The Dentist’s Diary – 471st

Franks here, we’ve heard from him, he’s sounding excited and he’s trying to keep warm!!!!

TANK001

Big Frank with a big shirt!

‘The Tank’ was in the gym last Wednesday talking to everyone about everything, from local Derby’s, to how cold it was here and from the rivalry with the Dobbins to whether the kids get days off here when it’s snowing, as they do in Australia when there’s a heat wave! He was also genuinely excited about playing at the KC and getting his family over to England to join him. First impressions prompt me to say what a lovely bloke he is and he’s certainly a big bugger too, in fact the only thing he seems to be missing is a neck!!

With his first full training session taking place last Friday, just two months from the start of next season, I’m really excited about watching Pritchard, Manu and Taylor join what was already, I thought, a pretty neat pack. However what’s almost as appetising is the fact that he a big hearted character and a bloke who is going to be a big personality in the City in the months and years to come. Welcome to the mad house Frank!!!!

So, did you go down to the fans forum last Monday? If you did we probably spoke because it was great to meet so many Diary readers and to hear your suggestions, grumbles and comments on this weekly rubbish. However, good though it was to meet everyone again, the actual forum itself was, if I’m honest, a bit of a tame affair. Take an owner who looked a bit out of sorts to me, a coach who arrived late and then add two players who had just landed in the country and who were obviously quite overawed by it all and you might start to get the picture. Then there was the Chairman for the evening who in turn couldn’t even get our new recruits names right! The event organised by FC Voices and broadcast by Radio Humberside was chaired by the ubiquitous Gwilym Lloyd who was also at one point pulled up by Lee Radford for asking him the same question twice in as many minutes.

The two players, Messrs Manu and Fornua were, as I said earlier, obviously taken aback by it all and no doubt still a bit jet lagged, so they had little to say really, with most of the questions either fielded by Adam or Lee (once he’d arrived). There were certainly plenty of on line questions and much was made of the confusion (that had been around the message boards and social media earlier that day), about how much salary cap space we actually have left.

Lee and Adam had both said recently that we were in the market for any player who came along, providing they would improve the team, whilst then, in the next breath, maintaining that we had to let three players go out on loan to help us balance the current cap allocation. This was further muddied by the fact that at the forum, for the first time, we heard that Frank Pritchard is now one of only two players in Super league to be classed as a ‘Marquee’ signing and the information that Lee Smith was training with us with a view to signing on for 2016!  So for the average fan it’s all pretty confusing really!!

Listening to what was said in the Walton Club made things no clearer, as our Coach commented in the media afterwards, “For us to bring another player in we need to get some players out and if we do choose to bring Lee Smith in, then we have to get some people out. It was always our intention to get some players out on loan and we have two or three players we are looking at so as to give them some experience and also so they can play games.” Confused? You must be because I am, as like any good soap opera, the intrigue continues to build!

Obviously the Club has not as yet identified who will be leaving although it’s likely, I’m told, that we could be looking at two inexperienced emerging players who would benefit from a loan deal and a more experienced player who has a lot of competition for his place in the squad.

On a more practical note however it was very reassuring to hear that tickets for games would still be available on game day next season, despite the fact that the SMC, in cost cutting mode, were apparently resisting this practise.

TANK002

From the very young to the more mature fans; a good crowd in the Walton Club last Monday!!

As I said, there were plenty of questions by text and tweet ‘magically’ appearing from Gwilym, but as they were a bit thin on the ground at the event itself, I asked for some clarification concerning why we had called off the Cyprus trip and had decided to no longer go abroad for any warm weather training at all. We was told by Adam that that the sight of refugees marching through a British Air Force base nearby was cause for concern as was the issues of flying in that region.

I added that us now deciding not to go anywhere instead, surprised me, simply because successive coaches had stressed the importance of training on grass in a warm climate, as opposed to our muddy, sticky pitches, in rain or snow, but I was told that although we wouldn’t be going this year we would again travel abroad to attend pre season camp in 2017!!! This was for me and several others around me again a tad confusing, but all became a lot clearer when someone from the Club explained to me afterwards that perhaps the scrapping of the trip this year, was primarily down to cost!

However on that score and as an aside we aren’t on our own, because Shaun Wane has shelved Wigan’s annual pre-season trip to America and replaced it with a couple of more local military’ weeks instead. The Warriors first-team squad has spent nearly two weeks warm-weather training in Florida every season since Wane took over control. However he has told his players in no uncertain terms to forget anything about sunny days in America, because they are staying home this winter. Wane has arranged a camp with the Army later this month and will repeat the exercise in the New Year when his England internationals have returned to training

But I digress and so back to the Forum and there was also a great retort by Adam to someone who asked as to the sense of letting both Westerman and Lineham leave. Our owner stated that the offers for the players were too good to miss out on and when pressed he said that anyway he would rather have players in camp who actually wanted to play for Hull FC in the first place!

I also asked after the event what the problem was with former Newcastle Knights back Carlos Tuimavave and when he will set off for the UK. The 23-year-old utility back is still waiting for his visa to arrive, but I was told it was nothing to worry about but rather a case of all visas being slow to materialise this year. Apparently his is delayed because he needed the usual special dispensations as he had not got enough first team NRL games in. He’s expected to arrive this week; let’s hope he does.

TANK003

Adam talks while Mr Manu looks as if his mind is back on the beach in Australia.

As I alluded to earlier, it was great, to say hello to so many Diary readers at the event and see some old pals too including champion of the domestic violence campaign I featured last week, Mark Charlton. It was also good to meet new recruit to the Daily Mail sports team and Hull FC reporter Paul Clarke. He sought me out and it was nice to meet him face to face, as he sets out to follow in the rather large footsteps of James Smailes, who as you know, I always rated when he was our Club reporter. I had spoken to Paul a couple of times on the phone and as a long time FC fan I knew that he had actually read the Diary every week on the tube while he was exiled in London. That was before he came home to report on the team he supports, which must I guess be a dream job; nice guy and great to meet up at last.

Well Frank’s arrival and a fans forum have made it a better week news wise….just!! But for this fan at least it’s certainly one that has posed more questions than answers for example what exactly is the difference between the opulent, vanity ridden and status symbol lifestyle of the average professional Premier League star and the down to earth honesty and level headedness of the average Rugby League player, plying his trade in the NRL or Super league?

Well the money’s a lot different for a start but then as a stark comparison I always remember one senior French football International who upon signing for Arsenal a few years back, was overheard making his first task the location of the nearest Aston Martin dealer, while invariably the ‘WAGS’ they have in tow, want to be as close to the best and most expensive shops and brands of their choice as possible. That’s not stereotyping by the way it’s by and large a fact. In our game some of the best most aggressive and toughest players are those Polynesian imports that we see now distributed across the British game but despite being at the top of their own profession, you won’t find anyone more different to the soccer lads than these guys.

Their demeanour and attitude is poles apart from all that football stuff, I mean to say who can forget the way that Sam Moa, Willie Manu and Mickey Paea conducted themselves and went about their business on and of the pitch and did it in such a quiet and endearing way. They were all brutally tough hombres but also real gentlemen too.

So it was that at last week’s fans forum it was easy to see how the two ‘big lads’ on the top table were uncomfortable in the limelight and a bit bemused by it all, preferring, it would appear, to let their actions on the field do the talking. It was therefore interesting this week to compare those previously mentioned footballing icons with what Mahe Fornua, a bit of a ‘star’ in anyone’s book, had to say. In an interview in the local paper he said, “Its new beginnings for me and my wife, but we are starting to settle in now. We’ve been shopping with Motu at Tesco’s and done our major things like buying a couch and our household appliances. We’ve got them out of the way and now it’s just about getting used to living in a new country with some cold weather.” That makes me realise why I love rugby league so much and what’s more I think that Frank, Mahe and Seke are all going to be massive additions to the group and the FC family. I just hope that they are equally as great to watch out on the field too.

While we are on this subject I guess it’s important sometimes as fans to step back a bit from all the hype and look at some of the unsung heroes that are to be found in every sporting operation. When you do that at Hull FC, then it’s not difficult to notice what an important role Feke is developing for himself within our organisation. Fornua said of his fellow countryman last week, “Feka’s been driving us around like crazy. I know he’s got his own time and family, but he’s helping the new boys out and we all really appreciate that”

If you’ve had chance to talk with him you’ll already know what I mean, because Feke is a great bloke with nothing too much bother for him, If he’s not visiting sick fans in hospital or presenting the prizes at numerous local junior rugby presentations, then he’s out in the schools coaching the kids in rugby and life skills and generally being an ambassador for the Club. We simply have to find him a full time role because he’s so invaluable to the club and even in hard financial times, it’s pretty obvious he punches well above his weight. I hope the guy gets a break with injuries and has a great season on the field this year as well. This could be his last season and so he deserves it!

TANK004The present for someone who has never won anything…you know who you are!!!!

You know some time ago in here I tried to explore and indeed explain just where we were as a Club finance wise and almost immediately one or two of the usual suspects on RL fans criticised me for being a bit of a ‘Jonah’ and ‘a peddler of doom and gloom’ but hey guys, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However I guess a few just didn’t want to face the facts that in rugby league terms few Clubs are doing well money wise (probably just Leeds actually) others (like Saints and Wigan) have turned it around and just about ‘manage’, while the rest of us struggle along particularly in the long closed season when income is limited and spending has to be structured to cope with the short fall.

I’ve had a couple of chats with Adam and others at the Club and heard what Lee Radford has had to say as recently as in Saturdays Mail, as they all talk of the need to do well on the field to get the Club (and Adam) out of the red. However the fact is folks, whether we like it or not, without Adam’s money and his continued input then we wouldn’t be here now (well not in the form we currently are anyway!)  I should also immediately add to that comment (and to allay any fears) that there is no indication whatsoever that Adam will do anything other than stick with us for many years to come. He is committed and will be here for a while yet, but clubs have to become self sustaining in a game where the survival of at least 6 other outfits depends on the personal fortune of just one owner.

The SMC charging for opening two of the four stands at the KC at a combined cost of £60,000 doesn’t help our current plight either and although our owner has agreed to pay half of that for the South Stand to be open, the North has been closed for all games except the Derby, because to shell out another £30,000 for a dwindling amount of away supporters is simply financially unpractical.  However the SMC is a company as well and one that is, like us, losing money and it should therefore do all it can to cut those losses and anyway, it certainly can’t operate as a charity for the benefit of its tenants?

But with the best will in the world it’s hard to see just how the current situation where Adam has been here over 4 years and has still yet to see anything but red figures on the balance sheet can continue. I can hear you saying ‘Well Wilf, it’s his own fault’ as you point to some rubbish signings and the subsequent large pay offs that followed and Adam would be first to agree with you on that one as well! However at least he’s made some really ambitious signings too and continues to do so, as the additions to the 2016 squad have proved. Once again we are seeing some exciting prospects and top class players coming into the FC line up next year, but how long can that go on without success (and indeed perhaps major success) on the field? We need to get 12/13,000 back in the KC every week to turn things round and although we have brought the names and the quality in again this year, how long that state of affairs and indeed the Club as we know it, can continue if we don’t see a lot of ‘W’s’ on the 2016 fixture list, remains to be seen.

Lee Radford hit the nail on the head on Saturday when he said, “If Adam didn’t show the commitment he does there is no doubt the club would not be in good shape. Financially he supports the club and invests money and effort into everything that goes on. There are only a couple of owners in the game that do what he does. Every year financially it costs him and hopefully as a business we can turn that around. One way of turning that around is obviously success on the field and that’s what we are all striving for at the club.”

So the grumblers on the message boards can have a go at me again and accuse me of shroud waiving and doom mongering but that’s how I see it and obviously how our Coach sees it too. Times are tough and whether we like it or not, if we love our Club then we all have to do what we can to support Adam Pearson as he continues to try and find a way to make the Club viable. The players have to deliver, the Coach has to perform and the fans have to rally round!! ‘Why should we rally round Adam Pearson…again?’ Well I think because quite simply if you really care about Hull FC and want to see our Club continue for years to come, then at the moment he’s all we’ve got!!

Well I have to say that it took little time for Leigh Centurions to make use of the new Salary Cap regulations to sign Rangi Chase from Salford last Monday. I guess that something had to give as one or two Clubs claimed that changes had to be made if come the end of the season the top sides in the Championship were to compete with the Super League teams in the Middle 8s. As the cap stood last season, Super League Clubs could spend £1.6m (plus all the ‘add ons’ that it’s said got some Clubs up to £1.9m) while Championship sides were only able to spend £500,000 irrespective of their income.

The new rule now means that the Clubs in the Championship can spend up to 50 per cent of the money coming in, which allows for an increase at a few Clubs like Leigh, but in general it starts to again re-build the gulf between those top few Clubs and the rest beneath the Premier Division. It’s certainly a blow for the likes of Doncaster, Batley, Dewsbury and the Cumbrian Clubs who must still, one day, aspire to the top Division, but who see that dream disappearing as some Clubs are able to spend much more than they are.

There is little doubt that with the exception of maybe Featherstone, Leigh and Halifax few have the money coming through the gates or from their owners pockets to be able to increase their core income enough to make much difference to their cap levels. I also worry that ‘wealthy’ benefactors might come into smaller Clubs to boost their income in the short term which will then enable them to spend more under the new rule, before as so often happens the ‘sugar daddy’ disappears, leaving the Club in financial meltdown. The Middle 8s were tough last season and will be even harder to contest next year, this new rule boost the top championship Clubs while the Clubs from the top division that finished down there last year have all made changes to ensure that doesn’t happen again. I don’t think it’s particularly a good idea but while there are millionaires like the owner of Leigh willing to pump money in to up the cap limit, the rich will get the success and the poor will have no chance of aspiring to do much better than they are now.

TANK005
Frank and some of the boys after training on Saturday

Well now onto into what seems to be a weekly sojourn into the wonders of the Aussie game and this week I can report on some more new rules to be introduced Down Under next season which this time concern wasting time. In a nut shell they mean that team’s who fail to take a goal-line drop-out within 30 seconds, will risk conceding a certain two points, while teams will also have the chance to kick a penalty goal, if the opposition take longer than 35 seconds to pack into a scrum.

The changes were endorsed at a meeting of NRL head coaches, who backed a review of the golden point used in the finals that could result in the adoption of the Grid Iron boy’s procedures where only a touch-down on the first set of added time could end a game immediately.

Fairfax Media reported on Monday that the NRL was considering the NFL (American Football) system in which the game continues for another set after a field goal in Golden point time, to give the other team a chance to win or level the scores. In the NFL, both teams are given the opportunity to have the ball at least once in extra time unless the team that receives the kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession, while another system considered, which is used in the NHL (Ice Hockey), reduces the number of players on the ice from five per team to three per team during extra time.

The NRL had already announced the introduction of the shot clock next season, but the time allowed for goal-line drop-outs and scrums had not been determined, nor the penalties for teams taking longer. Now it appears to be all sorted.

With the number of interchanges to be reduced from 10 to eight next season the shot clock is no doubt intended to increase fatigue on players and the penalties for failing to comply are tough. As a result, it was decided that a penalty for not packing into a scrum in time would not be a differential one but would allow the non-offending team the chance to kick a penalty goal.

If both teams haven’t got 6 players locked and ready to pack down in 35 seconds, the side with the scrum feed will be awarded a penalty. Failing to take a goal line drop out in 30 seconds will be treated the same as not kicking the ball 10 metres and will result in a penalty to the opposition 10 metres out from their goal posts. NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said of the changes, “The shot clock will be an important change to the game next season and we have put a lot of work into ensuring we have the appropriate timings and rules. The Competition Committee considered the recommended timings and the coaches also assessed those timings, as well as the trends which may occur as a result of the introduction of the shot clock.”

In the seven NRL and NYC matches towards the end of the 2015 season in which a close scrutiny was conducted, including the round 26 Parramatta-Canberra game, it took an average of 32 seconds to pack down, which was down from 43 seconds – while line drop-outs were down from 37 seconds to 29 seconds. The coaches also spoke about how to deal with injured players in a bid to avoid a drop out or scrum being held up while the shot clock is counting down but further discussion will be needed before a policy on this is determined.

That’s all a bit complex I know but its interesting stuff isn’t it and although we might not be the most popular sport in the world, these sorts of manoeuvres ensure that it’s certainly destined to be the one with the most gimmicks and indeed knackered players .

How sad it was to read this week of the death of Mally Richardson the Hull Daily Mail journalist who was always knows around the local sports scene as Mr Green Sports Mail. He championed that publication for years and was a name that along with David Bond, Mike Ackroyd and Dick Tingle will long live in the memory of all us old timers who remember the days before the internet, when we read the great old publication on Saturday tea time, when it seemed that the ink was still wet. For us lot the generations who grew up reading the Green Mail, Mally was the man responsible for not just pulling it all together, but for ensuring those tight Saturday teatime deadlines were always met.

TANK006
What a great bloke he was and what a journalist.

RIP Mally Richardson.

If there is one thing these days that is a constant bone of contention in the game it has to be when we actually play our games. With 4 day turn rounds, specially adapted fixture lists that include Thursday TV games that no one wants and a dearth of traditional Sunday games there are always grumbles. Of course Sundays haven’t always been ‘traditional and when I first started watching Hull FC all games were played on Saturdays with 3-00pm kick offs in the early and late part of the season and 2-30pm kick offs in the deep mid winter. So this week in Codgers Corner, I want to look at just were playing on Sundays came from.

Sunday Football officially arrived in Rugby League in 1974 when all clubs decided that their fixtures would be played that day to avoid clashing with Football. The Sunday Observance Act was still very much the thing back then though, and so admission to games prior to that was by buying a programme that was priced at the admission cost of the game. In those days you could buy a ‘saucy’ magazine on a Sunday but not gain paid admission to professional sport! Hull FC however were always in the vanguard of new initiatives especially if it meant more money coming in through the turnstiles and so we were one of the first clubs to experiment with Sunday fixtures, many years before they became the norm.

The first game we ever played on a Sunday afternoon was in fact at home to Huddersfield on 20th October 1968. The game was a great success and the headlines of the Daily Mail next day stated ‘Sullivan Try the Highlight of First Sunday Game’. A massive crowd for us back then of 8,600, paid £2059 for the privilege (and a programme) and looked on as a bit of history was made at a sunny Boulevard. I remember that there was a real crush in the Threepennies that day, with my best memory still the first try by Clive Sullivan which was a great score and that prompted that Mail headline.

This is how it unfolded! A move on half way saw Gemmell, Hancock and Davidson exchange passes for the ball to go out to Clive who was already being covered by three Huddersfield defenders. He swept past two of them and then hared down the touchline hugging the whitewash for about 40 yards with the remains of the visitors defence trailing in his weak before he touched down in the corner to great acclaim from everyone there in the ground. Next up it was Dick Gemmell’s turn to go on a run. He picked up a loose ball about 30 yards out and ran downfield and towards the line. He checked back inside a couple of times and by he got to the whitewash he was met by a wall of Huddersfield defenders that had tracked back to cover. Dick just ploughed into them and somehow got a hand out of the melee to put the ball down for our second score.

Huddersfield scored next with a try for ex London Saracens RU player, John Kersey-Brown. He followed a kick through by Gordon Wallace, to harass Arthur Keegan into a rare mistake. Our full-back dropped the ball, Kersey Brown kicked ahead before touching down just as the ball was about to trickle over the dead ball line. It was however only a small setback and before half time we were on the score board again for a try that was simplicity itself. Shaun O’Brien running a superb diagonal line took Chris Davidson’s short ball on the charge and shot through under the posts, to reinstate our lead. O’Brien was having a great game as was the mercurial Joe Brown who we had recently switched from centre to loose-forward with great effect.

The second half was played in bright sunshine as the Hull team immediately stretched their lead, this time with a try by Howard Firth, who somehow squeezed in at the corner after a sweeping move involving Keegan, Charlesworth and Chris Davidson. Keresey-Brown almost forced our flaxen haired winger into touch, but the touch judge adjudged that Firth had got the ball down first and the score stood. Next as we started to take control, Keegan and Charlesworth put Davidson away. He passed to Sullivan who drew three men to him, before turning the ball back inside to Davidson, who cantered in to score untouched by any Huddersfield player. Jim Macklin then raised the temperature on the field a notch or two as the prop who was then playing the best rugby of his career at Hull, took umbridge at an elbow in the tackle and with one swinging left hook, laid their prop out cold. As often happened back then the referee chose to ignore the incident altogether and just played on, to the obvious delight of us Threepenny Standers.

Finally a sweeping move involving Macklin and Edson put Gemmell into a gap, he again drew the defence and passed to Firth and the RU convert beat everyone as he flew in at the dressing room corner. Unfortunately he received a clout after he had scored that saw him have to leave the field with blood pouring through his blonde hair.

Finally in the last minute Kelsey-Brown got in as he caught our defence flat footed and probably already thinking about a celebratory drink. He swept down field and arcing round behind the chasing defence, scored next to the posts. We won the game 28-14, our highest score of the season so far. The fans loved the idea of playing on a Sunday, and no doubt some of the City fans who usually watched their games down the road at Boothferry Park came along for a look too! So all in all our first sorte into Sunday Rugby was a great success, and despite his mistake early in the game, a great display of stoic defence and linking in the line by Arthur Keegan, the fans player of the year that season (again) got the Man of the Match award.

TANK007
Man of the match the late great Arthur Keegan

Today, in a world where we are frustrated by the way the fixture lists are manipulated to try to eradicate 4 day turn arounds and to to accommodate Thursday televised games, there are no doubt a lot (like my pal Richard) would jump at the chance of regular Sunday rugby again! Back in the sixties it was a big change, but now it would be nice to just be able to settle back into a more staid fixture list where we all know exactly what we are doing and when we are doing it! Great memories eh?

I know the Club must be concerned about the fact that although we have done well with season tickets, with our two playing shirts out and our ‘big hitter’ signings here, for many FC fans things still feel unseasonably low key, as far as the anticipation for the next campaign is concerned. There are people in the club shops, but there just doesn’t seem to be that usual ‘expectation’, buzz and excitement around the place at all and that’s got to be of some concern. Am I just imagining it? Well, consider this unprecedented happening if you need an indicator of the current demeanour of the FC fans.

The Hull FC section of RL fans is one of the best supported boards on that celebrated network and indeed in the British game and has been, in the past, the busiest in the organisation. It has hundreds of members and yet between 2-52pm on Friday and 6-52am on Sunday (exactly 40 hours) there were just 3 posters all of whom were enquiring whether the board was broken! No one could be bothered to talk about anything let alone fall out with each other! There has certainly been an untimely hiatus in season ticket sales, while we wait for the next discount phase to start, but tickets are back on sale on Thursday so we’ll have to take it from there I guess and hope.

Thanks as always for supporting another Diary, there’s still a couple to go before it will be Christmas and we’ll be off to York shortly after that, so things should soon hot up a bit! In the meantime I’m sorry it’s all been a bit tedious in here this time around but thank again to all of you who sent me this week’s feedback, it was great to meet so many readers at the forum and to hear your views on everything FC; as for me, well I’ll no doubt be back again next week!!

Try to Keep Believing

Faithfully Yours

Wilf

And Finally as its Christmas, big ‘raps’ to the bloke who came into the pub on Saturday with a jumper that said “Luke. I am your Father….. Christmas” However here is my favourite Christmas card so far!

TANK008