Fridays defeat was poor, made all the more significant by the fact that it was the biggest ever at home to the Leeds Rhinos. Well that’s what the Yorkshire Post claimed next day anyway!
58 years of watching Hull FC has seen me witness some massive, against all the odds, backs to the wall performances against Leeds teams at the Boulevard and even in the early days at the KC. Back then they were always the old adversary and boy, even in the really hard times we gave them some good matches! They hated playing us, because our pride and the bond between fans and players meant that even with a team of players performing ‘on one leg’ we could always raise our game against them. But, all that is sadly no more and they certainly seem to have the ‘Indian sign’ over us now! It has. it seems, got to the state were Leeds just have to turn up with their boots to beat us and for them and indeed all the adversaries who visit our home ground the atmosphere is certainly not in any way as intimidating for the opposition as it was back at the Boulevard.
Slowly but surely the 2017 campaign has seen us develop into something of a ‘soft touch’ at home and when you look at the current situation at our beloved Club, you could well pose the question, what a difference a year makes?
Last year at Easter I wrote, “As long suffering FC fans, so often reduced to having to ‘make do’, we have just witnessed a weekend when we beat rovers with an unprecedented late comeback in their own back yard, before going on to ‘sack’ the undefeated league leaders three days later at the KC, with a team that included 11 local born players. Is that the stuff that dreams are made of? Well, I think quite possibly it is!!!”
Heady days indeed and what a changed scenario we are faced with now eh? Just 12 months later and half way through the Easter weekend it’s all turning into something of a nightmare at home at present and with 18 tries conceded in 2 games against 2 of last season’s bottom 4 teams, it is, let’s face it, simply an unacceptable situation in anyone’s book.
Even for this pretty positive supporter, it’s hard to paint anything but a bleak picture of that defeat last Friday. For me it’s not the fact that we have lost two home games on the trot that is such a worry, but rather the manner in which we have lost them. In two matches at the KCOM we have gone from having the best defence in the league to conceding over 100 points in just 160 minutes of rugby!
532 The Dentists Diary
So, as the Hull Daily Mail does its bit in the nationwide fight against obesity by publishing an article this morning entitled, “Hulls Biggest and Best Food Challenges”, most of the eggs have now been rolled, or eaten, the Supermarkets are back open, frost is forecast for tonight and its Easter Monday again. This year that means for the local rugby fan, that we are just two games off the mid-point of the season proper and quite frankly as a Club Hull FC are floundering. The thing is for me this morning that you will always lose a few away games, but if you are to have any sort of level of success your home Stadium should be something of a fortress and ours is certainly nothing like that right now and perhaps it hasn’t been for ages.
A successful Club should be aiming to dominate at their home venue. Yet, our record at the KCOM since we moved there is Played 219, Won 131, Drawn 7, Lost 81 – a success ratio of only 61%, yet ‘The Boulevard’ saw a success rate of 75% in the 2030 games we played there.
We actually seem to play better away from home at present, perhaps because the diehard supporters who travel lift the team better than the hoards on the terraces seem to be able to do at home. These days, from an East Stand decidedly lacking in atmosphere, our tactics look sound but our inability to retain possession and our lack of application, skill and indeed dummy runners, finds us sadly lacking and almost disappointing to watch. I worry I really do! However, there are always constants and one thing hasn’t changed much at all; because the officials are still crap and this week Mr Childs was crap!!
Since the season started we have gone from being one dimensional, to largely ineffective and onto pretty shambolic at the KCOM and all that in just 5 games and as one dedicated fan said on the internet this weekend, the whole situation at home is developing into something of ‘a perfect storm’. The poster continued, “We can’t hold onto the ball, so giving the opposition too much possession, we’re undisciplined which compound our errors and we give away penalties, which in turn see us inviting teams into our half of the field where we can’t defend our line, thus making it easy for the opposition to score”. I quote that comment, simply because quite frankly, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
I have now to admit that due to some family issues I wasn’t able to attend the game last Friday, which was a blow, but needs must and in this instance, it was a necessary one. But having watched the game back in full, twice, I wasn’t missing much was I? For once I’ll have to base my views and conclusions on what I saw ‘second hand’ as it were on playback and watching the game afterwards it made for some torrid viewing, so it must have been really tough to be there! However, all that said in the first instance it was certainly a great occasion and well done to everyone who worked so hard to sell all those tickets. The restrictions now placed on the Club mean that we can’t open the North Stand this season at all and of course we all know what the situation is with regard to the West Stand upper, so I guess in this instance we were pretty close to capacity in the areas that we were allowed to use.
As an aside what a complete farce everything about that Stadium is at present and only this week we saw the Leader of the City Council appealing to the SMC with regard to them pricing the local amateur football Cup Final out of the KCOM, but why are we all not surprised. Still it seems we all have to make the best of a bad job and get on with it, but from our point of view away from the vagaries of the Allam’s, there is little doubt that Hull and Proud Week was a great success, as was the attendance on Friday, but sadly as we all know it all went downhill one the action started!
Of course, however good the week and the gate was, it would always be judged in the end by how we performed on the day, as we attempted to stop a three game run during which defensively we had looked nothing at all like the Hull FC we’d all become accustomed to over the last year. Our success over that period has always been based on a tight and resolute rear guard action and to see us capitulate in those three games and again against Leeds, in such a fashion, was hard to take for any of us. What was even more worrying for me is that Fridays game just continued a catalogue of disappointing defeats at home to the Leeds Rhinos.
How many times have we given a big push to gain support only to see the KCOM packed, before we pitch up for the game, flatter to deceive and everyone goes home disappointed? It’s been the norm for years and years and so often that scenario has also involved a pasting from the Rhinos, at such times the Club work so hard to build a big gate, so much so that in the end the only people that don’t turn up are our players! Had we put in a good showing and won last Friday then we would have engendered some hope in those who only attend occasionally (because they’ve been disappointed before) but who now felt that they couldn’t miss the big one, but when we fail to deliver at all on that big stage, those same fans think that it’s a case of ‘same old same old’, they then decide to give it a miss for a while again and so we are ‘back to square one’.
Someone on twitter who hasn’t surfaced for months appeared on Saturday to blame it all on the players spending too much time enjoying themselves in Hull and Proud week. Was he right? Well I don’t think he was really, well not on this occasion anyway, because as was the case last week, such events when the players meet the fan and see just how passionate they are about the Club should spur them on to greater things in their next game. They are professional players, they should take such occasions as motivation and anyway if they are any good at all they should be able to take such things in their stride.
However, after a showing like that one last Friday, some will come out of the woodwork to ‘point the finger’ and there were even one or two of the ‘Radford Out’ brigade about over the weekend. Last week was a great time to be an FC fan and I guess as far as Hull and Proud goes the best yet, of course Leeds have always been our biggest party poopers and once it came around to the crunch of what we are actually fans for in the first place, (the need to watch our team play well enough to at least put themselves in a position to have a chance of winning), we came up well short. One fan who I respect greatly said that he can’t forgive it when they look like they aren’t bothering at times, because “Even back in 63/64 and 72/73 when we were awful, at least we tried”
As far as the team is concerned it seems that it is often the same few who don’t deliver as well, isn’t it? I wonder sometimes I really do! Plus, watching the game, I pondered on the fact that there is Washy, who tries so hard but isn’t a hooker and who is now becoming along with Seka something of a penalty machine too, while Connor hasn’t reached his potential although he is playing anywhere and everywhere, which can’t be good, Mahe has made the most errors in the whole competition thus far, Ellis is still great but constantly struggling with injuries and Sneyd is best described as off colour at present. With all that considered, we have no right to be winning anyway do we? There is little doubt for me that watching our, at times pathetic, efforts at line defence last Friday, our siege mentality of last season has gone, at least it has for now and for the first time in 12 months our team doesn’t seem as tight a group as it used to be. We simply don’t seem to have the heart or focus to deliver 80 minutes of stoic defence and mistake free rugby these days, do we?
Injuries are playing their part too and the elephant in the room is of course the absence of Danny Houghton, which whether the pundits dismiss it or not, is massive. But, then again, it was always going to be that way wasn’t it? Although we tried to gloss over it we all knew that one day, however unlikely it seemed at times, it was a certainty that our super hero of a hooker would be injured. And now that’s happened. We simply have no substitute for his all action impact in the middle of the field in either attack or defence; few teams in the world would have. We have built our whole game around Houghton, players have grown to depend on him and believe he would always be there and in his absence of late, we have been found out!
I have banged on about a replacement in that position being brought in ‘just in case’, but Danny’s wonderful record of avoiding injuries has made that, I think, a bit of a low priority at the club and now we are suffering big style. He’s irreplaceable but we need a stand in number 9 in waiting, just in case, because even the players are now citing Houghton’s absence as a major issue. Perhaps Litten in time is the future of that one, who knows? Of course the odds shortened on Danny suffering an injury with every game that he played, but it’s the lack of a plan B now that he is injured, that is such a big concern for a lot of fans and you sort of get their point don’t you?
As ‘out on loan’ Dean Hadley had another big game for Wakefield at Castleford (don’t get me back on that one again) on Friday with the exception of the evergreen Ellis and Mini and Scott Taylor few shone for me at all and watching it back the biggest impression was again made by the referee. He had a horrible afternoon and showed everything that is bad about our great game and it’s officiating of late. I don’t know about you but for much of every match I’m constantly in a nervous state wondering when the official is going to blow his whistle, because experience shows that he can find something to highlight in every bloody tackle if it takes his fancy. For every good decision the ref makes there is a bad one to balance it out and if it un-nerves me, then it must be horrendous if you’re a player out there trying to read never mind play the game.
Mr Childs was shocking last Friday and although it was our mistakes that lost us the match rather than his errors, he certainly gave Leeds a few piggy backs up the field t crucial times. In short Friday was a shambles all round and with such a fantastic gate and all the hype that surrounded the fixture I think every supporter had a right to expect just a bit more from the afternoon, in fact I think at times some of the players let us down. It’s OK if they are naturally crap players to start with, but when they ain’t and they play crap, particularly in front of such a wonderful gate, then it’s perhaps difficult for us ‘mere mortals’ to understand.
In the end it was I guess all about fatigue brought on by mistakes, I counted that we held them out for 19 tackles before their first try, all because of stupid errors and you can’t go on like that because that set the pattern for what was to come next! 47 missed tackles, 14 errors and 12 penalties; you’ll never win with stats like that!
So with a heavy heart and a deal of trepidation we move from the debacle of Good Friday to set off for Lancashire to play Leigh this afternoon. It will be a game which will feature two beaten up and pretty out of sorts teams and a match I’ll cover in next week’s edition of the Diary.
So after a load of disappointment and a pretty negative start to this week’s edition I’ll move onto the week passed and last week as usual, I heard from my pal Bill Dalton the Club historian, who is an endless source of brilliant and interesting statistics and he certainly came up trumps this time around when he informed me that the 34 points that Salford scored in the first half last week was the highest score against us in a first half at the KCOM Stadium since we moved there. The previous highest was when we conceded 30 against Saints in 2006 and Leeds in 2009. The only one higher at home in the whole Super League era was against Halifax at The Boulevard in 1998. (36 Points).
In addition, Bill has given us all some significant milestones that are approaching or have arrived. Firstly, there’s the fact that Jamie Shaul is now the undisputed highest try-scoring Full-Back (with 58), in our Clubs history. Prescott got 56 and Shaun Briscoe got 57, but Briscoe scored at least 3 whilst on the Wing when Motu Tony was at full back. Bill continued, “When Jamie got that one against Leeds it was his 50th ‘Super League’ Try. Briscoe got 50 SL tries as well, so 1 more will see Jamie out in front on all counts”. Finally, he observed that our Under 23’s win over South Wales by 58-6, was the exact same score that Hunslet beat South Wales Clubs first team next day. Wow, how’s that for a coincidence. Thanks as always Bill and so interesting, keep them coming!
It would appear that there doesn’t seem to be a major rush for St Helens to find a new coach after the sacking of Kieron Cunningham our celebrated resident ‘Jack Black’ impersonator, in fact reports from Lancashire confirm that they may even stick with their interim appointments until the season’s end. The state of the British game is certainly highlighted when you look at what is available for them to appoint and in fact the lack of immediate contenders has prompted most bookmakers to not even offer any sort of odds, with that is, the exception of a couple of local shops in St Helens. Perhaps it’s a sign that there just isn’t the high calibre of coaches kicking around as there has been in the past, which is perhaps why so many rookie coaches like Lee Radford have been given their chance in Super League in recent years.
There was certainly an out-cry from a lot of fans across the game calling foul when they heard the news that the RL is planning to live stream the England Samoa game later in the year, online behind a paywall. It wasn’t a unanimous decision across the RL but I think that it’s probably a clear sign that they are seriously considering the implications that live-streaming may have on future broadcast deals and whether, for really big games, it is the future as far as raising income is concerned.
No doubt with all the talk last week of a need to raise more income for the game, we are already looking at the ways and means of doing it. Of course that old chestnut of these things will tie their hands somewhat if they would like to use pay for view for big games and it proves a way forward That issue is of course that we are tied up until 2021 to Sky after the hasty ill-conceived deal we did with them last time. In a desperate late effort to get the deal over the line, we actually threw in the online rights for all Super League games to Sky as part of the final agreement. I have said before in here we’ll regret that contract and I’m still sure we will.
How many times have we all stood at the Boulevard chanting, “Off, Off, Off!”, as a visiting player enacted a bad foul on one of our heroes but how often do you hear it in the modern game? The fact that it’s not something that is so common these days is probably down to the fact that it’s a futile sort of chant anyway because few if any players are sent off at all. I read a thought provoking article about that very situation the other day and it cited the fact that both Ferris and Singleton have been banned for 6 games each for ‘very’ dangerous play to which both players pleaded guilty. Neither case went to appeal probably because there could be few arguments about the severity of the punishment. However, for me the main point is that on the actual day of the game the most that was given was a yellow card, which offers scant consolation to the team who have been erred against who may well have lost a player to injury in the incident.
Then Leeds lost Liam Sutcliffe at the end of the first set against Warrington when he was concussed in a high tackle by Ben Westwood following a kick. The near-side touch judge spotted the incident and recommended the referee Childs that he issue a yellow card but then afterwards Westwood was charged with a grade D offence and subsequently banned for four matches. I found it really hard to understand why that foul was deemed two games less serious than the Singleton incident, but let’s be honest the RL have never been famous for its joined up thinking on such things have they. Sadly too, I tend to think that as a reaction to all that, the sending off of Karl Amor on Friday was probably on the back of the inaction that ensued from those three previous incidents.
Long bans are a deterrent, but the most effective, but hardest, way to clamp down on foul play is by dealing with it at the time of the transgression to thus penalise the team that has performed it, whilst at the same time benefiting the team erred against. Of course there is something in the theory that a referee could well be condemned if he incorrectly sends a player off and the officials are therefore wary of doing it, but referees also have a duty of care to players and the game. Clearly, based on the length of the subsequent suspensions, Singleton, Ferres and Westwood should all have been sent from the field and the opposition should have felt the benefit of such a dismissal immediately. As I say a major issue with all this is that the innocent party gets no benefit. Catalans, Wigan or Leeds don’t gain from the punishment imposed on Singleton, Ferres and Westwood, but teams playing their clubs in future weeks will do.
Interestingly, both Childs and Thaler the referee’s concerned, did not referee in Super League the week after the games which led to the long bans. Afterwards the Yorkshire Post stated, “The RFL would not confirm to anyone that Thaler had been dropped for failing to send Ferres off, describing his subsequent appointment in the Kingstone Press Championship as rotation”. It may have been simply that, but if he was demoted, why not say so? One of the biggest gripes the fans, the players and coaches have about referees, is the fact they are not accountable. Perhaps they are taken to task after such outrages but it is being kept quiet and in-house and the paying public never ever hear about it and so remain aggrieved and believe that the referee in question has got away with it!
Some often say to me that the bans ‘doled out’ should be as long as the time out caused through injury, but no one can tell me how that will work because no one initially knows how long a player will be out for, however I guess it is not difficult to ensure that one match of any suspension should be served against the team who were victims of the original offence. But it’s still not the same as the handicap of being short-handed on the day. It’s an interesting one isn’t it, but I don’t think that the dearth of red cards when there are obviously cases for them being issued, is helping the game or indeed the credibility of its officials and it’s about time they grew some and if they get it wrong take the consequences, because I don’t know about you but I think for me the old adage of “Airing on the side of caution” is the pertinent one here!
After last Friday there is little doubt that Easter can be a bugger when you lose but I thought this week in Codgers Corner I’d have a look back to Easter 1965 when at the age of 14 I was loving my rugby and all my heroes on the field were having a go and ‘playing for me’, even though at times as a team we were little short of rubbish really.
At that time life in West Hull mirrored the changes taking place across the country. I was still young and certainly impressionable, but even back then fashion played a big part in a teenager’s life and it was about that time that Mum had bought me a brand new ‘Fish tailed Parka’ coat. I was into all sorts of music from the Beatles to the Who, and like most kids I loved Bob Dylan although for most of the time I had little idea what the hell he was on about. The fact remained though being a mod at Easter ’65 was simply the only thing a young lad could be.
Everyone but everyone over the age of sixteen seemed to have a scooter which were invariably festooned in mirrors and adorned with chrome side panels and monogrammed paintwork. Every Sunday they would go to Bridlington to posture with the ‘Rockers’ on the beach and frighten the old ladies on the Prom, whilst during the week there would be regular ‘rumbles’ in the Kontiki and Gondola coffee clubs in the City centre. We lads were just too young to get a scooter, but we still did our level best to look the part.
However, that Easter when all the headlines on the TV and in the papers were being made by the ‘Mods and Rockers’ battling on the beach at Brixham, Clacton and Brighton, this FC fan had other things to do, with a busy Easter programme for the Black and Whites and two home games on consecutive days. In fact in 1965 we played three games in four days backing up a Good Friday fixture against the old enemy at the Boulevard with another home game against Wakefield and an away game at Bradford two days later on Easter Monday. There were certainly no cyro-chambers back then either just a few beers and a deal of embrocation and muscle rub and you just got on with it.
We had already lost 14 games that year and were well behind Hull Kingston Rovers in the League table and so as I made my way into the Boulevard in my new Parka (which I did everything but sleep in) for a noon kick off on Good Friday, I was fearing the worst, as we had now held the unenviable record of having been beaten in the last ten League meetings against Hull Kingston Rovers.
Years come and years go, but looking back little has changed and the Rovers fans had, as usual, been gloating over this record and the fact that they had finished higher than us in the League over last two seasons. The fact that we had finished above then in the table for the previous 28 seemed to have been missed completely but as we all know, sports fans and particularly local rivals, have pretty selective memories when it comes to historical facts. However, although I was still relatively wet behind the ears in my support for the FC, that awful feeling was already starting to grip me! I was already churned up physiologically by the magnitude of those Derby’s games and felt it in the pit of my stomach in that horribly sickly way that only the ardent fan who has suffered heart breaking defeat at the hands of the ‘idiots’ understands.
The Match turned out to be a really tough and bruising forward game but Derby’s always were back then, however on this occasion the massive Rovers pack full of ‘big names’ came up against a Hull team that was really ‘pumped up’ by the occasion. We battered the ball carriers in the first few exchanges and despite a Kellett penalty putting them 2-0 up we opened our scoring after just eight minutes. A great pass from Cyril Sykes found Keegan who ran up from full back and split the defence wide open as only he could do and as Moore and Blackmore closed in, he turned back inside and found David Doyle-Davidson, (who was making a rare start in the centre) and he ran in untroubled for the easiest of tries. That gave us a 3-2 lead after which the Hull defence squeezed the opposition into the middle of the field and would not let tricky scrum half Dave Elliot get the ball out wide to the fast and impressive looking Rovers back division.
This action meant that a lot of niggle and tension crept into the game as the 16,500 crowd created a cauldron of atmosphere and soon both sets of forwards were exchanging ‘compliments’ and taunted each other. Several ‘face outs’ on the pitch had threatened to boil over as old scores came to the fore and Kellett who was really on form with the boot landed three penalties, which stemmed from these skirmishes, to put the opposition in the lead again. Then at last Elliot moved the ball wide. A great pass to Burwell was shifted onto Blackmore un-marked on the wing, Brian Sullivan and Stocks tracked back across to try and nail the Rover’s winger but in the end it was scrum half Kenny Foulkes that hammered him to the ground just ten yards from the try line. Up sprung the Rovers player to exchange blows with Foulkes who was still struggling to regain his feet and immediately referee Ernie Clay sent Blackmore from the field. Although they were down to 12 men, some real battling defence from the Rovers pack saw them still in the lead at half time.
Kellett landed another goal just after the re-start but after that it was all Hull. A high tackle by Poole saw Eric Broom fire home a great 40-yard penalty and then after Flanagan had been caught off-side, he got another from a lot closer in. Then we saw the try of the weekend. Terry Devonshire picked up a loose ball in his own 25 and started off down the field. With such short legs he seemed to be moving a lot faster than he actually was but despite the best attempts of Mullins, Moore and Burwell he got to the line and touched down just to the right of the posts. Broom landed the conversion and with 20 minutes to go we led by the slender margin of 12-10. They were nervous times indeed for a young fan and the last quarter was certainly not all plain sailing as Rovers threw everything at us to try and get a result. They had us rocking at times as Poole, Holliday, Fox and Foster tore into the heart of our defence. On one particular occasion, Rovers who monopolised possession from the scrums broke away and Flanagan stepped round Keegan and on toward the line before he was caught inches short by David Doyle-Davidson. In the end our half backs Foulkes and Devonshire had been just too good for Rovers and thanks to our brilliant defence in that second half we came out winners 12-10. The good sports amongst the FC fans shook hands with the Rovers’ supporters and wished them well, whilst us ‘Airlie Street Mods’ just posed in our parkas pulled faces at them and laughed!
Next day, Saturday, we were at home again and 7,500 people paid £925 to watch us take on Wakefield Trinity who were having their first game of the holidays. Despite a crunching encounter just 24 hours previously we made just one change from the team that played Rovers, with Trevor Carmichael coming in for Stocks at centre. This was surprisingly a game where our players showed no ill effects whatsoever and before the kick off Terry Devonshire received an award from the ‘Programme Club’ for being young player of the year whilst Arthur Keegan (as usual) received the fan’s player of the year award.
This was another really exciting game for us spectators crammed into the Threepenny’s as after two penalties by Eric Broom we went on to score the first try when Carmichael sent that man Devonshire in again under the posts. However. Wakefield were back on terms by half time with two goals from Fox and a try from Hopwood. In the second half Devonshire shot in from a short ball on the inside from Foulkes and although both Fox and Broom exchanged penalties we came out winners 16-13. With almost the last play of the game Devonshire punched ex International sprinter, turned Wakefield winger Berwyn Jones, and was sent off by ‘Sergeant Major’ Ernie Clay who was officiating his second game in 24 hours at the Boulevard. So with three tries, two winning pay packets and a sending off it was an eventful two days for young stand-off Terry Devonshire.
We went to Bradford on Easter Monday and lost 15-9 but we had four points from the weekend and we had won the game that really mattered to the fans the previous Friday. But what an effort it was from those players although back then it was just something that you accepted as the norm in the game of Rugby League.
So we hit the road again later today on our first visit to the Sports Village at Leigh, a stadium that one Leigh supporter said this week is set apart from the old Hilton Park Ground that we all knew and loved, because at their new home the toilets actually had a roof! It will be hard and you can bet your bottom dollar Paul Cook will have been plotting our downfall since last Friday!
Then, once that one is put to bed, its back home again for a rare Sunday fixture against the best team in the competition at present, Castleford, and I can’t even contemplate that one at present! Still we have to battle on and hope, don’t we? For at times like this hope is all we really have left. I still believe we are too good to continue in the current vain but for me the sooner we get to the magical 20 points that are the accepted threshold to the Super 8’s the better.
Thanks for reading this week’s rather downbeat offering and for sticking with me once again. Its hard at present and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that things take an up-turn soon and preferably this afternoon. Thanks too to Harry Macklin, Dave Cooper, Brian Chapman, Jim Boulderstone, Bill Dalton and everyone else who got in touch this week, I’ll cover today’s game next week along with the Castleford match but in the meantime, let’s try and bring something back from Leigh shall we?