The Dentist’s Diary – 518th

Well, Christmas is coming and so too thankfully is some live rugby!!!

Welcome to another closed season Diary after what has again been a fortnight of interesting developments at our Club and in the wider Rugby League. There is certainly no lack of support for the Clubs retail and ticketing efforts and the response to the new shirts and the season ticket scheme has been nothing short of phenomenal. Although much of the enthusiasm can be put down to the ‘Wembley effect’, in the end the supporters have come good again and everything augers well for a great season with some big gates at the KCOM Stadium in the offing for 2017.

Adam and Co may lament the loss of the Derby games but personally, as it’s not my pocket that the Dobbins relegation is hitting, I find their absence quite refreshing. As fans we have over the last few years simply just had too many of them and after the annual tradition of the two clubs wringing every ounce of cash out of the cross City rivalry, the resurgence in interest in our club (as proved by ticket and shirt sales) displays for me that Derby games are not ‘the end all and be all’ of rugby in Hull.

I just hope that now our administration will adapt to the lack of games against the Dobbins and make a lot more of the home games against Leeds and Wigan etc. turning them into real occasions once more. They used to be you know and if we can get that focus back, I can honestly see gates of 12,000 being a regular feature again at the KCOM in 2017.

Well I said it about the home shirt and I’ll have to say it about the away one as well, because I’m afraid I’m simply not that struck on it myself. Not because there is anything wrong with it as it stands, because it’s selling like hot cakes and as far as dayglow goes it’s great, what’s more the kids love it. Of course in the end demand is the yard stick by which we should judge any such initiatives and if they don’t sell then they have got it wrong, but if they do (and they are), then it’s job done and any reservations are based solely on opinion and not economic impact.

For this fan however the problem is that I’m just too much of a traditionalist. For me dayglow is something you wear if you want to be seen on your bike at night or if you’re working on an overnight motorway maintenance gang. Furthermore, as I said a couple of weeks ago on the release of the home shirt, it’s the new retro offering for me because I think its brilliant. I do get the marketing angle of it all though and the retail staff tell me that there are people buying these two new offerings who have never done so before, so that has to be good. Consequently, I can see exactly what the club are doing in engaging new interest and they should be commended for being so bold but as I say, that doesn’t mean that it appeals to me. I’ll certainly find it strange, to say the least, to see us running out next season looking a bit like a gang of council workers about to rake up some leaves, however as always with record sales of the home shirt and the away one going mad, what the hell do I know? Record sales are just that ….a record, so well done to all concerned!

Now it is that time again when ‘Squad numbers mean nothing’! We are certainly always told that by everyone at the Club and I guess you can see, with such a squad based game, exactly what they are talking about. Last season we found out the hard way that you simply can’t persist with trying to play the same team week in week out and if you’re lucky with injuries then you still have to rotate your personnel to keep everyone fresh. In fact, with the fixture mayhem caused by the World Cup and Mr Bennetts demands, 2017 will be even tougher. For many folks (particularly us old buggers) the number on a shirt is just a means of identifying that player from the terraces when he is at the other end of the field and although your first choice full back is number one your scrum half 7 and your hooker number 9, little else in the modern game gives much of an indication of what’s to come at all really.

Some players like Aaron Heramaia and Seka Manu even have a personally preferred number, probably born out of superstition or tradition. However, it’s always interesting for the fan who is scrambling about to get any news that is going in the ‘information desert’ that is November and December, to see the initial ‘possible’ starting line-up announced through these numbers. However, in the bigger scheme of things there are few surprises this time around really. Kelly has been given the 6 shirt and that was always going to happen, as our coach searched in vain for most of last year to find the right partner for Sneyd.

Hadley has been handed the number 11 which bears out what Lee Radford has banged on about for months now, in that Dean has the potential to go all the way and make a starting second row place his own. However, for now at least, I’m still not 100% sure about that one, but there is little doubt that both Dean and Jordan Thompson have to step up this year and for them, just as was the case for Bowden and Green last year at this time, this season is make or break. However as for the rest, well players will no doubt be picked on their availability and ability so squad numbers are fine for those fans who want a shirt for Christmas with their favourite player’s name and number on it, but in essence I guess they serve little other purpose really.

As the Club announced that we will not be making any more signings the emphasis now seems to have shifted to securing current players that we want to retain and so it was great to hear last Monday that hometown hero Jamie Shaul had signed a new deal. All FC fans must be pleased about that news, we’d be mad not to be, because in Jamie we retain a young player who made it to the Dream Team last season and who of course will go down in history as the scorer of the winning try in the seminal and life changing Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final of 2016. So I’m really pleased that ‘Shauly’ has signed a new four-year deal with the club to secure his future at Hull FC until 2020.

That Moment!

He’s obviously pleased as well and text the same day, “I’m Over the moon to extend my contract with Hull FC thanks for all the messages, hopefully be making more memories like that Wembley one” For me as a fan it’s a massive step forward and every bit as significant as a new signing really. I’m pretty sure now that Jamie will become an FC legend in time for he has that flair that you simply can’t teach a player and he’s a natural number 1. We now need to get Marc Sneyd sorted out as his contract ends at the close of next season and I believe that we need him on board long term too.

It’s coming to that point in the year where pundits are offering their expert opinions on the outcome of the forthcoming campaign and this week Garry Schofield has made it no secret that he believes Hull FC can emulate their success from last season. The former Airlie Bird and often controversial RL writer predicts that this Lee Radford side will finish third in the Super League standings at the end of the 2017 campaign. “They won’t change much from last year,” he said in a column for the League Express. “The signing of Albert Kelly is a smart move. I think he and Marc Sneyd will gel well.” And Schofield believes that captain Gareth Ellis can have another impressive year too when he said, “I’m sure Gareth Ellis has another big season in him.” So knowing Mr. Schofield his opinions and predictions over the years, is that a good assessment do you think, or more likely the ‘kiss of death’?

There was an extremely interesting and pretty extensive two-page interview with Adam Pearson last week in League Weekly and the owner of the Club of the Year was featured all over the front page, to trail an article that gave full reign to our supremo to vent his opinions on everything about the game in general and Hull FC in particular. He certainly gave a run down on the current position of the Club and what we have been up to over the last few weeks. The prominent fact was that we had now completed our recruitment for 2017 and that the Club were happy with the squad they had put together. It was a step back from what Adam had said at the end of the last campaign when he indicated that two more players were to come in, but with Kelly signed and training hard it seems that whoever the other target was has fallen through and so we stick with what we’ve got.

That’s pretty fair really and we have tried I think to cover all our bases. However many second string players you have, any club in the game would struggle if they experienced a glut of injuries in the spine of their team as both Saints and Castleford did last year, but with a fair wind on that front our squad looks packed with depth. Well, it does with the exception of some cover for Danny Houghton at 9 but I’ve banged on long enough in here on that one, so I’ll move on.

I guess that providing some of the youngsters can make the next step up and fringe players like Hadley and Turgot play well enough to get a few more games, then we should be OK. Despite continuing rumours that he spends a lot of his time these days trying to sort out a deal to buy Hull City, Pearson indicated in the exclusive article that he is certainly excited about our prospects and looking at what he had to say and the depth of that squad, you have to wonder just where an exciting propositions like Jake Connor will play. He is apparently expected to rotate between full back and half back which should be interesting! It will be fascinating too, to see just how we line up in pre-season and what permutations we are to try out across the backs, won’t it?

The excellent article also saw Adam really talking up the game as a whole and admitting too that he didn’t always see eye to eye with the RL. In fact, he said that he wasn’t a fan of the Super Eights concept but that it was here and so we had to get on with it, adding that he hoped the Dobbins came back up again soon, “So that we can start beating them again” He also felt confident about the Canadian experiment and was looking forward to being the first team to play the Toronto outfit. He added that he was to have some discussions with their management and owner at the KCOM game with a view to taking Hull FC over to Canada to face the Wolfpack sometime in the future.

I guess the other really interesting thing to come out of the two-page spread was Adams comments about the level of sales attained for season tickets. The publicised total in press releases at that time seemed to be a toss-up between 5000 and 4000 and yet many of us knew so many folks who were renewing and coming back to the Club this year and so to many of us that seemed to me to be a bit low.

However, in League Weekly, Adam announced that sales had surpassed last season’s total stating that over 7000 had been sold and that was confirmed on the club website last Thursday. That’s amazing news really particularly when you consider that was announced before unclaimed existing season reservations have been released. I can also reveal that sales went mad again last Saturday and we are now well past that total. That is certainly pretty phenominal going in anyone’s book. It’s certainly looking likely to me that we will have sold at least 8000 by Christmas which would see us some 1500 in front of last year. That’s a fabulous response by the FC fans renewing and the new comers joining in and as the Wembley effect kicks in, it certainly proves the point that people are engaging again with Hull FC.

Those new-comers and lapsed supporters are now so important to the club as we move forward. Their re-connection will be fervent but flimsy and we have now to ensure that as a Club we major on keeping them on board. That will only happen with excitement, belief and hope being engendered on the field and then radiated across the terraces. It’s always claimed in marketing that re-engaging with lapsed customers is always much more difficult than attracting and converting new ones. We have certainly lost a lot of our stalwart fans over the last few years but many have now re-signed to the scheme and that’s therefore pretty amazing really, because once they got out of the habit of attending, I wondered if we would ever get them back.

That’s the massive challenge any Club has to face when it has been in decline and so the significance of winning at Wembley last year extends much further than ‘stopping that song’! It was a historic win that captured the imagination and that is swiftly developing a lasting legacy centred on re-kindling the interest in many lapsed fans. It is the catalyst on which we can build a healthy future and these are certainly exciting times to be a Hull FC supporter.

Well now its sad news time again and as seems to be the case most weeks I have to report the departure of another great FC stalwart. This week I heard that we had lost a favourite from the hard years of the sixties in Keith Barnwell. Back in the days when black players were rare in the game of Rugby League, Keith became a really good servant after he signed for us in 1961 and made his debut on 26th Aug that year. He played 43 first team games of which one was from the bench and he scored 13 tries. He was around the Club for several years and played a deal of A team rugby, but he will always be remembered for making up part of that famous three-quarter line that featured Keith, the two Sullivan brothers Clive and Brian plus Trevor Carmichael. I remember watching him in an Eastern Divisional Championship game against Hunslet when the line-up in the backs was I think 1. Keegan 2. Sullivan 3. Barnwell 4. Carmichael 5. Sullivan 6. Devonshire 7. Finn.

In later life, when he left the Boulevard, I think I remember Keith working at Armstrong’s in Beverley and he was one of the first people to commentate on Rugby League on Radio Humberside. He made his mark there as well, as he did that with great aplomb too. I met him several times and he was a lovely bloke who always had a good sense of humour and time for a chat and I have fond memories of him being a great servant for my Club in those difficult times in the early to mid-sixties. Now he joins that ever increasing and star studded FC team in the sky and my thoughts go out to all his family and friends. R.I.P. Keith Barnwell.

Now while we are on days gone by the other day I heard from David Bond the eminent local sports writer, who penned the Hull FC 20 Legends book last year and who is now working with Kirk Yeaman on a biography. His note centred on an iconic character of our past Ned Rogers and two prominent Hull sporting families who have now been reunited more than a century and two generations later.

The opportunity arose when David Bond featured former utility back Ned in his 2015 book and mentioned that he lived with some of his fellow family members called McLocklan when he was growing up in the late 19th century. Ned Rogers, who often played alongside his elder brother Gregor who also played over 100 games for Hull, amazingly remains the top appearances maker in the club’s history on 500 even though his chances were severely restricted by the First World War. He scored 103 tries and kicked 503 goals and including the war years he had the longest career of any Hull FC player making his debut in 1906 and playing his last game in the 1924/25 season. In fact, on the day that Bert Gilbert and Steve Darmody, two major signings from Australia made their debut in 1912, it was local lad Rogers playing at full back that scored all the points in a 9-0 win over York.

Then recently, out of the blue, his grand-daughter Marilyn, who lives on the fringes of the Peak District, contacted the publishers of the legends book, Vertical Editions, and asked to speak to Bond to discuss the background to the Rogers family in greater detail. In the meantime, Bond had made contact with Colin McLocklan, whose grandfather George had lived with the Rogers family in Prospect Place Hull, about 120 years ago.

Colin and his brothers Tom and Trevor were well-known in East Riding cricket circles. In fact, Colin played at Yorkshire League level for Hull CC – once getting Geoffrey Boycott out in a testimonial game – and he and Tom were members of the successful Fenner’s side of the 1980s. Colin was also a notable footballer with the Chicago Sting, North Ferriby United and Goole Town and then went on to manage local clubs Bridlington Trinity and Winterton Rangers. The outcome of it all has been that the Rogers and McLocklan families have now been reunited after they all met up for a meal at the Duke of Cumberland in North Ferriby when Marilyn stayed briefly with relatives in the area.

Colin met Marilyn and her sister Maureen among various members of the Rogers clan for the first time and they were able to share considerable details of their research into their respective family trees and of course the career and life of Ned Rogers. Colin even produced a photograph of the family house, which no longer exists, but which was shared by the Rogers and McLocklan families all that time ago and everyone has vowed to keep in touch on a much more regular basis from now on. So once again the family that is rugby league continues to thrive this time three generations on.

Well we all knew that lot in East Hull were Dick-heads but now as my pal Dave pointed out his week, they have a Hampton on their chests as well!!

Everything but the tumble weed! Not exactly thronging with ardent supporters was it? The Rovers Away shirt launch went off without a hitch…. or a crowd!

The other afternoon I was walking through Driffield and I bumped into a guy called Joe who knew me from years of seeing each other at away games. We had been nodding acquaintances for years without really getting to know each other but the magic of last season still burns bright for many of us and we stopped and got talking for what seemed like ages. Joe was certainly still as taken with Wembley as I was and we reflected on a great season and some amazing games. He said it was the best season he had experienced as an FC fan since the 78/79 Division Two winning campaign which was still his favourite and then we were off again, talking the away trips, the Boulevard with hardly any grass on it and winning every game in the League. So this week I thought I’d have a quick look back at a season that set the scene perfectly for what most fans would consider to be the greatest period of our recent history the early 80’s. With the likes of ‘Knocker’ Norton, Skerrett, Crooks, Lloyd, Stone, Evans and Sterling gracing those famous irregular hooped shirts those were truly great days indeed. For me though one of our greatest years ever was Joe’s favourite season, because for anyone who supported the club back then the 1978/79 season was very special indeed.

In that amazing year we created a record which will live long in our history and that of the Rugby league. We went through the whole season undefeated with our record at the end of the year showing, played 26 won 26. They were great times indeed. I saw every game home and away and still have some great and cherished memories of the camaraderie and passion that was found on the terraces everywhere we went. We appeared invincible and the fans had a ball. Me and my pals had a great time, we got left by the coach at Oldham, ‘congered’ out of the supporter’s club at Blackpool, got drenched to the skin at Whitehaven on a cold day when the players spent half time in the stark cavity under the stand, (as the steam from their bodies came up through the boards under our feet), and then there was an amazing finale when we almost blew it and yet came through in spectacular fashion.

However, it was hard to even imagine what was about to happen when the season started with a tight 17-9 win at Bramley. That game saw a team that was a work in progress stutter and splutter but, by the following weekend, Arthur Bunting had got things sorted and we produced a comprehensive 61-10 defeat of Oldham at the Boulevard. In that game Sammy Lloyd actually equalled the clubs all time goal kicking record for goals in a game. That record had incidentally stood since Jim Kennedy set it against Rochdale in 1921! Lloyd in fact went on to attain the club’s record for total goals kicked that year with a massive total of 170 in fact he scored 369 points that year which was a phenomenal total. It was an amazing feat and one that is now unlikely ever to be equalled.

We were off and running, and despite Bradford (our then Bogey team) booting us out of all the cup competitions, we were to go on and never see a “L” in the League fixture list for the rest of the year.

Some games were tight, as hosting the Airlie Birds, or a visit to the Boulevard, was seen by most of the rest of the clubs in the Division as their “Wembley”. We were seen as the big spenders, the ‘Flash Harry’s’ of the competition and the envy of other Clubs was there to see everywhere we went, as the FC fans turned up in their thousands. At home games gates regularly reached 6,800 and a couple of cash strapped outfits (Huyton and Batley) even transferred their home game to the Boulevard to make more money out of them. I well remember that the switched Batley game was played in mid-week in February and was almost called off ten minutes before the game took place, because of ice on the pitch. However, the referee, making an inspection of the playing surface before the game, took one look at the size of the crowd and noting their baiting cries in his direction, decided to go ahead. The game was played in conditions more akin to Ice-skating, but we won 20-0. Financially the season was a success too and we made a profit that year thanks to a big donation from the vice presidents and £8,900 from the speedway franchise so it was a great success all round really.

There were some close calls too. We scraped past Blackpool at the Boulevard in November 14-13, just beat Bramley 8-5 at home in January and squeezed past Oldham at a rain sodden Watersheddings in our penultimate game of the season in May. Boy the weather was bad that day and the mist so thick that at times you couldn’t see the other end of the pitch and we never ever did see the top of the posts! Some grounds were really run down and I remember the game against New Hunslet at the Elland Road Greyhound Stadium in October 1978 when one by one the floodlight columns went off until of the 8 only 4 were lit and the game concluded in gathering gloom. There was the Doncaster game at Tatters filed in September when a guy obviously fed up of walking around the pitch carried a tray of drinks across the 25-yard line while play went on down the other end. Wow, there are so many great memories, after talking to Joe in Driffield I bet I could fill a couple of Diary’s with just that season.

We were crowned champions at Blackpool on a windswept afternoon when their drop goal expert and little general the ‘Seasiders’ Hull born Moroccan Bak Diabera almost did for us! There were some great heroes in our team that year though, Prendiville and Bray on the wings scored 46 tries between them, Robinson was an unlikely star at full back, John Newlove an aging hero at 6, Tindle and Farrar in the front row and Charlie Stone in the second row were all tireless workers, with veteran Keith Hepworth chimed in with a few good performances as well. That year too ageing heroes like Chris Davidson, George Clarke and Brian Hancock got some games in as well and made the backs tick and ‘Super Alf’ Macklin was awarded a Testimonial. Many of these heroes didn’t feature in the glorious days of the 80’s but without them we wouldn’t have that great season to remember.

So, with one game to go, the scene was set for the big game of the season against second placed Hunslet at the Boulevard on 18th May 1979. This was it, our chance to have a place in the Guinness Book of records, and to go through a whole season undefeated. Although we were already promoted, I remember the Daily Mail revealing that Arthur Bunting, our Coach, had decreed that the team would not be parading the Second Division salver around the ground before the kick off, because he wanted nothing to take the teams minds off this last, important and possibly historic, game. If I remember rightly, Arthur had in fact seen a similar situation, when he was coach at The Dobbins and with the hosts losing the game and he was risking nothing this time.

12,424 crammed into the Boulevard and I watched the game from the Gordon Street end of a packed Threepenny Stand. Hunslet really did not offer much at all on attack, but their tenacious tackling soon subdued even the fans around me, as they did everything they could to keep us out. Lloyd, the record breaker, missed 4 goals in the first half and at half time the scores stood at 1-0 after Knocker Norton had dropped a solitary goal. The thorn in our side that night was I remember Tony Dean, a little general and a player who was to sign and star for us two years later. He was known as the drop goal king of British Rugby League and although he missed with two attempts, at last he slid one over in the second half to level the scores. He was everywhere that night and at times attacked us single-handedly with some great stepping and direct running.

It looked likely that the game was going to end in a draw although Hunslet plugged away and another drop goal was always on the cards. Could we lose out at such a late stage? Then, following a foul on John Newlove, Sammy Lloyd at last found his kicking boots and slotted over a penalty. We were in the lead at last, but it was still touch and go! It was then left for the unlikeliest of heroes to score the only try of the game and seal the record for Hull FC. Charlie Stone who only scored about 8 tries in 200 appearances for the club, side stepped his way over the line and although Lloyd missed again with the conversion we were home, we were the champions, and most important of all real record breakers!!! It was not a classic game, but with so much at stake, for me for sheer tension and ultimate ecstasy it still ranks as high as that win at Cardiff in the Final of 2005, but as Joe from Driffield said it was just beaten for all that by the recent 2016 classic Wembley Final; nothing will surpass that….ever! However back in the late seventies it was the grand finale of a massive season where only one thing was guaranteed and that was that every week the opposition produced a Super human effort in an attempt to beat us.

That campaign we scored more tries than any other team in the whole competition and although only playing second division teams in the League, we still managed to beat Leeds in the Cup and draw with Bradford in the same competition. We of course went up and thus started that Golden Age in the history of Hull FC, the early 80’s! Sorry I went on a bit this week, but Joe got me thinking and you know me I’m hard to shut up when I get going about our clubs fabulous heritage!

So, just one more Diary before Christmas, in two weeks’ time, and I bet for you like me it’s all getting bloody tedious as everywhere you look thing seems to be cranking up towards the Festive season. As I get older it seems to get more and a more of a grind really as the real message of the season seems to be disappearing fast under a plethora of three minute Sainsbury Adverts, black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and The thing was summed up for me the other day when I bumped into a lady I know who is 85 and a stalwart of St Mary’s Church in Beverley who said that she too was struggling with it all and added, “It’s a good job Mary and Joseph only had one son!”

I know that technically that’s not that precise, but you certainly get the idea! So do your best in the next few weeks and lets all look forward to Boxing Day and some rugby of sorts to enjoy. Things seem to be going really well off the field at present and with the lads building up their training intensity and despite them having to run up and down the big hills, the spirit in the camp is certainly great again. Thanks as always for all your comments and suggestions and as always it’s great to hear from you all. Don’t forget to get those passes secured, the diary will be back in two weeks’ time, but in the mean time…….

Keep Believing!

Faithfully Yours