DON’T YOU JUST LOVE IT WHEN YOU WIN LIKE THAT?
When you stand back from it all, that was probably one of the best Derby wins we have seen for a good while and ranks well, if not quite as well, with the efforts of the 20-0 Come-Back Kids of 2016.
With twelve men for all but 9 minutes of the game, it was a defeat that the Dobbins fans will certainly find hard to live down. But, we love it don’t we and they can’t begrudge us that, because can you imagine what it would be like where the boot on the other foot? It wasn’t the best short-handed victory I have ever seen, that was probably back in February 2003 when we lost Jason Smith after 29 seconds and Richard Fletcher with half an hour to go and still beat Halifax 24-16, with 11 men. But it was still a mighty fine display.
That’s six Derby wins on the spin and after 625 days since the last such fixture, this latest victory made me so proud of the lads, because when it comes to sheer guts, determination and tenacity, it was as good as it gets. Yeh, Rovers are poor, their fans know that and although we made mistakes, what was so gratifying was the way that we looked so much better with ball in hand, as Houghton, Albo, Shaul and Sneydy provided a great platform for our backs to perform.
We attacked well, tackled like terriers, held our nerve and came out victorious for a win that was pretty unpalatable for most people in East Hull particularly those ullin attendance. We were great and if not that polished or classy, it was still an indication for every FC fan that although we have stuttered a bit of late, that amazing spirit and passion that got us two consecutive Cup Final wins, is still alive and well in the hearts and minds of every FC player! Who can’t ask for anything more really and it was certainly the win of the season so far.
The game was refereed from the gantry throughout which really narked me and I’ll address that one later, but we even overcame that to chalk up a great victory over adversity in a cauldron of a Stadium. There is little doubt as well that those days when I went on and on in here about Rovers always wanting it more than us in Derby games, (a comment that even saw the Diary being quoted by David Burns on Sports Talk) are gone forever. Well they are as long as this Coach and administration are at the Club. Rovers may have made all the brash statements and done all the posturing during the week, for they obviously wanted it badly, but with us in that frame of mind they weren’t getting it!!!
It’s so important to so many people to get such victories and the circumstances that surrounded our success mean that we all had a great couple of days over the Easter Weekend.
The pressure for me was certainly on last week because let’s face it there is nothing worse than being beaten by the divvy’s from the East is there? It’s still a scary prospect even in these times of us being the Kings of Hull, because your crown can quickly slip if you take your eye off the prize. Of course that’s the sort of antagonism that the media and the Clubs play on and indeed it’s how they want us to feel, for it raises the bar and hypes up the tension. Sadly as well, history has proved that it’s their histrionics that engender a hatred between the fans that is always bubbling under and in danger of boiling over. For me, as you know, I’m fed up with the frequency of these once historic encounters and when you add to that the manufactured format of the Magic Weekend, it just gets my goat.
I have fans saying to me how much they love the Derby’s and how they are the only really important games there are in the fixture list and of course they are …if you win. However, if I’m honest I really did enjoy last season when we didn’t have to play each other at all! We were always told by both Chairman, that the Clubs in the City just couldn’t manage without three or four of these jamborees a season, yet last year, when we didn’t play them at all, we made a stonking great profit. Ok, we won at Wembley again in 2017, which was financially lucrative but that just goes to prove that these games are not the end all and be all of our club’s prospects of survival. Still I guess as it stands, with our made for TV game, they are a necessary evil to be overcome.
Of course I used to absolutely love the Derby’s and in the old days when there were just the two matches they were always real occasions, however now there are so many, that for this fan at least, they’ve lost a lot of their ‘shine’.
So, that’s where I was coming from last week although not having played Rovers since 2016 in a proper game, did see a bit of the old relish return and indeed anxiety was the order of the day on Wednesday and Thursday, as I pondered the outcome of Fridays match. The Good Friday fixture is at least the last remaining remnant of the halcyon years gone by, as it was, over the decades, the customary day for such games.
When you cut out our bias and the passion surrounding it all, this season so far hasn’t started that well at all for Hull FC and with not a single win away from the KCOM, a team that prided itself with its ability to succeed against the odds ‘in foreign fields’ had in fact played three and won three in West Hull, to garner their only points to date. Thus far we had been pretty shocking on the road, although we were without doubt robbed by the video-referee at Leeds!
So, what better a place to reverse that trend than Caravan Park? Despite the fact that the Club seemed unphased by it all, I have to say that for me, much of last week’s tension surrounded the fact that I knew as an ordinary fan that winning Friday’s game (or at least getting two points this weekend) was, without doubt, pretty critical to how the rest of the season would unfold for us. To have played 9 and only had 6 points would have started the alarm bells ringing a bit for me, I’m sure.
Fridays game was a real local Derby, with skirmishes in almost every set and some feisty exchanges with the tension and aggro being cranked up another notch once Jake Connor ‘The Tormentor’ entered the fray. Caravan Park is certainly becoming the place where miracles happen and Fridays amazing occurrences featuring a short-handed team, followed those heroics at the same venue 24 months previously. If that was the great escape, this was the Battle against all Odds, as our twelve heroes played 13 Rovers players, a video referee and 10,000 baying morons!
As for that sending off, well I can only call it as I see it, but for me that was a good old fashioned Derby tackle, perhaps it was a bit clumsy and so a penalty or a yellow card would probably have sufficed, but it’s safe to say that Trevor Skerrett or Frank Foster wouldn’t have lasted long after the first tackle, had those rules applied in their day. The tackle would have been fine in the NRL and indeed if our game hadn’t been televised then it would have been play on. It’s not the remit of the video referee to interceded in such situations and there was no reason why he would ask his opinion, because he saw nothing wrong with it and neither did his touch judge.
The VR then disallowed a perfectly good Rovers try, for a very dubious obstruction, but as it was pointed out to me this weekend, he was the same official that cost us the game at Leeds by doing the same thing, so at least there is some consistency; for they all are consistently crap!! I have a thing or two to say about video referees later on in here, because for me they have a bit to answer for really.
Faraimo has been charged with a Grade B and given one game which as he was sent off after 9 mins and he has already in essence served that 1 match ban and in effect its really two games! I still think myself that any ban was very harsh indeed.
The game could have been ruined by that sending off, but the occasion over-came that, only for it to still be spoilt as a spectacle for the neutral, by the constant referrals to the gantry and so a game that went on for nearly two hours, couldn’t flow at all. Still, ‘every cloud’ and I guess a stop/start match is just what a short-handed team, desperate to get their breath back, needs. Although that doesn’t make it right at all!!
Once down to 12 men we really galvanised as a group and everyone fought for a win as if their lives depended on it. It was a spirit and a level of character that was great to watch. First plaudits have to go to our Coach for I believe it was Lee’s half time talk and the reorganisation of his troops, plus his astute use of the substitute bench that in the end won us the game. But boy oh boy, did the players play their part too. That Shaul try after a brilliant break by Carlos was absolute class, as was Albo’s pass out wide to Jake ‘the Tormentor’. Talanoa squeezed in at the corner superbly, but only after an extended delay caused by the video referee’s continued deliberations, when everyone could see it was a try on the first showing! Then Shaul did really well near the end to repel the advances of an increasingly desperate opposition and an historic victory was ours. But it was the constant effort and the working for each other that stood out for me. Everyone was a hero!
Carlos had an amazing game and what a fillip for the future his contract extension is going to be. Some players go off a bit once their futures are settled but not him as he just gets better and better and he’s really settled in the centre. I also thought that Griffin had a better game too, perhaps his best so far this year. Taylor was simply a man mountain and showed his loyal local passion as did Washy and Bowden who were strong throughout, but also always looking to ‘poke’ the Rovers players after a tackle or an altercation. That really helped knock them off their stride and they were always chasing the game.
I was talking to someone who listened on FC Live who said Houghton hardly got a mention, but for me he was into everything and we are simply a better team across the backs when he is creating the space from acting half. Shaul looked to be getting back into it as well and Paea is proving to be a big asset in the front row. Another big plus was to see Mini having his best game so far this year and he’s certainly a handful when he steps and attacks the line.
You know if there was ever an indication of the benefit of having an independent academy it is the quality of the kids that came through in the last couple of years Richard Horne ran ours. A real point of fact is undoubtedly Matongo and Lane. When they entered the fray on Friday the intensity didn’t dip at all in fact they both brought something new to the party and that’s so rewarding I’m sure for Horney and Lee. I see big things for both of them, Fash, Logan and perhaps even Turgot as well.
So all in all a fine win and a great fillip for every FC fan, of course next up it’s the Bank Holiday Monday fixture against Wakey, but I’ll cover that in here next week.
So now to what’s been going on while I was away as one of my favourite players Liam Watts left us and joined an outfit long seen as a less fashionable ‘smaller’ club, for a six figure fee. Liam was a daft lad we all know that and in truth if he has any common sense at all, (and I doubt that really) he’ll know it too!! What’s more he’s left a club that has a well proven record of tough coaching and sorting players out, to join one that couldn’t cope at all with Messer’s Chase and Hardaker, so good luck to them with that one as well, because they’ll probably need it. We seem to have just thrown our hands in the air and said, “That’s it enough is enough!!!”
In addition, as far as Adam is concerned after the claims about the money we made in Australia, the late switching of the Warrington game to TV, with the accompanying ‘sweetener’ that brought and now a six figure fee being obtained it’s been a good period financially for the Club and we all need that if we are to have a team to support in future years. It’s a business in the end and we are lucky to be run by such people.
But all that said, Watts was still a phenomenon and in a game sadly lacking in inventiveness and ‘off the cuff’ ability, he’s a real rare breed; the maverick! More often than not with that quality comes a wayward spirit and the branding of being a daft lad or indeed as far as many fans are concerned ‘an idiot’ but perhaps that’s the baggage that comes with the ability. If you’re that way inclined, you don’t listen at training and don’t fit in with what’s see as the norm and the convention.
You play it as you see it and although that can lead to mistakes, sometimes it can set a game on fire and indeed wins you matches. Anyone who thinks that players like Paul Woods, Knocker Norton and Mick Crane were easy to deal with are deluding themselves, but then again, look how we remember them as massive game changers for the Club. They were so hard to manage, but Coaches like Arthur Bunting put up with that and did what they could, and in turn we enjoyed the benefits such players bring to the game. Knowing Arthur as I did had they been daft lads and average players they would have been out of the door believe me.
So, good luck to Liam I liked to see him in that front row simply because we never quite knew what was going to happen. Often frustrating, sometimes unfathomable and occasionally brilliant, but always unpredictable, players like Wattsy bemused the opposition as much as they bemused us all! I’ll miss him I’m sure at County Road is a better policed place without him, for he is certainly one of a dying breed. Wattsy will win the Tigers some matches I’m sure but as I say, I wish Castleford good luck, because history indicates they might just need it!!
As all good managers do Lee Radford turned the situation to the benefit of the team and instead of going out to sign a replacement he instead challenged the remaining front rowers to seize the opportunity to make a replacement unnecessary. That must have offered a big lift and incentive for players like Fash and Matongo and now it’s up to them to shine a bit themselves.
Well, it was described to me the other days as ‘the biggest injury set back we have suffered so far’, and in a year when we have already had our fair share of them there is little doubt that the loss of Dean Hadley this last week was indeed a blow! Dean has been an absolute revelation since he returned to the KCOM from a year-long sabbatical at Wakey, he has been a hard running strong tackler which let’s face it we all knew he was, but he has added a bit of steel and a lot of nous and guile to his game. When he came off near the end of the Catalans game I always feared the worst, and so it was that he was diagnosed with an ankle injury that will keep him out for a month or so. Of course that gives someone else a chance, but for me Dean has been great thus far this year and a shining light in a pack that let’s face it has at times failed to deliver to the standards we have come to expect. Still injuries are what they are and since our trip down under, they just keep on coming, we’ll just have to hope he gets back soon.
In Derby week, as I said earlier, the papers are desperately trying to find stories that whip the fans from both sides up and this year it must have been an even harder job than usual. Writing this on a regular basis I know from personal experience that good meaty news coming out of Hull FC are in very short supply indeed. Perhaps that’s simply because we have a settled squad, a club that is going places as a business and a squad of players that are pretty happy with their lot. Not much hold the front page stuff there, is there?
However, with the media scouring the clubs for derby stories it was great to read on Thursday of Scott Taylors amazing loyalty to the Club he supported as a lad and watched win that magnificent final at Cardiff. The interview in the Mail indicated I think that Scott had one ambition throughout all his years at Rovers, Wigan and Salford and that was to play for the FC. Remember when he actually went to Salford on loan for a year because Wigan wouldn’t release him from his contract to sign for us? The Red Devils wanted to sign him so badly, but he had already contacted Adam Pearson and organized his future at his boyhood club. Scott is now woven into the history of Hull FC after his feats of ‘daring do’ on the way to those two brilliant Wembley wins and after just two seasons he now finds himself Vice-Captain.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the extraordinary loyalty of one Danny Houghton, I’m pretty confident that he would be our Captain by now, for like Danny he leads from the front and sets an example for his team mates every time he enters the field of play. When times are tough like against Catalans and against Rovers, he steps up and produces a special performance. With a fair wind Scott will be an FC player for the rest of his playing career and for this fan that is the best news there is.
When you have watched a club as long as I and many of you reading this have, Trophies are so important, as is in fact not getting relegated as well, but in the end all we all really want is a team to support in years to come in fact until the day we die. For that you are reliant on your Club being in a position financially to survive all the pit falls and problems that will be thrown at them so that they always come out the other side still intact. Since Adam took over at the helm of Hull FC, his ambition has always been to get the FC into a position where we can break even and perhaps make a bit of profit, to put away for the inevitable rainy day.
It’s been tough going and without those two final appearances perhaps it was a forlorn hope, but it was great to see last week as our 2017 accounts were published that they showed we had made a healthy £285,000 profit. Adam has worked hard to per down the backroom and administration of the Club and a walk through the Clubs offices show that we are certainly a lean organization these days. With the possible exception of refusing Lee another Assistant Manager no expense has been spared on the playing side of things and so for me, our priorities have been exactly right. We still have some big outstanding debts which are being whittled away year on year, but most Clubs would kill for a balance sheet like our latest one. The introduction of James Clark as Chief Executive seems to have continued this process and so well done to everyone concerned with that.
I had to smile the other night when Wakey were playing Castleford and we were treat to a neutral assessment of the game from a bloke (John Wells) who is the Castleford teams Football Manager. I know you’ll say, well look at Phil Clark he’s Wigan mad, but he isn’t in the pay of Wigan as well as Sky is he? Sky should have told John you have to be one or the other, because in if you are to be an impartial broadcaster, you can’t be both. Can you imagine José Mourinho commentating on a game featuring Manchester United. So now not only do we have an ex-referee who is still involved with the officials network in the commentary box defending the ref, but we also have a Clubs football manager in the presentation team, when his club are playing. But, why are we not surprised really, that’s Sky for you isn’t it?
Whilst I’m on that game last Thursday how do we look as a game when the Sky cameras constantly went back to feature a shot of the visiting teams coach apparently stood on tip toes watching the match through a small top casement window because he couldn’t see out of the main one? I think sometimes the greatest game in the world is developing into a bit of a farce for those who look in on it from the outside.
Well, some endings are happy. Some are unfortunate and I guess that some are rather ugly. But one thing is for sure and that is that everything has an end. Watching some of the televised games over the last week or so I did wonder exactly what is to become of the video referee concept in Super League. On Friday we could have done without an on field official at all, because the 4th official watching his TV in the box, made most of the decisions.
I have to admit I know it probably won’t be taken out of the sport any time soon and that’s fine by me I guess, because even the concept’s biggest detractors will admit it has more than its fair share of moments that have saved us as a team. However, since that Leeds game on 8th March when the video referee I believe, robbed us of at least one try, I have wondered whether the availability of the square in the air dissuades on-field officials from having to grasp the nettle when making decisions. It certainly did last Friday. It’s probably a subconscious thing; I’m sure no referee actively backs out of making a big decision just because there’s another option. However, what’s worse is when the video referee actually interjects to stop the game and question the referee’s decision.
One things for sure it certainly slows the game down and having watched a Championship game a couple of weeks ago I have to say that compared with the Derby Marathon, the fast and furious none stop action I saw certainly made for a spectacle that reminded me of times gone by when the game wasn’t in the parlous position it finds itself in today. Persistent video referee referrals slow the game down and takes away one of the best qualities rugby league has; the pace of a contest. Our sport is at its best when it’s played at a break-neck pace where the fans and the players haven’t a moment to draw breath.
That brings the best out of everyone and I can’t remember the last time I saw players staring at a screen for two or three minutes helping to improve the spectacle of a game, can you? It would be great where we able to see what a few weeks without a video referee would bring back to the game, whilst as well, we all lay off the on field official a bit. He is only human; players and coaches make mistakes, so why not the officials? It’s a thankless task, in truth, and the more I see the men in the middle ducking the decision to draw the imaginary square, the more I wonder that, if our game is to survive, we need to see the end of the story when it comes to the video referee and that the sport in general would be better for more flow and less procrastination. What do you think?
I’m indebted to long time reader Alan Smalley for this great pic of the last night of the Threepenny’s before the final section of the old place was pulled down. Alan said, “I know you will have been there” and he’s quite right and what’s more I still have my special ticket to prove it!”
This week in Codgers Corner, I would like to take you back to our first season in the top Division in the 1970’s although the 1977/78 campaign was a largely disappointing one for Hull FC. Having gained promotion as Second Division Champions the previous year, we had entered the top echelon of British Rugby League under David Doyle Davidson, but despite some really gutsy performances we lacked the guile and inventiveness of most of the other teams and by Christmas ‘The Doyle’ had resigned and Arthur Bunting had been appointed Head Coach. David had signed Vince Farrar from Featherstone who had immediately been made our captain, but performances continued to disappoint after Arthur took over and things looked bleak even after the arrival of Steve Norton from Castleford.
Then the unexpected happened. Although we were sat at the bottom of the table suddenly Bunting appeared to be starting to work his magic and a string of three successive victories saw us back within touching distance of Wakefield the team directly above us. On Sunday 2nd April at the Boulevard we met the Cup semi-finalists Warrington in a game that was expected to be really tight. With one eye on the Cup match the following week the ‘Wire’ rested a few of their first team players, but with Potter, Case, Eccles, Kelly and Hesford they still boasted a star studded line up. Our improved form had helped with our gates too and I was joined by well over 5,700 at a breezy Boulevard for what was a crunch game for the FC.
As Terry Lynne kicked off it was apparent from the first set of tackles that the going was going to be tough, something that was not helped when we got penalties in the oppositions half but decided on a tap restart rather than kicks at goal, because one of our main failings that season had been the way we seemed to struggle to convert goal kicks. For Warrington Hesford went close after a long raking run down the touchline but he was eventually caught by George Robinson just as he was preparing to cross the line. With the try line open he got up played the ball to no one, and the oppositions best early chance was lost. In the 14th minute Keith Tindall broke through a tackle from the opposition’s second rowers Philbin and Case but as he turned for support, Hancock was on the other side and that move broke down too.
It was end to end and really tight as the game passed the half hour mark with neither side looking like they could break the deadlock. Then as Warrington moved the ball out of their own 25-yard line Alan Gwillam was caught offside in a crossing move and at last Marshall went for goal and we were 2-0 in the lead. This seemed to rally Warrington somewhat and three minutes later Finnigan made the break, passed onto Benyon, who put Gwillam in under the posts and with a Hesford conversion we were suddenly behind 5-2. That’s how the score stayed until half-time and we all wondered just how we were ever going to get back into the match, after what had been a frustrating first 40 minutes.
We started the second half brightly but soon lost hooker Tony Duke with an ankle injury and he was replaced by Alan Maskill who immediately won three scrums on the trot against the head. From the third on 55 minutes Farrar, Boxall and Hancock linked for our stand off to draw two players before sending out a bullet of a pass to Graham Bray waiting out on the wing and he crashed in at the corner. Predictably Marshall missed the conversion, but three minutes later as we got back down the oppositions end of the field, Knocker Norton brilliantly dropped a goal and we were back in the lead 6-5.
The game ebbed and flowed as Warrington tried everything to get back on the score board, but with just 10 minutes to go to the whistle, Boxall suddenly burst through three tacklers and started off on one of those barnstorming runs for which ‘The White Rhino’ was famous. He was tackled about twenty yards from the line, but as he played the ball quickly, Turner drew two tacklers who were desperately trying to get back on side and fed Bray who again shot in at the corner. Marshall missed again and at 9-5 we all expected a barnstorming last ten minutes.
We were certainly not disappointed as back came Hull only for a great move involving Young, Maskill and Macklin to fail when Norton’s pass went to ground and was scooped up by Waller. He drove back down field released Lester who passed onto Philbin who squeezed in at the corner with George Robinson on his back. The goal kick just failed and it was left the Knocker again to drop another goal from their 25-yard line with just two minutes to go, and we were home. As the referee Ronnie Campbell, who had a pretty good game, blew the final whistle, we had just won 10-8.
With fellow relegation contenders Wakefield and Castleford both losing we were just two points behind Workington and Wakefield and five behind Castleford and New Hunslet with 6 games to play. Of course, in the end we went down, only to come back up again following that great unbeaten 78/79 season, but that afternoon at least we felt that there was some hope and when we went out for a drink that night Steve Norton the ‘Drop Goal King’ was the toast of the Town.
So there you are another Diary over and thanks so much for returning to this diatribe after those two weeks off. As I approached this last weekend it was in the wake of a great fortnight away, firstly in London and then in New York (where Rosenberg Jnr. is working at present) and you know, it’s great to travel around a bit, because it gives you the opportunity to get out of your usual environment and reflect on exactly where you are. However, it was good to get back and to immerse myself once more in the weekly process that is producing a blog that has become such an important part of my life over these last 13 years.
I just wish I could get as enthusiastic about it all as I used to be just a few seasons ago, but I guess I have seen everything I had ever dreamed of seeing in the last two seasons. That said, Friday’s game was a real inspiration for everyone who has a meg of interest in the black and whites and although once again the officials certainly didn’t improve my worries about the future of our game, a few more performances like that one will certainly get me back on track as far as my appetite for Hull FC is concerned, for it was a glorious afternoon all round. Just how amazing it was will probably take a few days to really sink in.
Thanks as always for all your feed-back, comments, complaints and good wishes it’s great to be back and reporting on such a brilliant victory! The Diary will be back next week as usual!