the ubiquitous Hutchie described it, a ‘Dennis the Menace’ look, of black and red! And here exclusively to the Diary it is!

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Obviously one of the recruits from the defunct Rovers under 19’s!

Another bit of news that struck me, was the piece in the Mail which indicated that Mark Minniciello wants an extension to his contract into 2017 once his current agreement has run out. He is undoubtedly a great player who I really rate, but I would expect us to just wait and see how he is next year before deciding on that. His age and style of play makes him a prime candidate for injuries, although in all honesty you have to say that he has survived as the go to forward in the second half of our sets all this last year. He’s a massive talent but we’ve been ‘caught’ before with this one haven’t we? We’ll see!

Well now its humble pie time for me I guess and although there are still plenty of issues for me and so I won’t be giving it an unqualified thumbs up, my ridiculing 12 months ago of the new 8x8x8 structure now seems a bit out of place and perhaps I did get it wrong. In the final games of the 2015 campaign every minute really did count and although there are still for me issues with regard to carrying points forward into the top 8 play-off games and also some concerns over the salary cap differences between Super League and the Championship, the race for top spot in the new Super 8’s was the closest and most exciting I can remember for ages.

There was drama too in the million pound match – which also went to the wire – and one of the two Super 8’s semi-finals, again featuring Leeds, was another classic. The NRL Grand final even got in on the drama and went to the ‘Golden Point’ after a try on the final play of the 80th minute. In fact I have also to admit that there is little doubt that Old Trafford witnessed the best of Super League’s 18 Grand Finals as the drama unfolded in front of the event’s first ever capacity crowd.

That match and the whole day was an outstanding occasion and as Diary reader Richard Kirk said to me the other week, “I can now report that I think I’m officially a Rugby League fan again. I sat at Old Trafford closer to the Moon than the pitch, but absolutely loved the spectacle in front of me. I was also very pleased that Leeds won. Not something I think I have ever felt (apart from when they play Rovers)”.

So sometimes you have to admit you’ve got it wrong and although I feel that the possibility of 4 teams going down from a League of 12 is still way too many, it seems to be working and in reality it now appears that for them all to get relegated seems unlikely if not pretty impossible. So well done to the RL on that one, (and you don’t see me doing that much in here)

That said there is little doubt that the pressure was on the games administration heading into Super League’s Grand Final showpiece at Old Trafford, because England’s Union World Cup failure confirmed that the title decider was the biggest rugby ‘show’ in Manchester that day. However we still all wondered if the game would live up to the hype and whether our own administration would make the most of its chance to hog the limelight? We just needed another nail biting finish to do it and amazingly we got it!

It was certainly evenly matched even before the final, with only points difference separating Leeds and Wigan at the top of the league table with them both having won two of their previous contests this season. It was also probably the most eagerly-anticipated Grand Final since the two sides met in the inaugural Old Trafford decider in 1998. Thankfully, in the end there was no need to worry about another false dawn, because the game certainly did live up to expectations and I think myself it ended up being the best Grand Final I’ve seen. Everyone who went said you could feel the anticipation and excitement beforehand and that the atmosphere throughout was amazing.

It was good this week to see that MP Greg Mullholland moved a motion at the House of Commons praising the success of that game too. It recognises “the wonderful spectacle of sport that was the Super League Grand Final” and praises both teams, fans and the RFL for delivering “an outstanding spectacle of rugby in Manchester”. One in the eye there for the Kick and Clap brigade eh? But, they’ll never listen and why should they, both codes have lived side by side since 1895 and will continue to do that. However I just wish we could get a fair crack in the media and a bit more recognition for what is probably the fasted and most intense code of ball in hand sport in the world.

There is certainly little doubt however that the decision by the Rugby Union to stage their England game in Manchester on exactly the same weekend as we traditionally stage our Grand final was a bit too much of a coincidence and yet in the end as I say it all blew up in their faces in spectacular fashion. The fact that England were out of the reckoning before the match even kicked off at the Etiad ensured that every report of that ‘dead rubber’ next day in the national press insisted that there was a much more important game going on across the City at Old Trafford. It was priceless publicity for our game and something that could hardly have been anticipated when the fixture clash was first announced. I just hope the guys at Redhall can capitalise on it.

Then of course there was the much talked about Paddy Power van pictured below that traversed Manchester all day before parking up outside the Etiad before the game. I bet that p*ssed a few of the Ra Ra boys off don’t you?

Paddy Power helped Sam Burgess hitch a ride to the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford after he was dropped for England’s dead rubber against Uruguay

Paddy Power helped Sam Burgess hitch a ride to the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford after he was dropped for England’s dead rubber against Uruguay

While we are on that subject and as the dust settles after the season ending finale, I know that at one time the chant of ‘We all hate Leeds’ was without doubt a statement of fact for everyone, but few cannot have had a grain of respect and admiration for the Rhino’s amazing feats in the latter part of the season. So although I guess I still hate ‘em, before I finish for good going on the final game of the season, cast your mind back to last year at this time when there was a real outcry across the north of England when at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, the triumph of ‘the Grand Départ’, (the start of the Tour de France cycle race in Yorkshire), barely got a mention. In fact when it was spoken of it was only against a backdrop of the outdated stereotyping of whippets, Last of the Summer Wine and flat capped Yorkshire men.

The powers that be at the BBC obviously love Rugby Union and in some quarters they try to at best put us down and at worst ignore our sport ever exists, unless, of course it’s to blame a poor team display on some exiled rugby league player that has just arrived in union. Look guys we accept it is a northern sport, because that’s what it is, but why should that mean it fails to get the recognition from broadcasters who purport to represent our nation?

I guess most of us are pretty used to that scenario and are as well pretty ambivalent to it, but now it’s time that changed because when you have looked on and seen what one rugby league team has done this season there is no doubt that Leeds Rhinos at least deserve to be shortlisted for the Team of the year at the Sports Personality of the Year presentations later this year.

I don’t know about you but I think that it’s high time that the BBC proved itself to be more than a London-centric organisation, lift their heads to appreciate a fast and exciting sport that is played by superb athletes at a much more furious pace that Union and then do their bit to educate the rest of the country about it. Will it happen? Will it buggery, it will be the Davis Cup Tennis team or the Ashes winning cricket team or even the Southern Counties ping pong team, in fact anyone but the treble winners from the unfashionable game of rugby league.

Now, over the years and months and despite the claims from our owner and many others in the two professional Clubs in the City that there is insufficient youth coming through the system to sustain Hull and Rovers both fielding under 19 teams, I have banged on about how much Hull Wyke have been doing to rectify and indeed contradict their claims. Under a dedicated board and fired by the ubiquitous Karl ‘Hutchie’ Hutchinson, the Club has made massive strides forward and are currently overseeing the building of their new Club House and training and playing complex at Cropton Road.

Before the Grand Final on Saturday 10th October, a delegation of Hull Wyke official’s attended the RFL Community Awards 2015, held in the Captains Lounge at Old Trafford on Super League Grand Final day. These awards celebrate and recognise outstanding work from all aspects of the community game including the clubs, schools, colleges, universities and Play Touch Rugby League schemes that are involved. Wyke were honoured of being shortlisted in the Club of the Year category, along with Dearne Valley Bulldogs, Barrow Island and Siddal.

Amazingly (because they are from the ‘not so fashionable’ Hull area) but most deservedly, they won the prestigious title of Club of the Year. They were pleased to just receive the nomination, which was seen as testament to the hours, weeks and years of hard work and commitment that has gone into Hull Wyke Rugby League, but to win it was a fabulous honour to the whole organisation down at Cropton Road as they continue in the vanguard of junior rugby league development in the City.

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The award ceremony was conducted by Sean Mellor, Club and Competition manager for the RFL and the trophy was presented by Danny Orr and Andy Lynch who as well as being Super League players still have strong links to the community game.

The notes in the official awards brochure were read out by Sean Mellor as the nominees awaited the announcement of the winners. They included the following about the West Hull Club;

HULL WYKE

Hull Wyke is a club with an eye on how to excite the next generation about playing Rugby League and having fun. It has embraced the new Primary Rugby League format at U6 and U7 and shown an outstanding capacity and willingness to assist the other participating clubs in the city and beyond. The results have been some of the best in the country. As a very fast-growing club their ‘player appeal’ among the numerous other high quality clubs in their immediate location is self-evident. The club’s desire for continual improvement is further evidenced by the high number of their coaches who have attended Embed the Pathway, Train to Retain and Delivering Engaging Sessions workshops. The club is a trailblazer when it comes to the marketing and promotion of Rugby League. The entire club community is committed to innovation and offering playing opportunities to the widest possible audience. Hull Wyke’s newly-formed Women’s section provides the only opportunities for female participation on Humberside.

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Hutchie receiving the award on the clubs behalf, and I’m sure you join me in congratulating everyone at Hull Wyke; no youngsters coming through in Hull my arse!!!

Well it all kicked off the other night in the Drum and Monkey when the RL lads got into deep debate with the Onion fans who thought their game was the best, while we argued that they should have watched what we’d seen over the past few weeks at the end of our 2015 season before making that statement. It all started with the old joke ‘An Englishman went into a bar…… (I know there should be an Irishman and a Scotsman and even perhaps a Welshman too, but they were all still in the World Cup), and it went on from there! Let’s face it the debate about which is the greater code between league and union is pointless; they are different sports and should be treated as such, but someone always rises to the bait don’t they?

However that said, for sporting drama it is hard as I have already said, to argue anything in the 15-man code can rival league’s recent exploits in both the British and Australian games and one can only really reduce the impact that has had into one adjective; riveting.

As I said earlier I still hate Leeds though and it really galls me to see them playing New Zealand in the tourists warm up game, when it was supposed to be us they played. Stephen Kearney wanted it and it was sorted until the RL wouldn’t let them play two games on the same ground for fear it would dilute the impact of the International, so who gets it …………yeh you got it, the bloody Rhino’s did!

So to Codgers Corner and this week it’s a wonderful performance by a depleted Hull FC team against Bradford Northern, back in the good old days of the 80’s. On 8th January 1984, on a cold and depressing Sunday afternoon Hull FC, severely depleted by injuries, faced a Bradford Northern team that was riding high at the top of the League and undefeated in their last three away games. Luckily for Hull, Peter Sterling passed a late fitness test on a groin strain and an hour before kick-off French winger Patrick Solal, who still spoke little English, breezed into the Changing Rooms and declared himself fit to play, despite being diagnosed with a broken hand just seven days previously.

These two pieces of good news certainly buoyed the fans and a depleted team, which that day featured three teenagers, two twenty year olds and a twenty one year old. Hull, kicking-off into a strong cold Northerly wind blowing from the Airlie Street end, ripped into Northern in sensational style. With Sterling calling the shots with the ball, our defence swamped the Bradford attackers at every opportunity and drove them backwards in the first three sets. 18 year old Andy Dannett making his debut, was into everything and really unsettled both Van Bellan and Rathbone with mighty tackles in that first quarter. After this tremendous early tackling stint, Hull won a scrum just inside their own half and when the ball shot out to Evans he squeezed between two players, outpaced Ellery Handley and catching Full Back Mumby out of position, our master poacher ran on unchallenged for 50 yards to score a sensational try. Young Lee Crooks converted before Hull again got right into the faces of the visitors as, after some ferocious tackling, Bradford’s Pennant, Atherton and Jasiewicz all needed attention from their medical staff.

However before Northern had time to compose themselves, Hull struck again. Picking up a loose ball in his own 25 Crooks burst through the first tackle and as the cover came across he passed onto Sterling. Young Dannett took ‘Sterlo’s’ short pass before producing a wonderful looping pass himself to put Schofield in the clear. Gary accelerated away as only he could and despite the best efforts of the chasing pack of Parrish, Hanley and Robinson he scored another of his trade mark break out tries. Crooks failed with the conversion but we should have scored again just two minutes later. 17 year old Gary Divorty (who really impressed me that day) had Proctor, a second row forward pressed into service on the wing, open to his left, but was brought back by referee Beaumont when the young centres pass went forward.

Van Bellen the massive Bradford second rower took exception to a tackle from Lee Crooks and having made a comment ‘up close’ to him, Crooks turned and punched him in the face and Bradford’s Parrish converted the penalty to give the visitors their first points. At 10-2 Bradford were desperately trying to get back into the game, but Hulls front row comprising of veteran prop Keith Tindall, Shaun Patrick and Phil Edmonds, worked brilliantly to constantly unsettling them in the tackle. As the half time whistle went a fight broke out between Van Bellen and Crooks but as we trooped off the field the whole Stadium rose to applaud our young heroes.

The second half started just as the first had with Lee Crooks, at 20 the oldest of the back row, continuing his improving form with two half breaks and a mighty tackle on Robinson, which saw the Northern scrum half leave the field to be replaced by Carroll. On 53 minutes the crowd were on their feet again as a perfect Sterling ‘Bomb’ hung in the air long enough for Lee to charge through, catch the ball and put Schofield in for his second score this time out wide near the corner flag, on the left.

9 Minutes later the margin increased to 16-2 as Crooks converted a penalty from the right after Van Bellen had flattened Solal off the ball, but the visitors were starting to come back into the game and it was only some desperate scrambling Hull defence that kept Northern winger Whiteman out two minutes later. In the last fifteen minutes Bradford won 6 scrums on the trot (three against the head) and exerted constant pressure on our line. Still Arthur Bunting held his nerve, kept faith in his youngsters and left old heads Tony Dean and Mick Crane unused on the bench. Despite the New Zealander playing on after a bad knock in the first half, Dane O’Hara, who played in the centre that day, saved a certain try with a one on one tackle on Mumby ,but it was now becoming hard going for the Hull defence. However our line only cracked once, when Hanley put Mumby in, and as the final whistle went, we were over the fences and onto the pitch to celebrate a superb victory by 16-8. There is little doubt that unlike the recent merged Academy debacle back then Roy Waudby and his Board of Directors made developing our Colts team in the early 80’s a big priority and that policy was to pay real dividends as Dannett, Divorty, and Proctor all went on to become important first team players. Great memories!

On Saturday I went along with my pals, Ian and Sarah, to watch the only football Club I really admire, FC United of Manchester, as they were beaten by a late, late goal by 5th placed North Ferriby United. James Clark from Hull FC was there too and must have noticed how the FC United fans sang hard and loud throughout the game and I there I was, stood in the midst of them all. Around 550 made the trip over from Lancashire and outnumbered the home fans about 2 to 1, as the camaraderie that comes out of a Club run and owned by its fans again proved to be quite amazing, even in defeat. Rugby League it ain’t, but we could learn so much from them, as with supporter involvement in all aspects of the Club guaranteeing accountability and loyalty throughout the ranks, they are a real sporting success story! I had great time!

Well that’s it for this week and I reckon that you have to endure about another 13 of these off season Diary’s, during the 109 days that remain before we are up and running again in the 2016 campaign. I’ll try and do my best to entertain, but it’s not always just FC stuff that interests me in the closed season simply because there isn’t so much news around. Thanks as always for reading the Diary and to all those who got in touch this week, you really do make all the effort worthwhile. Have a great week, as we all ponder just what it will bring for the long suffering fans of Hull FC.

Keep believing!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf