The Dentist’s Diary – 509th

“Such setbacks are the stepping stones to greater things.”

You can’t win ‘em all and if it’s important that you use the lessons of such games as Fridays to gain knowledge and strength and move forward, then they are certainly not the time for wasting energy despairing at an opportunity lost!

On many occasions this season it’s been us that were sneaking those last minute wins or just seeing games out, but in an outstanding match that we dominated for 60 minutes we ran out of energy, our go forward disappeared and then just as the tide appeared to be turning, a couple of unforced individual errors saw us slip to a disappointing defeat.

This time fortune did not smile on us and yet that tackle in the corner by Fornua near the end deserved to ‘favour the brave’, before a devastated Hadley was robbed of the ball and the inevitable outcome manifest itself in pretty heartbreaking circumstances.

You know I was disappointed at the end and after Wembley I didn’t think I would be saying that again this year, because I simply thought that it wasn’t going to bother me anymore. The Challenge Cup Final was meant to burn bright in my memory and carry me through any tough times that came, as they inevitably would, in its wake! Yet I saw the heartbreak coming at half time as I mused on the amount of chances we had blown in the first quarter. We could well have had 18 points on the board in that period but in the end, despite going along with a post Wembley ‘open mind’, this supporter got a bit too emotionally caught up in a game that was great for the casual viewer but excruciating to watch if you were totally immersed in it. It was that sort of match wasn’t it and you simply couldn’t take your eyes off the action for a moment, however at the end, despite still basking in the afterglow of that final we were all none the less, pretty disappointed.

I guess that just goes to prove how short lived and fleeting are the best ever moments of your life!

Credit to Wigan because they managed the game well, played the referee to perfection and sneaked it at the end. They seem to just hang there in games waiting for a chance and when they get one, or in this case when you give them one, they finish you off. You would hope it’s the sort of defeat that can only be good for us going forward, because we so nearly had them and that should, when we’ve rested up, make our resolve even stronger. However whether we will use it to kick on or we now fade away in the next three games is for me, if I’m honest, a bit in the melting pot and I think we’ll know a lot more about that one, come 10.00pm next Thursday night.

Most disappointing of all of course was the fact that we capitulated in such heartbreaking circumstances in front of the sort of gate we had been working towards for some time, a crowd that was just the fillip needed for the long suffering Adam Pearson! With getting on for 12,000 in there (a total that was pretty good when you consider how few Pie fans made the trip) I really hope some of the ‘returning fans’ don’t just consider the outcome and the individual mistakes that were our eventual downfall, but rather they remember the spectacle and effort that both teams put in to create an ‘electric atmosphere’ and a real spectacle (that is if you weren’t viewing it from the losing side of course). In hindsight it was fabulous entertainment played out in a great spirit, but unfortunately at this time of the year, winning is everything and indeed, it’s the only thing!

If you, like me, were disappointed at the end, as we all received a small and thankfully diluted taste of what it must have been like to be a thwarted Warrington fan at the conclusion of that final just 13 days previously, then I guess if we are all honest we saw it coming! If you ‘substitute’ that historic Houghton tackle for that late Wigan try, you’ll get an idea of what I mean, although I do here say ‘disappointed’ rather than ‘absolutely decimated’ because this was a league game leading up to the Grand Final and not thankfully a life defining Challenge Cup encounter at Wembley; a fact that I was desperately trying hard not to lose sight of as I trudged away from the KC, head down and rueing those mistakes and missed chances.

There is however little doubt too that after the game, as the fans scratched around for some sort of comfort, there was much criticism of the officials, substitutions and whatever else folks could think of, but the fact remains for me that we simply didn’t get enough points on the board when we dominated the first half and in the second we made too many individual errors. I wasn’t happy about the ball steal on Hadley when I watched it back, but that’s all academic now, we lost and in the end we just about deserved to lose.

Sad faces on and off the field!

“It’s a game of fine margins”, is an overused comment these days, particularly on Sky and Blunderside, but there is little doubt that when you are at this stage of the campaign and where we are in the pecking order, then those ephemeral elements of a match are very relevant and indeed on Friday night they proved absolutely decisive.

Some games I gloss over in here while others seem to grab my attention as far as the finer points of it all are concerned with one or two distinct memories seemingly etched in my brain. But when we look back at those ‘fine margins’ that in the end lose and win you games, let’s not peer too closely at the bombed chances of the first 20 minutes that should have seen us out of sight at half time, for at least we manufactured some great opportunities to score. But, lets instead for a moment consider the stuff that we produced when we were under the hammer in that fateful last quarter.

Look for instance at that fantastic spiralling cross field kick by Tuimavave that came down under the cross-bar and forced a drop out, just when we looked to be under the cosh and wilting. That was a massive play, in fact it could have been game changing in its significance, because it could have turned the tide of a match that was ebbing away from us, but then, after all that good work, the restart was immediately dropped by Josh Bowden. Then there was the case of that fabulous Fornua tackle in the corner near the end. It was a super human effort which deserved to win the game outright, but that again was immediately negated by Hadley’s ‘brain fart’, when he was robbed ‘one on one’ (I think) in what was to be the lead up to the killer try.

Those were examples of two potentially match defining moments of brilliance for us that were transformed almost immediately to ‘game changers’ for the opposition!! They were critical errors, the likes of which see such tight encounters turned on their heads. Those mistakes, by two of our younger players, were probably caused by fatigue and mental tiredness but that’s no real consolation for the fans when the points are lost because of them.

You just can’t do that and all the great work and amazing feats of ‘daring do’ earlier in the season count for nought if you can’t play ‘champions’ rugby at the business end of it all. That is the big lesson from Friday and worryingly for me the fact that we are actually at this defining point of the season, also dictates that we are running out of games and opportunities to put it right! Nothing but a Widnes type away performance at Wakey on Thursday will now suffice, if we are to get back on the horse in time for Warrington!

This encounter had so many great moments, as for 60 minutes we dominated the Wigan boys, but another lesson is that games aren’t won at three quarter time and for me that’s another pertinent point about Friday’s defeat, because you just have to dig deep and keep going! I’m not looking for excuses but the lack of Mini and Frank rotating in the last quarter meant that it was just one of those rare occasions when we simply ran out of petrol, whilst Wigan handled their energy levels well, kept going and just came out victors.

Look, there is little doubt that at home on the settee, as a spectacle, it was a great game to watch and we certainly are a good team and one that can play some great rugby. With the fetters off (after at last getting a trophy ‘on the shelf’) some of our movement in the first half was as good as we have seen all season. However it was just the last ball or the last run from various players that denied us of at least 4 tries. The ball flowed across the field through fast hand and Carlos probably had his best game thus far at 6 and with 104 yards gained, he at last started running a bit at the line.

Although, that said about Tuimavave, I would add the caveat that Williams still showed us what was to be gained by a six who runs at the line all the time, but then Sneyd was brilliant throughout and continues to improve game on game and at times he is simply imperious. His kicks for the two tries and that brilliant 40/20 in the second half, (which didn’t just find touch but was so brilliantly flighted that it also turned the defender inside out on its way to the whitewash) were amazing bits of skill as was the player’s general short kicking game. Isn’t it amazing after seasons where we never saw one that now we almost take the odd 40/20 for granted? Mark certainly produced some pieces of sheer brilliance that were worthy of a better return for the player. All that said I wonder just how good we would be with a top quality running 6 next to him although as I said earlier Carlos certainly showed some improvement.

There were many examples of class, like Talanoa and Michaels fielding of the high bombs throughout the game, Michaels releasing the ball in the tackle for the second try, and Talanoa’s brilliant score off that Sneyd kick when he worked so hard to keep in the field of play. Other standout points were Houghton’s none stop running from acting half and his amazing 61 tackles and Yeamo’s ‘circus skills exhibition’ where taking a very difficult ball, he went sliding around 6 yards on his knees, before getting up and running on another twenty or so yards, all in the same movement! That’s all brilliant stuff which I guess we generally tend to forget in the trauma of us ‘dipping out’ so late on in such heartbreaking circumstances.

But there’s the rub and all that really doesn’t really matter that much, because at this stage of the competition you just have to win and now on Thursday we have to do it at any cost. You see for me there is little doubt that all the teams in Super league have watched learned and now know what it is that makes us tick. Most below say 4th or 5th can’t do anything about our rampaging forward game if we get it right, but the top few are now just about sussing us out and we have to find a way to change things a bit and surprise them.

Of the rest of the players, I thought Shaul worked hard to return the ball ‘with interest’ and looked refreshed at full back. With 107 meters gained he is back to breaking tackles again and he looked dangerous at times. Up front Taylor got through 34 tackles and a mountain of work and yet to me looked a bit jaded, while Watts was a bit ‘rocks and diamonds’ in that he made some neat breaks but tried to force the off load too much and at the wrong times.

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Scarface put in a big stint but looked fatigued!

I have waxed lyrical about Sneyd already but for me he was pipped at the post for the man of the match by Seke Manu who is finishing the season like a house on fire. He ran the most yards of anyone and at times looked un-playable as he took up the mantle of the ‘Mini’ role (when Mark had a quieter match and went off injured), while beside him Gareth Ellis again impressed with a massive game that also deserved a better outcome. You have to mark Hadley and Bowden down for those two outrageous clangers but otherwise both did well I thought, while I saw little of Green and wonder how long he was on the field for, while I have to say that on the night Frank was a disappointment for me.

You know, when we look at where we are, this is a good squad with some exciting players who have facilitated some massive performances this year and I guess on Friday, we were just 4 minutes away from another! However it was not meant to be and we move onto Wakefield, being told that we simply have to win. Perhaps the sages are right, but for me the game that is looming as our ‘next cup final’ is that play-off game in three weeks time and this Thursday we have to start building towards that. How we play up to that match is important, for despite a couple of set-backs on our day this team can beat anyone, anywhere, and we may just have to do that in that play-off game.

Still we are Challenge Cup holders and we won it at Wembley and I’m still smiling every time I think about it. At that glorious moment when the victory was confirmed we all knew, well those of us who have been around all this stuff for decades knew, that things had changed forever but we also realised that anything else gained this term would be a bonus and a pretty unlikely one too. My advice now would be simple; just enjoy the last three or four games of the season! Although I have to admit that these days I’m afraid I’m not that good at taking my own advice!!

If Fridays was a great game then it was not so an experience, as the night started with us having to queue for about fifteen minutes to get in, something that prompted me to think that seen as they screw us left, right and centre as tenants at the Stadium, you would think that the SMC could at least facilitate us getting into the bloody place! No wonder the current ticketing arrangements and the difficulty in actually getting tickets both in advance and on the day is affecting whether people decide to attend. Our gate figures are, despite some excellent entertainment, still just around those of last season’s average, which after such an amazing campaign has to be a massive disappointment.

There are some mitigating circumstances of course, the Derby attendance continues to fall because we have to endure too many cross City games being played and the fact that Rovers were not in the top eight perhaps robbed us of another ‘average boosting’ game, whilst I don’t feel the fact that all our Super 8’s games seem to be on ’TV’ helps us much either. But we must be worried that despite all this such a great season hasn’t manifested itself in bigger attendances, although that does seem to be an issue across the competition as a whole.

We will have made plenty of dosh from the Cup run, but for me the big test will be season pass sales for 2017 and if I were the Club I’d be getting them out there now. When I was in marketing, whatever you were selling, the watchwords on customers was always to “get ‘em while their hot” and I think that’s the case at Hull FC right now. Adam said in his programme notes that details of passes for 2017 would be announced at the end of the month, but, despite a lot of calls on the fans finances of late, surely there must be an advantage of getting them on sale ASAP don’t you think?

Even though a few days have passed I know some of you will still be smarting from that Wigan defeat when you read this, but when you step back from it all, that game is the sort of stuff that you pay for your pass to experience. We have had magnificent value for money this year and the excitement and suspense of so many games have made our investment so very worthwhile. With tickets for the theatre costing upwards of around £40 a go, for me to watch 15 games, many of which have contained magnificent drama and a great deal of pleasure, for under £12 a match, is pretty amazing. If Friday proved anything then it is that if we are to win so many games in the final minutes then I guess we have to accept that we will lose a few in the same circumstances too, but that doesn’t dissipate the excitement of it all!

Would we want to be run away winners every week? Well some would say ‘yeh’, but it would all get pretty boring after a while I’m sure! So for me the passes this season have been amazing value for money and who is to say they won’t be the same next year! I’d get those 2017 season tickets out now myself!!

Well the big, big news of the week has to be that Danny Houghton has had his post Wembley wish of a new deal granted and I’m so, so pleased about that!!!

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61 tackles last Friday what a way to celebrate your new contract; bloody brilliant news!!

So desperate to stay for the duration of his playing career and be a one club man, he asked Adam for an extension at the after Cup Final party and was granted his wish last Thursday. Danny is without doubt the stuff that legends are made of and will go down in the annals of this great Club of ours as the man who’se single massive late effort saw us win the challenge cup for the first time ever at Wembley Stadium and that to become the first club in history to win the cup at 4 different venues.

Now he is here for the next 4 seasons and that’s great news all round, because although it’s not an expression I have ever used in here before, Danny Houghton is without doubt the heartbeat our team. A great bloke to talk to off the field and the recipient of a much deserved Testimonial next season, Danny who signed for us from Skirlaugh, is an all Hull lad and it looks like he’ll follow Horney and Yeamo into the history books as one of that rare, rare breed, a one team player. Does anyone else remember marvelling at that young guy’s ability to scoot for yards from acting half at that friendly game all those year ago at Batley? He looked good to many of us then and he certainly hasn’t disappointed has he?

Lee Radford was pleased to get it sorted as well, but was also looking to improving Danny further when he said, “I think the next progression in Danny’s career is fine-tuning his leadership skills and influence off the field as I have no doubt he has all the minerals to be a future captain of this great club”. However I don’t think any of us would doubt that now that his contract is signed, Danny will one day be Hull FC captain and although the mild manner character who is as close as you’ll get to a human dynamo may need to strengthen his people skills off the field, his ability to lead by example on it has never ever been in doubt. What a great bit of news that was and how deserving is Danny of having his future sorted until 2020.

Now, regular readers know that I’m not one for looking back at previous games in the season and dissecting just what has gone on, because in general for me what is gone is gone and we move on. However this week I have been really fretting over the question of, “Could the destination of the League Leaders Shield be decided by a video referee’s decision?” I refer to that incident last weekend when over in France Richie Myler was denied a try by the video referee that would have seen Catalan Dragons win and Warrington forgo the two points that put them above us by a point (and now by three)

The official gave no try when he was in fact unsighted and so the video referee had to find ‘sufficient evidence’ to over-rule the on field decision. However there is little doubt on freeze frame that Myler had downward pressure on the ball, just as Ryan Hall had two years ago in the Four Nations, when he was denied too. It’s a fact that in both cases the ball was on the ground with the players hand on top of it, but that was not sufficient evidence to give the try against the decision of the referee.

Even Stuart Cummins waded into the discussions this week and said, “The shot is frozen with Myler’s hand on top of the ball on the ground, while it is in the in goal area. What other decision can there be to make? It’s a try!” Of course I would agree with Stuart Cummings on this occasion but I wonder if it’s about time we scrapped the practise of the on field official first deciding what he thinks it is, before the video referee has to then justify beyond any sort of doubt, changing that decision. Indeed at times I feel that the video referee actually hides behind the ‘insufficient evidence’ excuse because he doesn’t want to make an unpopular decision that also goes against his colleague’s judgement and perhaps we should revert to the old system and make either the official, or the video referee,(if it’s passed to him) accountable for the decision.

Now you’ll remember last week that I offered a bit of praise for Karl Brookes and the guys who stage managed that brilliant fly past over Caravan Park during the Leigh game; an action that absolutely made my weekend. Well, during the week past I heard from Karl who said that the response to what was a pretty expensive stunt to deliver had been absolutely phenomenal. Carried in the national media and talked about on Sky news and the ‘Talk Sport’ radio station, it got massive exposure and he added that the whole thing had been years in the planning, as he waited for us to win the Cup at Wembley. He also stated that he could now put another tick on his ‘Bucket list’ for life! Karl felt, like me, that the Dobbins fans, who branded it childish and petty, were pretty pathetic themselves, particularly when you consider the fact that they have been taunting us with a boring single line song for over 36 years. I thought it was brilliant Karl and as that old guy Eric in the fanzine said, ‘Those responsible for the flypast should be bloody knighted’ FC Fans eh? They never cease to amaze me!!

This week I Googled ‘New Rovers Captain Peacock’ and this came up!!

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Hell of a likeness!

Then the big news over in Desperation Land was about a new addition brought in to clean up their act!!

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Now, could you ever fix a RL game? Well in Australia the police seem to think that you can. You know many people hail the NRL as the Holy Grail as far as all things Rugby League is concerned and indeed this week a report stated that over 30 players over there earn in excess of £650,000 a year. That’s a level of pay with which, in this country, we simply can’t compete. However, although there is no denying the quality of the game over there, it is still fraught with stories and headlines that highlight the unsavoury side of the sport, with issues like salary cap excesses, alcohol abuse, drugs, public brawling and now it would seem, match fixing, featuring regularly in the Australian press. It’s such a high profile sport out there and it being constantly in the media spotlight seems to indicate that a lot of the players, administrators and indeed some of the clubs are simply incapable of handling that profile without succumbing to the temptation to act in an unprofessional way and even at times cheat.

So, I guess I was hardly surprised when I read this week that New South Wales police will interview ‘dozens’ of NRL players and officials as part of an increased investigation into possible match fixing and that the State Crime Command’s Organised Crime Squad have set up an operation called ‘Strike Force Nuralda’ which is expected to run for many months. Steve Matai’s is busy, as I go to print, denying that his phone has already been confiscated by police, as the operation springs into action. The organised crime squad apparently launched the investigation after receiving information about potential gambling crimes which could be linked to matches in the NRL being fixed. NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said this week, ‘We are not going to pre-judge any person associated with the game while this process is underway, but I repeat my earlier warning that if any person is convicted of match fixing they will face a life ban from any involvement in Rugby League.’

The Organised Crime Squad confirmed back in June that it was investigating claims of match-fixing in the NRL, believed to be 2015 games between Manly and South Sydney, and Manly and Parramatta, and a 2016 match between Manly and Parramatta has also now come under the police spotlight. Poor old Parramatta fans, they seem to be in for it again after all those points were deducted this year for salary cap abuses! Some of the players and administrators at the Clubs over there need to start realising that their positions in sport and society are a privilege and something to be appreciated and not abused!

It was great to see Steve Crooks in the media of late talking eloquently about the way that our victory at Wembley will impact on and inspire the young hopefuls in the local rugby scene. The consummate professional and yet always approachable I’ve always liked Steve, but he’s not always been that cool! There was a time in fact when he really lost it! Crooksey seems to have been around our club for ages and that started me thinking here in Codgers Corner about what for this supporter, was his greatest hour. Anyone who has met Steve knows that although he spent time in his career down at Caravan Park, he is FC through and through and he’s done a great job for us over the years, as he has brought so many young and aspiring players through the ranks and into our first team.

We have a lot to thank him for in the past too, because he has on more than one occasion stepped into the breach when coaches have been sacked and we have needed a steadying hand at the helm. I remember well in 1999 when the club was spiralling down towards David Lloyd’s ritual shafting of our club and eventual abdication and when by August we were already rock bottom of the League. Crooksey had taken over from the sacked (and good thing too) Peter Walsh as coach and was doing his best to save the club from the drop. We had a few good young prospects (Paul Parker, Paul King, Craig Poucher, Paul Cook and Richard Horne to name just the highest profile ones) but mostly the Sharks were populated with those ‘Roll over and Die’, ‘Summer Break in England’, ‘I’m only here for the Beer’ type of players I’ve always really hated at my club!

Early in August 1999 we faced an in form Halifax side, when we were coming off the back of a 74-16 defeat at Saints and a 40-16 home reversal to, ironically enough, it was to prove, the Gateshead Thunder, at the Boulevard.

I attended the game after having a great week in the sun in Tenerife. Coming home from that holiday that same morning, I remember well as the plane flew nearer and nearer home the gloom gradually descending on me for it had been a torrid season as the fans looked on helplessly as David Lloyd just ran the club into the ground. It was with a heavy heart and fears of relegation that, later that same day, I made my way to my spiritual home. There was always hope, but not much that day! A gate of 3,400 joined me and there was probably more atmosphere in the Carnegie Library on Anlaby Road than there was at the Boulevard! Even in the South end of the Threepennies it was all doom, gloom and the silent shuffling of feet!

For me personally, it was one of those rare games when, because of other folks still being on holidays, the uncertainty of my arrival back and a lot of the casual crowd having already run out of patience, I found myself watching on my own. After about 20 minutes we were 18-0 down and I had already moved from my ‘Lucky Step’ at the Airlie Street end to the Threepennies to see if my clubs luck improved if I watched from there. I remember being really impressed by “Beans” Broadbent and their player coach, Gary Mercer, whilst Holroyd was kicking us to death and of course local lads Hodgson and Pinkney had scored their usual ‘Boulevard’ touchdowns for the visitors.

At half time I was so fed up that I left the Threepennies and utterly depressed I broke the habit of a lifetime and got a burger from that awfully nice lady with the bouffant hairstyle and black fingernails in the little caravan behind the stand. I then went and stood in splendid isolation on the sparsely populated terracing at the Gordon Street end. There was only the best stand left for me now. I remember being totally fed up of people, of rugby and of most of our players! I just wanted to grieve on my own, if we lost this one we were down and it was like helplessly standing by and watching while an old friend slipped away!

I remember at the start of the second half Mercer rolled in for another try, only to be pulled back for a double movement, but they then kicked another goal and Michael (he’s on the piss) Smith dropped the ball a couple of times when it would have been easier to score! So sadly, although I always had hope, what I was watching was no different to the first half, as Halifax piled forward.

Then, on about the hour mark, things started to change. Logan Campbell got free and fed a young Richard Horne who went over in the corner and Rob Roberts (Remember him? You could write a diary in itself about his exploits) added the goal. Before any of us could talk of consolation tries Hallas pinched a ball at the play the ball and sent Gary Lester flying away on a 60 meter run as Steve Craven took the pass to score our second. All of a sudden the tiny crowd was sounding more like a full stadium and I have to admit at that point, I went back to the Threepennies to join in the fun. Soon after we lost the ball near our line and despite some torrid tackling at the end of the set Holroyd dropped a goal, but soon after that we marched down field and Michael Smith stumbled and somehow flopped over the line and we were just three points behind!

Then, of course, as happens on these occasions, when you are down and just see a glimmer of light, the unbelievable and then the inevitable happened. Firstly, within the last couple of minutes, Horney broke free kicked ahead collected and scored!! It was a superb bit of rugby and we all went barmy but then, true to the script, referee Connolly disallowed the try. We were finished, or where we, within seconds Horney took a ball from a scrum kicked a real ‘skyer’ and Graham Hallas collected it on the run, ran through a gap in the Halifax back division and over the line, ‘Two Bobs’ goaled and the hooter went and we had actually won the game!! It was an amazing scene, we had not won anything, except a game against poxy Halifax and we were not even safe in the league, but women dance, children screamed and grown men wept!! It is a vivid memory for me to this day and still remains one of the most extraordinary games I have ever seen in almost 60 years of watching the FC because at half time the win seemed totally impossible!

If you ever ask Crooksey about it, he will just tell you that he can never ever remember shouting at a team like he did in the half time break, he’ll admit to completely losing it and would add that most of what he said was totally unprintable. The next few games were business as usual and we had to rely on that special last match win over Sheffield Eagles to stay up, just beating Huddersfield to the drop on point’s difference. But that day in 1999 I had toured the ground, grieved, danced on the terraces, risked food poisoning and witnessed one of the best and most unlikely fight backs I have ever experienced at the Boulevard. After that I stayed in the Threepennies for the rest of that season.

Well I guess for many of you reading this Friday was a typical FC reality check, but as for me well as I said earlier I’m still smiling and living on the dreams of two weeks ago! I’ve said before that I won’t be being negative at all for the rest of this season (and losses to Saints and Wigan have certainly not made me feel at all negative about our efforts) because now I have what I’ve always wanted. It was great to see some faces there on Friday that I haven’t seen for years and if any of those went away afterwards saying they are not coming to the KC again, then they simply don’t get what good quality Rugby League is all about, because stepping back from the emotion of it all and the fact that we were just pipped at the end, the atmosphere was great and the entertainment intense.

We all ‘get that’ because we have seen what has gone on between the days when those ‘fair weather’ fans quit and now. This present campaign and indeed the transformation in this team of ours since this time last year has been nothing short of phenomenal and we have all seen some incredible performance and superb games in 2016. I include Friday in that too (Although when you lose in such circumstances, I’ll grant you it’s hard to get that bit) for as the dust settles it was just great to be involved.

Of the 2016 top 4, performance wise (rather than winning wise), I challenge anyone to say that we have not been the best team with regard to the level of intensity and passion regularly on view (and we still are). I think too that we show, week for week and pound for pound, that despite our last two defeats we are the most powerful team in the competition.

Of the other three, from a personal point of view, Warrington probably have the most flair and entertainment value and are the most attractive to watch in the competition, Wigan are well…just Wigan, agricultural, uncultured at times, hanging in games, referee playing, obviously bullied off the field, but yet bloody effective just the same, while for me Saints are the odd ones out and there a bit, by default. You know, I watch them week in week out and yet I’m never impressed with what I see and they always seem to catch teams cold, short-handed or handicapped by the referee. Of course that’s all a matter of opinion and probably way off the beam of what you think, but that’s how I see it all at present!

Thursday’s will be an interesting game because we will be down a bit on energy and will struggle to get players fit and rested up to go again in just 6 days. Of course it’s the same for Wakey, although I understand that they bombed around 12 chances against Catalan and like us, if you’re making them sooner or later you will score them! I hope we can win if only to keep the doubters and ‘Johnny come lately’ fans happy, but I also realise that if last year at this time, you’d offered me being one game off the Grand Final, having won the Challenge Cup at Wembley, then I would have snatched your hand off. We all get greedy I guess!

So, some hopes, some concerns and a pile of jumbled thoughts about that Wigan game, all written down as always in good faith and just as they come to me. Get to Wakey if you can and if you can’t then watch at home, but have the settee ready! Thanks for everyone who was so kind in hunting me out last Friday to say how much they enjoyed the pre and post Wembley editions, your support and friendship really makes me feel humble and want to keep going. I simply can’t be disheartened this season and I guess I’ll keep writing this weekly drivel for as long as you wish to read it!! Have a good week enjoy the game next Thursday and
Don’t give up yet!!!!
COME ON YOU HULLLLLAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf