Don’t you just love Leeds? They save their best two performances of the year to beat us!! Friday night was certainly disappointing and although the wheel hasn’t exactly come off just yet, something or somebody has certainly started to loosen the wheel nuts a bit!!
Last week Lee Radford made a slightly facetious point directed at us lot, when he said that when you’re a Hull fan, “You lose two games and it’s a crisis”, however although not a crisis by any means, what transpired in that last ten minutes against what is becoming our bogy team, does mean that our luck with injuries and the bounce of the ball has perhaps finally run out. Plus it would also appear that (looking at the Saints, Warrington and Wigan results) the possible inability of the team to peak at the right time of the season is starting to increasingly come into the machinations of the fans on the terraces.
There was no shortage of effort or indeed tenacity on Friday and in the cold light of day looking back, there was a lot of bad luck involved too. In fact some absolutely amazing goal line defence probably warranted a bigger return for our efforts than we actually got, but surrendering too much ground to the Leeds forwards throughout, an inability to hang onto the ball in our own half and a lop-sided attack following the loss of Tumavave all transpired to ‘do’ for us and it was in the end, very much ‘as you were’ and back to some of the failing of last season. We have to lose some games, everyone does and we are still very well placed in the league, but the good teams rarely lose two games on the trot at this time of the year, particularly against the bottom two teams in the competition and with so many battered bodies, injuries and a short turn round, it’s hard to see how we aren’t going to struggle next Thursday as well. Perhaps it’s time to look at the bigger picture and only play players that are fit, whoever they are, rather than getting players who ain’t fit somehow onto the field for the Derby!!
Wigan has to be targeted as the big one now, but whatever approach we take, I honestly believe for the first time for ages, there are perhaps some tough times ahead!!
Thanks to our previous form, even if we lose the next two League games, we are still in the top 4 with 4 home games in the final 7 and still well placed for a late tilt at the top. There is I feel, with 9 games to go, still time for a spectacular ‘bounce back’ at the death. However it is not so much that, as the effect these loses are having on our confidence and the injuries that we are sustaining that are, for me, the main concerns. The thing was on Friday that you simply can’t score two tries and then hope to hang on for a win.You have to keep creating chances because in the modern game it’s all about field position and making your mistakes in their half and not yours, so of course attack is the best form of defence. For me now we simply have to learn from what’s happened in the last two games, decide on some priorities and targeted games and move on!
Well, for now at least, I’m back from my break and I certainly had an enjoyable two weeks sabbatical from the Diary. There was a whole 7 days on the beach in Tenerife which took me away from the stress and issues of watching my beloved Hull FC, as they managed to lose their first game in ten at the hands of a Huddersfield team who on the night certainly wanted it more than we did; although we should still have beaten them. There had also been an injury to Frank the Tank and an almost surreal dispute between the Giants and Hull FC about a player who had apparently committed to coming to us next year, had a medical, duly signed a contract and then apparently changed his mind. So all that plus that loss to Leeds, that came in such heartbreaking circumstances indicates that as always at Hull FC, it’s all happening.
From my personal point of view the game across in West Yorkshire somewhat passed me by, simply because it was played on a Thursday that was a European Championship’s quarter final night and I couldn’t find anywhere in Los Christianos to watch it. I therefore had to survive on a diet of ‘buffering’ Radio Humberside commentary via my phone on the hotel balcony. Having listened to it I have to say that those of you who go through that every week really do have my deepest sympathy for so many reasons!! Talk about how the other half live, the periods buffering were almost more informative than the commentary and by the way, do they EVER give the score out?
However, if nothing else, my short sabbatical away from the FC did at least prove one thing, in that you might not be around them or in close proximity with the action, but the wheels just continues to turn, things continue to happen and for FC fans even when things are going well, nothing is ever completely a surprise. In that Huddersfield match it was for me a simple case of us not being up for it and we simply weren’t at the races, but neither were Catalans in their game in that round and I think perhaps we were both suffering from our ‘game on the beach’ the previous weekend. The aftermath of playing on that sandy pitch at the KC certainly brought us the defeat we had all feared, at what appeared to be a wet and dank half empty John Smiths Stadium. The question then was, is it just a hiccup or perhaps the fact that getting away with playing badly and scrapping wins had finally found us out and unless we can improve our attack, a period of declining fortunes might just be beckoning. Perhaps Fridays showing against Leeds went some way to answer that one, but at least if that is the case, we have 9 games left (with adequate points in hand) and there is therefore still time to come good again.
I always worried about Friday because I knew that Leeds had nothing to lose and would just be looking to throw the ball about and build their confidence for the middle eight’s to come. For me they’ll walk that bit and are much too good to be down there in the first place anyway.
They are dangerous in any circumstances and it was always going to be tough if once again, we couldn’t create much. We haven’t been playing well, but have somehow been finding a way to win and had we not sustained the injuries we did during the game on Friday, I honestly think that, although just papering over the cracks again, our fortitude and passion would have once more just got us through. However some bad luck on that front, the bounce of the ball and a couple of really uncharacteristic mistakes with ball in hand, did for us big time. They could only breach our line with kicks and some of our goal line defence was pretty amazing, but when we got the ball we simply couldn’t relieve the pressure enough and wave after wave of Leeds attack finally saw that valiant rear guard effort unpicked and a second defeat on the trot set a few warning bells ringing, at least it did for this fan.
My confidence in the growing excitement before the last two games was always there and I was certainly optimistic and heartened by our points tally, but I now know that it was a brittle confidence, providing a thin veneer that covered all the doubt and acceptance of mediocrity I have built up over countless seasons of disappointment. I think like many fans I need a trophy win to dispel those nagging doubts and to help me look to the future, but for now, after two defeats, I have to admit to the same old worries creeping back into my thinking!
As I say there is little doubt for me that Leeds will win the 8’s without getting into second gear, because they are a very good team and in a false position, but being down there for once will do them and their rather arrogant fans, no harm at all really, will it? However Rugby League is a high intensity business and we have found out the hard way that it’s almost impossible to be at the top of your game week in, week out. I wonder if in those circumstances you have to consider targeting certain games, because no one ever hits the ground running in February and manages to sustain a high level of performance all season, it simply doesn’t happen.
There is time for us to come again in the next few matches because although we have now lost two on the bounce we could have won both. Many of you really won’t like my thinking, but as I said earlier I wouldn’t be struggling to get a full team out this week, because perhaps we have as fans and as a club to forgo the fact that it is Rovers, the old enemy, as in the bigger scheme of things, two points would be nice but this is a nothing game compared with what is to come at the Keepmoat. We could of course go all out with no guarantee we will have enough to defeat a resilient Dobbins outfit running on the scent of survival anyway, and then play the reserves at Salford.
A confidence boosting victory would be great against Rovers, but this season with Leeds out of the way and confined to the middle eight’s, our current points tally is at a least already a guarantee that we will be at the very least in a position to have a tilt at the top 4 come the final few rounds. Perhaps this week we should rest anyone who is obviously fatigued or carrying knocks and play some of the youngsters, so that we look at the bigger picture and the much bigger games ahead. The lads who have waiting in the wings should still be perfectly capable of overturning the Dobbins, but if they don’t, let them lot have their moment of glory in a season as abject as East Hull has seen in decades, we are moving onto a Cup semi final and a great chance of finishing top 4, whatever happens on Thursday!
We are told time and again about the quality of our squad and its depth in numbers, so let’s test it next week if we have all the injuries we appear to be carrying and lets also look towards that Wigan game which is for me the ‘means to an end’ of winning something this year. Some FC fans talk of Grand finals and play-off games, but for me I think when we look back at the season after round 30, we will see the Wigan semi final as the most seminal and pivotal match of the campaign! Win it and Wembley beckons, lose it and we can still throw everything into those last 4 home games for another stab at glory! It’s simply a game on which the whole season hinges.
Don’t get me wrong, we gave it our all against Leeds and on Friday there were certainly some big performances with Sneyd nothing short of magnificent in everything he did. Once Tumavave had departed he took control across the field and worked his socks off to get us moving. His kicking game was superb in fact he just about kicked the Rhinos to death at times, with us forcing numerous drop-outs thanks to his expert grubbers. There was one kick in the first half that was for me absolutely outstanding as he caught a pass and delivering a pin point grubber in a split-second to force a drop-out. It was also his clever drop goal on the hooter in the first half that could so easily have been the defining score. I think if you look back he has only missed that long range penalty at Castleford in the last 6 games. He was pretty sensational in everything he did on Friday. Yeamo had another big match too, tackled like a demon (although that said he also missed a couple) and scored a great try following a superb ‘dummy and go’. Michaels tried hard whilst Fornua for me is disappointing, but in the forwards, several players worked themselves to a standstill!
Our top meter maker Scott Taylor had another great game.
Scott Taylor ground out the yards relentlessly and Watts until he was injured wasn’t far behind, while with 47 tackles Houghton continues to impress with his tireless work rate. Hadley stood in really well and ran straight and hard a time or two while it was so unfortunate that we lost Minniciello to injury, however for me up front it was our worrying inability to stem the yardage gains of the Leeds forwards as they relentlessly drove down field that was our undoing.
For Leeds, Burrows was always a problem and new signing James Segeyaro enjoyed a memorable debut but it would help if he could learn to pass the ball backwards and if, in turn, the referee could recognize a forward pass a time or two as well. This new breed of referee is all fine, but to be so preoccupied with what happens that you miscount on the tackles in a set at least twice in a game is pretty unforgiveable for me!
However, whatever we say, what’s done is done and its two points down the pan, but more worryingly it’s also perhaps a turning point with regard to injuries, which seem to be occurring more regularly now and to all the wrong people. It was a disappointing night all round really and one we have to put behind us. It will certainly also be interesting to see just how we approach the Rovers game now won’t it!!
So to the week past and at least Jake Connor showed us what he could do in the Huddersfield game, but the ‘is he, isn’t he’ saga of that young man and his ‘signing’ for us still rumbles on although it would appear that the RL agree with us that Hull FC have done everything correctly and the claims of the Huddersfield Chairman that we owe them a six figure transfer fee are just hot air. In fact if Connor has changed his mind, then they could have to pay a similar sum to us and after their Chairman’s Mr Fewliss’ previous outburst on the subject, how blooming ironic is that??
It’s all pretty bizarre really isn’t it, but as I say as FC fans nothing really surprises us does it? However what exactly is the player saying about it all as we all wonder whether he is totally committed to joining us or is he now set on staying at the Giants for 2017? The answer to that of course is that he’s saying bugger all! The whole situation has been blown up by an ill advised bit of mischief making in the Yorkshire Post (which was pounced on by the Huddersfield Examiner) and the fans of the ‘Fartown’ Club. The poor player is now in a damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation about saying anything to either set of fans, which is completely of his own making. However at least Hull FC are now likely to demand a transfer fee if Huddersfield Giants continue in their bid to keep the talented 21-year-old next season.
The Rugby Football League last Thursday publicly confirmed that the utility back is, indeed, registered with the Airlie Birds for 2017 and so, after years of getting it wrong under past administrations at least we have as club done everything right this time.
ln an interview straight after that match in West Yorkshire in which he starred for the Giants, Jake seemed to put everything to bed nicely when he said, “I’ll focus on Hull FC next season, but I’ll give Huddersfield everything this time around” Then apparently by Tuesday he had changed his mind again! Or had he? He certainly looks a great prospect but although I looked forward to him pulling on the famous black and white next season, if we are to believe the YP then he seems to not be able to make his bloody mind up. That is something which, if true, casts for me some real doubts on his integrity!!
In these situations players and their agents have to think these things through before they ‘jump’ in, because you just can’t give back word and so if he’s not careful Jake Connor future FC international and darling of the FC fans on the terraces at Huddersfield, (he’s one of our own) could soon become simply ‘Jake the Snake’ in the eyes of the FC supporters. As I say we have appeared, to have done everything correctly much to the dislike of the Huddersfield Chairman and although no one wants any player at any Club who doesn’t want to play for them, if young Mr Connor’s is acting like a daft lad it has left him, Hull FC and Huddersfield suspended between the devil and the deep blue sea. These kids really do have to keep their council and think a bit about the likely ramifications, before they or their agents open their mouths and indeed act on impulse. Will he be an FC player in 2017, well I believe that he still could be, but as always time will tell I guess!
Now, I know that there are a few dozen readers of this rubbish down in the capital and the Home Counties and here are a couple of events that you might just be interested in. The next in a series of London based happenings entitled ‘Super League Thursday’ is taking place this week on 14th July at Riley’s Sports Bar, Haymarket, with special guest Garry Schofield OBE. The event opens at 6:45pm and they’ll be doing a Q&A with Garry from 7:15pm, before showing the Hull FC v Hull KR Super League match live on the big screen. Happy hour will be extended to 9pm with 50% off drinks and its free entry but anyone that pre-registers will go into a draw to win 2016 Challenge Cup Final tickets.
Secondly, there is then a fundraising dinner in support of the London Rugby league Foundation on Thursday 13th October at the Law Society, Chancery Lane. The evening is being hosted by the BBC’s Dave Woods, and they’ve got a number of Celebrity Guests including dual code rugby legend John Bentley, former professional footballer and TV personality, Neil “Razor” Ruddock and ex-GB international player and coach, Brian Noble. Two great events that I hope some of you exiled fans will be able to attend and if any of you want more information, jump on the Foundations web site on: http://bit.ly/2910gKV
Always working behind the scenes for the benefit of Hull FC fans the supporters group FC Voices have been busy on a new project of late, which is I guess linked with all the First World War commemoration stuff that has been going on just recently.
Many years ago I was honoured to be involved with several other fans including Dave Beales, Cindy Russell and the Rev Alan Bagshawe on a committee commissioned to provide a memorial to the most famous and most decorated military Rugby League player of all time. Since then the Jack Harrison Memorial has stood proudly at the front of the KC Stadium, through good times and bad, but it has, of late, started to look a bit tired and in need of repair and refurbishment. The top part depicting an image of Jack was looking tarnished and the body of the steel column was scratched and marked. Following the provision of the Boulevard Memorial which now stands proudly in Airlie Street, there was a small amount of the funding raised for that project left and the group decided to use it to refurbish the memorial in West Park which commemorates a great piece of history and preserves for future generations, the memory of Jacks amazing acts of bravery.
The company that produced the steel memorial in the first place is owned by massive FC fan Brian Campbell (Campbell Engineering) and they were approached and immediately agreed to sponsor and carry out the work on behalf of FC Voices. After consultation with an expert on the best way to treat the bronze top, the whole edifice was removed to the company’s factory in National Avenue and refurbishment began with a target of having the memorial back in place for the Leeds game.
The staff of Campbell’s duly replaced the whole thing in time for Fridays match and I know that FC Voices want to thank the Campbell family for their help, generosity and kind assistance as I’m sure do all FC fans. Go and have a look at the memorial now restored to its former glory if you get the chance, it looks great.
Now, my quote of the week this time around goes to Phil Clarke who said on Thursday, “Salford’s alleged breach (of the salary cap) took place in July 2014 – two years ago! If this is a live system that we are operating I wouldn’t want to see a dead one.”
How right he is as well, if it really is a live system then how does such a flagrant ‘bending’ of the rules get through and indeed take so long to resolve? You know my views on the RL and indeed on Mr Koukash but hey, as a neutral observer who hasn’t seen the evidence, I would say if nothing else the whole sad saga just looks embarrassing for the sport. We do not appear capable of monitoring the cap, so I can see why there is a swelling number of luminaries in the game muting the idea of perhaps getting rid of it altogether – and if you can’t control it then I guess they have a point and perhaps it is time to look at other methods of limiting Clubs power to spend more than they have got!!
But Salford keep their 6 point deduction and despite all the huffing and puffing from Mr K that’s, that, I guess. As much as it’s not the result they wanted, it must at least be good for the players and fans of the Red Devils to now know where they stand in the league (in the middle eight’s no less). For the team and the supporters, it must have been so hard to lose those points back in April because at that time they were playing so well and had improved out of sight on the previous campaign, so to have them taken away must have been really hard for everyone. No wonder their gates continue to dip because disenchantment must have stalked the terraces ever since. But in the end fiddling the system however historic it is, must be wrong and perpetrators have, for the good of the game, to be brought to book. Obviously, it’s not the fans fault so we must all feel for them, but at least those that are left supporting the Club can put it behind them and try to move on.
However the guys on the terraces must be thoroughly sick and tired of the continued and constant rhetoric the whole situation has generated over the months and at least they now know a line can be drawn underneath the whole sorry incident. I’m glad myself that an independent body oversaw their appeal as opposed to the RFL, who are always a bit suspect in my eyes. That should prevent any uncertainty from some, including me, who might have doubted any ruling that lot made. Marwan Koukash, the Salford owner, has now come out and admitted he didn’t declare some payments to players and as that is outside the system they have been punished because in the end there are strict rules about that sort of thing and those rules have been broken.
But at least now Salford can now get on with their season and the battle for the middle eight’s. Despite it taking so long it must also be a massive relief for the other teams around them in the table who have had their positions clarified and who must have been worried they might get caught if Salford did get six points back. In fact Castleford, Wakefield and Widnes could all have got dragged back into that fight to avoid the bottom four. As I’ve often said in here before, I’m not really a fan at all of the whole salary cap idea.
Having wishy washy and overtly complicated rules on exactly what individual clubs can spend means that these long protracted disputes will occur from time to time, because in sport someone always thinks that they can ‘fiddle’ or get round the system and gain an advantage on the other teams. Still it’s what it is and although I think we maybe need a review into the whole salary cap issue and the effect it is having on the sport, with several chairman, including ours, worried about the effect a free for all will have on the finances of the game, little is likely to change anytime soon. But with pathetic home gates a scrap for Super League survival and now a ‘bloody nose’ from the appeal which is making Marvellous Marwan consider his own position as owner going forward, where now for Salford?
The other night in the Drum and Monkey someone said that he thought that in Scott Taylor we had one of the best props ever to grace the black and white shirt!! “Well” I said, “He’s good but for me, not that good…..yet!” I sometimes wonder why some fans have such poor memories, because our history does throw up some amazing performers who are for the most part shrouded in the mists of time. For me Scott is a great player in the Greenhill, Bill Ramsey mould, but certainly not one of the very best we have ever had!!! On this subject I could here in Codgers Corner have talked about Bill Drake, Vince Farrer, Andy Dannett or Mick Scott and no doubt one or two other Prop Forwards that slip my mind, but they were real hard men and massive stars of their time. Instead I have picked two props who have for me personally, always been big heroes. One who was as hard a player as I have ever seen play for any team and the other who was a fabulous prop and also probably as unlucky as any player could be.
Many props are referred to as tough uncompromising characters, but for this supporter none fitted that description better than Mick Harrison. What a hard man he was. I remember back in the 60’s when he played in a poor team that was going nowhere, he and second rower Jim Neale were worth the admission money on their own, because they were always in the thick of things and no-one got the better of those two! If we were not winning then it was likely that they would be scrapping!! Back then of course the scrums were not the foregone conclusions they are today and props had to work really hard with the hookers to get the ball out in the first place. How tough was Harrison? Well, I remember a benefit night for Arthur Keegan back in 1970 when I asked two of his guests at the supporters club, who was the toughest player that they had ever faced. Both Featherstone hard men (Tonks and Farrer) agreed that Mick was by far and away the toughest And to be avoided in the tackle if possible!!
Mick signed from Fish trades at 18 years old and made his debut against Hull KR. He started as a second row but was soon promoted to prop and in an age when forwards were traditionally late developers, he quickly progressed to playing for Great Britain at the tender age of twenty. Most of the good work that Mick did was unseen by us lot in the stand, and if he had been a boxer I guess you would say that he was the master of “Working inside” his opponent!
I remember him best for his smother tackles and the way that he just kept going throughout the game!! He left Hull for Leeds in 1974 but after 8 magnificent years at Headingley he returned to the FC aged 36 with the intention of coaching the juniors. However, an injury crisis led him to be recalled to play in that epic battle against the Aussies at the Boulevard, when we were just beaten 13-7 by “The Invincibles”, in the Kangaroo’s toughest game of their 1982 tour. Mick belied his years that night as he constantly took the game right into the Aussies faces, he was scrapping within ten minutes and worked himself till he literally dropped onto his knees and could do no more!! Mick played his last game for Hull in 1983, but will remain for me at least the hardest player I have seen in a black and white shirt!!
In 1980, whilst Mick was still at Leeds, Hull FC were on fire and building towards what would be for a short period the best club side in World Rugby!! We were really on top of our game, and always on the look-out for quality players to add to our ranks. The 1979 Great Britain’s 15 match Tour of Australia had been its usual disaster, but one star that really shone out was Wakefield Trinity’s prop forward Trevor Skerrett! He’d had a fabulous tour.
When he returned home and put in a transfer request we swooped for his signature paying a then world record fee of £40,000 to secure his services!! What a forward he was. Big strong with great hands and always available to stick one on anybody who set about any of our smaller players!! In the days when both Hull and the Dobbins had some fantastic backs, it was still prop forward Skerrett who got the man of the match award when we beat the old enemy in the 1981/82 John Player Trophy final!! He had a towering game and almost single handedly beat the Dobbins pack into submission! I remember him best for his fantastic upper body strength. He appeared at times to have a low centre of gravity and a regular sight at the Boulevard back then was to see Trevor ploughing through the opposition with three or four of their players hanging onto his still pumping legs for grim death!!
He also won a Championship medal in 1982 and played in a total of 9 finals for our club! I said earlier however that he was unlucky and so he was. His international career was going really well and in 1984 he was awarded the highest honour possible when he was named as the first ever Hull FC player to captain a GB tour down under. He was then tragically struck down with a severe knee injury that led to him withdrawing from the tour and which hampered his career for the rest of his playing days. Another injury blow hit him in 1985 when he missed the Challenge Cup final and three weeks later disillusioned and looking for an upturn in his fortunes he asked for a transfer.
He was listed at the then phenomenal asking price of £75,000 but did not leave for Leeds until the following year! The deal that saw him depart featured both Trevor and Andy Gascoigne going to Headingley with Kevin Dick, and a fee, coming the other way!! Skerrett played two more seasons at Leeds and two at Keighley before he eventually retired, citing that old knee injury as the reason!! He was a great prop forward though, probably the second best after Harrison that I have seen in the irregular hoops!!! Great players and great memories and no doubt you’ll have your favourite props too! However for me the question is this, “Will fans like me be talking about Taylor in the same terms in 25 or 30 years time as we still talk now about Harrison and Skerritt?” Somehow I think that they just might myself!!
So this week sees two big issues raising their head, the last Derby of the regular season and the advent of the 500th Dentists Diary. I think in hindsight that on the field we should perhaps be more worried with the detail of the injuries we sustained on Friday rather than the actual defeat. Its two points gone, but we have now I think to look to the Wigan game and the fact that if we can get the squad relatively fit by then we will have a strong end to the campaign. Perhaps we have to look to maybe rest Taylor and a couple of others for the Salford game so that they are fresh and ready for the battle at Doncaster.
Let’s be perfectly honest here, before we got going this year we would all have taken the current situation of being second in the league and in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, so perhaps we have to bite the bullet as fans and see the bigger picture, rather than the short term bragging rights for what goes on this Thursday. I hate Rovers as much as everyone, but for once, although it’s all they have left, we have other fish to fry this year and if we can win and move forward then so be it, but we have I believe to approach this game with some forethought for the future.
Next week sees a milestone in my own life when after 11 years I embark on the 500th Diary. It will be a different and perhaps quite seminal edition and one which no doubt reflects on the journey we have all been on since that glorious day in 2005 that prompted me to start this rubbish in the first place. Let’s hope that we handle the game on Thursday properly and that somehow we can get a win and send the Dobbins down, but let’s all too keep a weather eye on the Wigan game, because let’s face, judging by Friday, perhaps a few of our players are doing just that too!
However I’m not down hearted, because this squad’s already delivered our best winning run in ten years and we are still sat second in the league and in a Cup semi final. With 30 points on the board we have I guess as many as I expected us to get all season and it would have got us 6th place in 2015 after 30 games, which I think I would have done me after our last campaign. We probably need five wins from the remaining 9 games to crack a top 4 spot and that is eminently attainable if we can just get through this blip. So, that leads me to believe that when everything is taken into consideration, thus far the team has already massively surpassed my expectations for the year.
Thanks for rejoining the Diary and sticking with it this week and for all those of you who perhaps didn’t read the end bit of the last one three weeks ago and thought something terrible had happened to me, thanks for your concern but I’m still here; a bit bronzed, but still here! I don’t like Derby’s and Thursdays is no different, but let’s get down there, get behind the boys and just see what happens!! I’ll be back next week with number 500 but in the mean time…….
Try to keep believing!!