A HAPPY NEW YEAR AND HERES TO A GREAT AND SUCCESSFUL 2016 FOR US ALL!!!
Well, that’s the positive stuff out of the way, or is it, because with a new year, a new season and some great signings on board we have to be a bit optimistic about a new start don’t we? But where exactly are we heading as a Club?
Every year it seems we are good at the aspiration and anticipation bit, but surely this has to be the campaign when we show some improvement or at least do something to ignite the fans enthusiasm again? There is little doubt anyway that the advent of 2016 heralds a critical 12 months for Hull FC and several other Clubs in the competition. I say that because it’s a period, I think, when we have to show an improvement and when economics across the sport dictate that we must get more ‘bums back on seats’, particularly at the KC.
Although we as the FC Faithful are all optimistic, the team simply must stoke the fires of enthusiasm and do something on the pitch to excite the fans again! Why? Well, because we have to make some progress as a Club attendance wise and thus help end a decline that at present sees us still losing money hand over fist. That’s the challenge for this year, which although only taking up a few lines in here is a massive ask for the owner, the players, the Coach and of course us lot the long suffering fans.
We, the supporters, will always rally round, yet a dip in season ticket sales mainly amongst older supporters demonstrates that even the most long suffering are losing patience and that has to be a real worry. As for the owner, well he still shows no sign of shirking his responsibility to subsidise the Club and at least for now his continuing isn’t a concern. Therefore the critical bit is in between the owner and the customers, where the Coach and players simply have to get the product bit right! Easy to say I know, but with all Clubs strengthening and the potential of injuries always a worry, it will be something that is very hard to deliver; although this time around, I think we simply have to!
So, as we enter the first week of January with bags of hope, that’s the challenge and only what unfolds in the coming months will indicate if at long last we are up to it. Talking to several pals over the weekend I have to say that the faith and anticipation is, as always, there in abundance, however as the season approaches uncertainty may yet be sold a season ticket; such is its presence on the terraces!!!
This bloody weather is getting me down now!! I quite liked the lack of snow and mild conditions as we progressed to Christmas, but I was really looking forward to going to York. However with all the woe that City has suffered in the last few days and the forecast for Saturday and Sunday, I somehow expected, as early as last Wednesday, that it would be off didn’t you? The official statement from the York Club on Saturday said, “The pitch is still very wet, with water rising from the pitch when stood on in some areas and is definitely unplayable. This view has not been taken lightly and has been made following many inspections of the pitch and having considered the poor weather forecast for the remainder of today and for tomorrow. This being in addition to the concern of long term damage, likely to be caused by use of the pitch, which will adversely affect both sports moving forwards”.
For me, playing on a boggy pitch and slugging it out on a slippery surface were never going to be the most conducive circumstances for avoiding injuries and quite frankly I’m pleased in many ways that it was cancelled. Hearing the rain beating down yesterday afternoon it would have been a bleak old ‘going on’ without doubt! I know a few of the players who will be very disappointed because many of those on the fringes saw it as a chance to make a name for themselves and a means of bidding for a starting spot for the Salford game in a team that it appears to already be pretty much formulated in Lee Radford’s head.
You know, I have to admit that I did wonder just what the value was of playing at York so early in pre-season particularly as many of our ‘star’ players will not be showing their faces until the Rovers match. There is little doubt that the fear of injuries and the need to sell tickets for the annual ‘phoney’ derby will ensure Frank and Co. are kept under wraps right up to the 24th. Lee admitted last Monday that the York game, so early in the month, wasn’t his most favoured scenario either, saying that he was actually against playing the North Yorkshire outfit so early in the year. I don’t know what to think about pre-season games really but I do tend to lean towards what Mrs Barista said of the start of the season proper on RL fans, “Personally I’d prefer undercooked and no injuries, to the other way round”.
However a previous dual-registration agreement, that the York Club insisted we honour, meant we were compelled to face the City Knights on what was an unusually early date. That was because it was the only ‘slot’ they had to play us due to a pitch sharing deal the Council had brokered with York City, for the use of Bootham Crescent, while the rugby Clubs old Huntingdon home is demolished to make way for a new community stadium.
However with no game to play, training continued unabated and several players are reported to be having a great pre season. Rich Whiting is going well and now clear of injury, although there was a rumour over in Lancashire that he might be interesting Leigh! Another doing well is Scott Taylor and few at the Club have seen him so fit. He certainly had some interesting things to say about this year’s training camp in the Yorkshire Post last week, when he stated, “You have to come in day in, day out – especially in pre-season when it’s so important to be positive – and give it everything you’ve got every time you go out on that pitch or get in the gym, and certainly have no-one slacking. The people who are still here from last season just bring that on as well, particularly the senior sort of players like Gaz Ellis and Mark Minichiello and they add to the fervour of the new additions. I think we’re really building a culture and nothing in my eyes but top-four will be acceptable this year.”
Of his signing he added, “The first day I was legally available and allowed to speak to Hull, I spoke to Radders and Adam Pearson straight away and my mind was made up instantly. It was great just to know that I was wanted by them and the ambition they have for the club is the same I have as a player. Obviously, I won things with Wigan and want to win more things – I know how good it feels – and to do that with my home-town club would be unbelievable. There’s nothing I want more than coming here and having success and they felt the same way as I did, so it was an easy decision for me in the end” It will be interesting to see how Scott goes I think.
It was interesting as well over Christmas to hear Scott and Wattsy talking about a need to play long spells next season, so that they compliment the impact and power of Feke and probably Ellis off the bench. We look pretty strong in the front row because, after those 4, we have props Bowden and Green waiting in the wings of the last chance salon, (as they face the final 12 months of their respective contracts), plus youngsters Montongo and Ross Osbourne champing at the front row bit too, so all in all in the power dept we should be OK! The same goes in the back row with Mini well capable of going for 80 minutes, Manu and Big Frank top quality exponents of wide out running and big hitting and Yeamo, Thompson, Whiting, Hadley, Turgot, Washbrook and Downs all in waiting. So, I think we look well covered with class and numbers behind the props too.
However in the pack, if there is a worry for me, it surrounds ‘evergreen’ Danny Houghton, because if we lose him for any length of time we’re probably screwed. Danny Washbrook can play 9, but is in anyone’s book a bit behind many specialist number nines in the competition and Litten although a great prospect hasn’t got the physicality yet. So forward wise there is a nagging doubt there but all in all it’s a big pack that should better most of the 6’s in the league.
However in a season when we have to improve a lot can we capitalise on that massive pack elsewhere in the team? I was talking to someone this week who is high up in the game who was saying that there are rumblings already at Wigan that Wane may be on his way out, simply because his style of rugby is not attractive and flamboyant enough to entertain the public and attract the crowds.
Let’s face it we are going the same way with power rugby and big players everywhere across the field. But whether our backs can match that pack is the £1m dollar question really. The half backs could well be the acid test for me! We have already lost a passionate 100% ‘have a go harry’ in Jordan Rankin who could slot into both positions and offer some cover, enthusiasm and variation. He was a loss for me, unlike Westerman who seemed to be trying to play a similar role to Sneyd and who did on occasions I think, get in the way. I actually believe that his departure could well, in the end, prove a bit of a god send. However Abdull is in waiting for the half back positions but he’s still a bit inexperienced and a lot depends on whether Pryce clicks and we can keep him fit. I can see Carlos Tuimavave having to ‘do a Rankin’ and move into the halves myself, which could then leaves a hole in the centre.
Lee Smith is another current conundrum but he looks to me to be little more than back-up too and I’ll wait to be proved wrong on that one. But, oh how I wish we had hung onto Heramaia. We slipped up there because he would have brought a bit of ‘jiz’ when covering for Houghton and for the half backs, but as always and despite the dearth of such players across the game we dillied and dallied on a contract; he got fed up and left to become Widnes’s player of the year last term!!
In the three quarters Naughton is still looking for a place to call his own and is still a bit of an unknown quantity, while Logan has to have a big year, as does, I feel, Michaels. Fornua is big and strong but perhaps a bit too like Talanoa and for me in the three quarters it’s a shame that, despite his deficiencies in defence, we have lost a real ‘go to’ strike player in Lineham. As you all know I was never a fan of his off the field antics, but he came in to replace Briscoe who in turn took over the ‘strike’ mantle from Matt Sing and ‘Tinga the winger’. Every team needs one such predatory player and that’s why I say again that for me we should have pushed the boat out one last time and got Carney.
Still there’s no use crying over spilt milk, so that just leaves full-back, where Shaul is a big prospect but one who usually performs best when his place is under pressure and has in the past got a bit complacent when he’s been ‘gifted’ the position, due to lack of competition. He’s an exciting player and let’s hope he comes through in 2016 because cover there too looks a bit ‘iffy’ and any lapses could see Naughton, Smith (if he stays) and Carlos knocking on the door all of whom, I have to say, don’t quite fit the first choice full back role for me at present! The issue this term is not so much one of depth in the squad, but rather a question of the quality of the players that provide it!
I’m still pretty excited about the start of the new campaign and about those young players we saw at the end of last season and as fans at this point in the proceedings, if we ain’t up for it we never will be; none the less I simply can’t wait to get going. All in all though there is little doubt that it’s certainly going to be a tough campaign and looking at our direct opposition, Catalan have recruited really well and although pre-season games are nothing to go on it looks too as if Warrington will be a completely different kettle of fish this time around as well. Although I can’t make my mind up yet about the Dobbins prospects, Wakey and Salford have certainly strengthened too, so if we are to improve at all on last season’s 7th place finish, I think we’ll have to step up a good bit.
In the end for me personally I think that our future is still with our youngsters, well that’s how I see it now anyway, but come five weeks time….. who knows what I’ll be saying because there are invariably a lot of questions of which many are still unanswered.
However one thing I do hope is that with such a massive squad this year and so much apparent strength in depth in many positions, the rigours of a 12 team competition with 4 potential relegation candidates, doesn’t see us fall into old habits. I don’t want a scenario that we have seen in the past whereby our out of form/can’t be arsed or just not good enough players, still get picked to play ahead of the largely untried youngster who is excelling in training, the Under19’s or the Under 23’s. That’s been the temptation that pressure has brought in the past and our coach and administration simply has to have the strength of character to pick that youngster if his form warrants it. It is a long time since Hull FC have had so many good young players on the verge of the first team and if they get the right sort of guidance and a few opportunities then it could just be a great year for us. I hope that Logan progresses and that Naughton, Lancaster, Turgot, Downs, Dean and Masimbaashe Motongo get a start if they truly deserve one and not just because they are the last resort in an injury crisis, otherwise all the good work that was manifest in those last few games of last season could be lost. One thing is for sure, those kids might make mistakes but they won’t let us down.
Hull FC Live commentator Mark Ash is a top bloke and someone I have always got on with really well. I thought I hadn’t seen much of him over the last few months and was shocked to hear of his recent battle with Hodgson’s Lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the glands all over the body. I was therefore really pleased to see that he is now doing well and is making an amazing recovery. I’m sure all readers will join me in saying “Good luck mate and well done, keep battling and we’ll all look forward to hearing you back on the air again soon!”
Now, what the hell is it with Hull FC and stomach bugs? It seems that the current outbreak of the trots is just a case of something that occurs every pre season in camp! This time several players were sent home and training on Friday was suspended to try and stop anyone else getting it! A few less kebabs perhaps boys?
I noticed on social media that several were saying over Christmas that Sky is to axe ‘Boots and All’ and several other programmes including their weekly boxing show, due to the immense cost of their new Premier League contract. Well done, I thought, to the guy who said that if they want to increase viewing figures and cut cost why not keep the popular magazine programme and just update it, while for what they bring to the party they could easily sack off Stevo and Eddie altogether!!
Boy since the last Diary, Star Wars has been everywhere hasn’t it? We all went to see it, (and loved it) at the brilliant new cinema in Beverley where one or two had even got dressed up for the occasion. There was an Ewok down the front with a rather dishevelled Jawa and a youngster with a homemade ‘Light sabre’ further down our row; in fact it seems that everyone’s getting in on the act these days particularly those shadowy figures emerging from under their hood!!!
What a great night the BBC Sports Personality of the Year was before Christmas. For a start there was Lizzie Jones and that amazing rendition of Danny Boy whilst the remembrance reel ran, which was heartbreaking all over again, although it certainly showed the whole of the viewing public how we do things in our great game. However, the final vote, coming as it did after the last Diary, is worth a mention too as it was quite amazing really, with Kevin Sinfield polling 278,353 votes which was 28 per cent of the total cast and that ensured he got second place behind Andy Murray. There are for me however a couple of issues surrounding that success that have played on my mind a bit over Christmas and so as usual I’ll air them in here and you can make your own mind up as to whether I have a point!
Firstly I honestly believe that the vote was for a phenomenal player and great role model, I have hated him as much as you have when he has been kicking us to death, but this occasion saw rugby league fans uniting and voting for the game as much as the personality. OK the national media (The Times in particular) brand us tribal and parochial at times, but although we still have our banter, our likes and dislikes and our great rivalries, when it comes to the love of our game we all seem to get it! Thankfully we are not a big enough sport, nor are we inundated with overtly arrogant supporters, so we don’t get all territorial when it comes to someone who has the opportunity to win something for the game. In fact, we sort of knew didn’t we that the whole game would get behind him and how blooming refreshing that is as an indication of the games true values.
In sport however it was business as usual when just 12 hours later, on Monday morning, the results of SPOTY were over shadowed in most national newspaper’s by the announcement that FIFA were to ban Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini for accepting bribes and ‘sweeteners’, while dozens of others in the top echelons of soccer were being investigated. That’s something that for me only goes to show just how much football has completely lost its moral compass. That crowd at Redhall are pretty ineffective at times, but at least they’re straight!
In the round ball game there are loads of genuine fans, tons of loyalty for the team those people support and a deal of national fervour too, but when it comes to joining together to celebrate the game they support they are tribal, cynical and of a mindset that is anything but ‘sporting’. Can you ever see the majority of Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs fans voting for Wayne Rooney? No neither can I!!
I honestly believe that although as a sport we might struggle at times for recognition and even for new converts, our identity and belief system is built on honest to goodness players getting decent wages that are not, like in football, in the realms of being little short of obscene. Our players partake in a sport that is borne out of the passion of genuine, working-class people who do every day jobs. Football once came from the same roots of course, as we see in the old black and white newsreel footage of thousands of cloth capped, raincoat wearing, supporters cheering on Stanley Matthews, but all that’s disappeared now sunk beneath unreasonable ticket prices, inflated wages, media fuelled tribalism, multi million pound TV deals, the cynical conning and haranguing of referees on the field and corruption at the highest levels of the game.
We all thankfully support a sport that is by enlarge honest, that still has integrity on and off the field and one that looks after its own, by embracing home grown players wherever it can. I mean to say, look at the first team and bench players at Hull City and ask yourself how many of those came through the ranks and have grown up in the region? In fact how many of their current squad give a hoot for the City that they play in? Of course we pay a decent wage, but our top players can expect to earn something over £150,000 a year, while in football most Premiership players get almost as much for a month’s work and some get a darn sight more!!!
I know that many of the up and coming players in our Under 19’s will fall by the wayside, but some WILL make it, because in our sport they always do and furthermore those kids get it completely the minute they pull on the black and white shirt, because they understand Hull, they have grown up here and their mums and dads live and work here. That’s the values of our game and that belief system was reflected in Lizzie’s moving rendition of Danny Boy and the massive vote for Sinfield which, I have to admit, made me feel pretty proud to be a RL fan.
So well done to Sir Kev, (that title still sticks a bit in my throat) sadly you’ve now left the game and so I won’t have the chance to get back to berating you next term! However in just a couple of hours, on one night, in one year, in front of 9 million viewers, Sinfield and the voting fans did so, so much good for the game we all love and now the challenge is for us all, from the fans on the terraces to the RL in their ivory towers in Redhall, to build on it!
In conclusion I would just add that should that exposure help the game gain a higher profile, then it’s certainly a good thing, but let’s not go too far and let’s not get too prominent and too popular and let’s not aspire to be another ‘Football’. If the price for retaining those values as a sport is us being classed as ‘also ran’s by Sky, the BBC and the national media then so be it! The family of Rugby League is a good thing to be involved with and we all still have without doubt a lot to be proud of!!
You know whilst on the subject of SPOTY I do however think perhaps it might just have seen a turning point for our sport with the BBC. I think that Lizzie even being considered to do her bit was a real coup, which placed the tragic tale of her husband’s demise and her bravery in facing it, up front to the nation. She tweeted after the show that she is to release that song to raise funds for a good cause. How she ever kept it together singing “Danny boy I love you so” as his image loomed large over the stage was credit to her personal courage and strength in itself.
In the same sequence It was also sad and yet again gratifying when the picture of Chris Leatherbarrow was shown during the reel and what a tribute that was in a section of the programme that rarely, if at all, feature sporting officials. A reader of the Diary (from a distance) and past official himself who knew Chris, contacted me over Christmas and said, “Chris was a great guy, the life and soul of any dressing room and one who doted on his little girl. It was nice to see that a match official is recognised as a sports person, because that is what they are”.
“Whilst we all have a moan about decisions etc. I guess many don’t realise the hours these kids (they start in their teens) put in driving to and from training sessions in Leeds each week and travelling the country to officiate games whilst at the same time either studying at Uni. or working full-time. That takes an immense amount of time and commitment, not least in attaining the required fitness levels. The season may only be a few weeks over, but last weekend saw the RFL put their panel of officials through the rigours of the fitness test for next season. That’s less than 6 weeks from season end to having to be prepared for the next season – not a lot of time off and many officials take local amateur games as well as the game is not overly stocked with those willing to take on the whistle. The RFL has lost many officials recently because of the time commitment required (I know three who officiated SL last season who have hung up their in-goal/touch judging flags)
There are names many would recognise along with some who are just faceless Touch Judges who are training and travelling weekly to officiate at the expense of family time etc. The game needs to invest in its officials and 6 full/shared time roles will not help the game improve. When a touch judge leaves work 2 hours early and forfeits that pay to drive across the M62 on a Friday night having done most of a day’s work, can we blame them for missing something that only Sky Super-zoom cameras picked up on the 4th showing? I don’t think we can.
TV has introduced an over analysis of the sport that makes a simple game over complicated just to introduce drama that is already there. A winger might drop 5 passes with the line open, but TV will move on before it then over analyses the fact that the Touch judge didn’t pick up a marginal forward pass whilst sprinting down the touch line and simultaneously looking sideways (I would say to anyone try sprinting forwards whilst looking at 90 degrees to your left or right – it ain’t that simple)”
Well that was certainly a great letter to the Diary and I thought that it was also pretty thought provoking too so I pass it on to you all in the spirit it was written.
I hope you all had a great Christmas and it’s always a time for catching up with old friends and enjoying yourself in good company. Rosenberg Jnr. was home from London and we had a great time. I even managed to find time to have a coffee with my old mate Lee Jenkinson who is now retail supremo at Leeds Rhino’s. He’s had an amazing year and as I said in here before Christmas, received the employee of the year award at the Club although he shared it with the Coach, which after last season’s heroics is pretty understandable. Lee’s still a massive FC fan and always will be, but it made me quite envious to hear what it was like being involved and on the pay roll, during such a successful era at any RL Club.
While I’m on the Rhinos they were dealt a major blow in the build-up to the 2016 season when their training ground flooded in the deluge of last weekend. Leeds was hit by floods on Boxing Day when the Loiners’ complex in Kirkstall found itself under 4ft of water. With the water having subsided the club were able to assess the full extent of the damage, but the facility will be out of action for a considerable time.
At present both the Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie’s medical side, coaching, development and foundation are homeless. They have had flooding before, but never to this extent and the 3G all-weather pitch is ruined as are two other pitches. At one time the club’s building on the site was under six feet of water which covered the gym, re-hab facilities, wrestle room, meeting room and changing facilities.
Now do you remember back in late November when I told you about those great FC themed wall plaques I’d discovered well I’m pleased to say that Mrs R surprised me with a great ‘The Boulevard’ one this Christmas. It’s going on the shed and it seems that several readers received these great gifts for Christmas too!
A couple of other readers have also asked over Christmas for the contact again and if you’re interested it’s, ‘The Yorkshire Home and Gift Company’ Unit 1, Hutton Cranswick Industrial Estate, where their telephone number is 01482 657648. You can also contact the company on Facebook. Mine was a great surprise and just the job as a surprise present.
This week in the Codgers Corner spot I want to go back to Sunday 25th October 1981 and a memorable trip we made to Lancashire to Central Park the home of Wigan. Even the great Hull sides of old, way back in the 40’s and 50’s, faltered there, and in fact that day it was exactly 59 years and 30 meetings since we had got a victory. Back in 1922 was our last success and so as we made our way over the Pennines, firstly to Poole’s Pies after which the Lancashire club was affectionately nick-named and then for a few pre drinks in ‘The Park’ with it large framed pictures of famous Wigan teams and matches from years gone by. Once at the ground we took up a position on the Kop, at the end covered as it was with an old corrugated tin roof that rang out when the rain came down. Thankfully the weather stayed fine but the ground was really heavy and in the first ten minutes we struggled to get going with our speedy backs getting consistently bogged down in the mud.
You could see it was frustrating for our players and Wigan’s front row of Hodkinson, Kiss and Trundle constantly ‘niggled’ in the tackle and held our players down. Steve Norton seemed to be the only FC player that could make any progress in those early exchanges but on 16 minutes his enterprise could have so easily have got him sent off as Pendlebury butted him in the face and Knocker, with blood streaming down his face, retaliated with a flourish of punches. Referee Mr Fox however realised what the Wigan player had done and awarded us a penalty, which Crooks stroked over the posts to give us a 2-0 lead. Pendleberry stayed on the field! For the next few exchanges Norton was obviously unsettled and chased the Wigan pack like a man possessed, but slowly he cooled down and went on to play a starring role.
Hodkinson was caught off-side after 21 minutes and again Crooks added the two points and we were on our way. Tony Dean despite playing with a leg injury was having a great game and it was he who increased our lead 9 minutes later with a drop goal from 30 yards out. We should have increased our lead on 36 minutes too, as Norton and Crane worked a wonderful opening for Stone who dummied before releasing Lee Crooks to steam through and score under the sticks only for the referee to call him back for a forward pass. As the half time hooter went we led 5-0.
Wigan came out fired up and smothered us in the tackle, often standing about a yard offside at the play the ball. In the end Referee Fox had obviously had enough and penalise Gary Stephens and Crooks again added the two points. At 7-0 we all started to believe that perhaps we were about to see a bit of history made that afternoon under the leaden Lancashire skies. Back came Wigan and after surviving 26 tackles in our own 25 yard area at last the valiant Hull defence cracked. Although Walters and O’Hara seemed to have him covered Henderson Gill somehow sneaked in at the corner, and three minutes later Walsh kicked a penalty after Wileman had been caught stealing the ball, and the home team were just two points behind.
However the Wigan rally came to a grinding halt in the 70th minute. Given a half chance when Crane and Crooks had combined, Leuluai, who was playing at off half that day, shot through a gap and into open field. He brilliantly ran round the home team’s full back Birts beating him completely for speed, and dived in near the posts. It was a brilliant try from Leuluai and capped a fine performance from the player. Jimmy was usually a centre, but had worked hard to get the line going and pulled off several massive tackles when we had to defend.
Once he had scored the game suddenly opened up. Mick Crane who was once again proving to be ‘Master of the Unexpected’ chipped towards touch, the ball bounced off a defender and straight into the arms of Paul Prendiville. Faced with three defenders in front of him ‘taffy’ grubber kicked the ball ahead again down the touch line, before re-gathering it to win the race for the touch-down. Prendiville wasn’t finished yet either as he broke from the kick off and made 50 yards down field for Walters to feed Dane O’Hara who scored his first try for the club, having been out for 4 weeks with that collapsed lung he suffered on his debut at the Boulevard. Mr Fox didn’t even bother to restart the game and as his final whistle went the 1,500 Hull supporters in the gate of 6,785, danced and sang on the terraces to celebrate a fine 5-18 win and the end of an unwanted record. Great times!
So there we are the Diary is back and we now have a fortnight before we travel to Doncaster as this close season just seems to meaner on and on and on. I hope you have all had a great Christmas and that you are like me full of hope if not expectation for the coming campaign. Thanks for all your feedback and for the dozens of E Mails, Calls texts and cards I received over Christmas! You know you lot certainly get it, but it never ceases to amaze me the amount of cards that arrive at Rosenberg Towers with Robins on them!!! Still at least it saves me having to put them up in the house! See you next week and try to keep believing!