The Dentist’s Diary- 599th


For me on Friday morning the greatest game in the world stood at a crossroads! The sport held its breath and waited. Of course, the competition has changed so many times before, in fact its infamous for it, but with seriously declining gates and mounting indifference, this really did look like the last hurrah! However, in the end, quite miraculously and against what was the general belief, sense prevailed and wisdom won the day. The new structure isn’t the solution, but I think those leading it do at least give us the best chance of finding it!

For this fan who has spent literally hours and hours studying the options and the arguments, one road, on the back of bloody mindedness, avarice and parochial thinking, saw the status quo prevailing and the (eventual) demise of our sport as we know it, whilst the other at least gave us a fighting chance of sorting things, before we have to renegotiate the new TV deal. A deal that is sadly something, that in two years-time will undoubtedly be make or break for the game as we know it. Ironically, Sky TV and their money has in many ways ruined British Rugby League already, but we had to give the owners one last fighting chance to save something from the escalating apathy that is surrounding the game at present.

With minimal interest in the Super Eights and the Qualifiers, attendances at games down to 2000 in the latter and Sky viewing figures running at around 80,000 when compared with the 200,000 that have watched the regular rounds, we are as a game in as big a mess as we have seen for decades. In a nut shell, the season, and perhaps even our great game, was dying on its feet. Sky is calling the tune, it’s ludicrous that the whole survival of a full time professional sport depends on one TV company and their money, but it does; what’s more it was becoming a dead certainty that come 2021 they won’t be paying anything like they did, because their patronage as a broadcaster depends solely on the popularity of the product with their viewers and that has declined significantly as well.

It may be too late already, who knows, but we desperately need to get our act together and personally, when compared with the owners of some Championship teams and/or the blazers of Redhall, then Elstone and Co. were always our best and perhaps only chance of doing that.

For me, the Super League owners are, through their vested interests and their own money being on the line, the ones who give us the best chance of doing something, so that as a game at least we don’t die wondering. I have banged on about this unprecedented crisis for months now, but on Friday it all came to a head and thankfully sense prevailed and at least for the moment we can all breath again. Now it’s time to see some action!

Oh and the FC tried hard again and fought valiantly again, but again came up short and more worryingly, a few, by their actions seemed to accept that defeat all too easily. But more of that later; bring on the end of the season

First before I look at the game on Friday night I feel compelled to talk about the happens of earlier in the day and do it in some detail in an attempt to at least put it all to bed for the moment.

For me it has been personal. You see, I’ve always loved Hull FC and after 59 years of strife, anxiety and the occasional short bursts of unmitigated joy, I always will. I would have bought a season ticket again for 2019, just to back my Club, because it is a time when they really do need supporting and I would have done it because I always have done. However, had the lower divisions prevailed in that vote, then I certainly wouldn’t have joyfully gone along to the KCOM next year as if nothing had happened, in fact if I’m honest perhaps I might not have even gone along at all. That, I guess, is how the state of our great game was starting to get to me.

The thing is that after all those years and 600 editions of this rubbish I actually feared for my own loyalty to the sport, because if this cockamamie League set up had continued in future, then I might well have had enough. I always tell the truth in here, so I have to say that, because quite frankly for me on Friday morning it was exactly how I felt. It was a personal watershed moment in a game I have loved since a child. I wish sometimes that Sky TV and all that broadcast money hadn’t been thrown at the game, because everything seemed a lot simpler in the 80’s and 90’s but then again as you get older, you only really remember the sunny days and now I accept that the game is wholly dependent on their money to survive.

I’ve been bored stiff with the latter part of this season not so much because of our doomed involvement in it, but more likely because of the other games featuring empty terraces and a poor spectacle that I have tried to watch and often given up on. We were only five minutes into the Castleford game on TV on Thursday when we witnessed almost four minutes before the game restarted because of a video decision. The referee gave a try, the first three camera angles could not see the ball at all and yet instead of going with the on field official, on and on it went, because the video referee felt obliged to do it. The Sky commentators babbled on and I glazed over and no doubt hundreds of others looking on in their own front rooms did too, whilst the uninitiated casual viewer search their programme guide for more excitement and probably settled on Emmerdale to get it.

As an aside as well in that game, what the hell is the Football Manager of Castleford doing commentating on his own team on the TV? You really couldn’t make it up, could you? Sky just do as they like!!! John Wells will argue till he is blue in the face that he isn’t biased, but he will always be perceived to favour the club that pays his wages, won’t he? But, we all suck it up and watch on as the game has another bit of its battered credibility eroded away. We just take it all for granted don’t we?

But, back to the structure, the middle Eights ain’t working! I say that simply because despite what the lower division teams said in their defence, no one is going along to watch them. Indeed, attendances for the top 8 games are shocking too. There is interest in the bottom of the table dog fight for some of us, probably because we detest Rovers, ‘We all hate Leeds’, and we feel that a club that finishes the season at the bottom, cut adrift with just three wins, has to be relegated, but for me and thousands of others it’s only really of passing relevance. It’s a kind of ‘I’ll check a score update’, or ‘I’ll just look on the BBC site afterwards’ sort of fleeting interest. In this current state of affairs quite literally all that matters is the result. It’s rugby league rubber-necking. There’s certainly not extra bums on seats or more viewers in front of screens. Last weekend Salford had 2,500 at their home game and for the first time for countless seasons Wigan had a below 10,000 gate the night before. In addition, on Friday, only 9000 turned up to watch Saints win the League Leaders shield and yesterday at Widnes it was like playing in an empty cathedral.

Yes, I have an issue with the Super League Clubs replacement structure, because the season will now be padded with what they are calling “loop” games. They may increase attendances, because fans and clubs can plan in advance, but the idea a club could be relegated because of tougher ‘extra’ games doesn’t seem fair (personally, I’d prefer 14 teams, 26 rounds, and no loop fixtures). But there will always be small anomalies. However, relegating Hull KR and Leigh through the Super-8s, when they didn’t finish bottom, didn’t seem fair, either. And I certainly didn’t think it was fair that a club finishing 9th in Super League could be replaced by a team that ended up 4th in the Championship. That was just bloody ridiculous!

Trouble is, a number of lower league clubs were happy with that arrangement. They said the Super-8s gave them a greater prospect of promotion. But please guys!!!!! Their fans can dream and so they should, but aside from Toronto, and maybe Toulouse, which of the Championship clubs are really, really striving for Super League? Indeed, how many below them in the lower reaches of the Championship and Division One have any appetite for it at all? I’d argue none right now.

As long standing readers will know, I don’t like Sky and I wish they had never got involved, but they did, it’s irreversible and so we have now to live with the consequences. The thing is, and no one in the media will dare say this (but someone has to), the amount of money the Championship Clubs get now is simply not commensurate with the responsibility they have (or don’t have) to provide the best possible product for the audience watching at home. Their games are not deemed good enough TV to be screened at all and so the total responsibility of selling and promoting the game falls on the 12 Super League teams. 5 years ago when the Super Eights were first muted, the Championship Clubs wanted nothing to do with them, but when it squeezed through on the back of that 6-5 vote of Super League Clubs they were offered more money in the deal, which proved the necessary sweetener. Sadly, I believe we gave them too much.

What the grumblers really liked was not so much the chance of getting into Super League, but the reward that reaching the Qualifiers gave them and why wouldn’t they? Before the Super-8s, their income from the TV deal was around £100,000 a year and each club got the same. Now, the top Championship club pockets a cool £750,000, sliding down to £450,000 for fourth. All that ‘TV money’ for Clubs who with the exception of the Summer Bash never get near a live broadcast during the regular season. Why would they want to give that up in such tough times? Look at Featherstone, they put all their eggs in the basket of chasing and subsequently getting amongst that big money, they failed by finishing 5th, have had to get rid of Hock and Co and now can’t even field 17 players in their last two games. Even with the money they have available from the TV deal they aren’t developing much new talent, but relying instead on borrowing it (on Duel Registration) from a Super League Club. That’s why the talent pool is shrinking at an alarming rate.

As I always say in here, Sky TV and their money, has spoiled the game for ever, but what’s done is done and now we had to get back to something that resembles parity, both in the system and the way that the money is distributed. The now deceased Super Eights were just another gimmick in a long line of gimmicks to be adopted by the game to spice things up for Sky. From Club Call to licencing, a World Club Series to War of the Roses, Nines to Exiles, Paris to Denver, Margin Meters to 3D TV, nasal strips to Torpedo shorts, we’ve seen them all and they’ve all been tried, tested, in some cases laughed at by the sporting world at large and abandoned, and all in the last decade or so. What a laughing stock our great game has become.

This new set up that was supported 11-1 by the Super League Clubs and voted through by 68% of the members was the way forward and could have been adopted by the RL without any such members of vote and all the acrimony and mud-slinging it brought. Why do I say there was no need for a vote? Well, when we switched to the Super 8’s format 4 years ago it was passed on a ‘Super League only’ vote of 6 to 5 (with, its rumoured, Widnes sitting on the fence) with a promise of a review after 3 years.

Of course Mr Hetherington was heading up that one and so no full vote of all RL members was needed, but the precedent was set. This time around we had the vote with all that upset and mud-slinging before thankfully, as sense prevailed, the protagonists got caught with egg on their faces. We were four years in, with no review and with Ralph Rimmer (who seems to follow in a long line of heads of the game who have failed to ‘grow some’), running to the vote under pressure from a few Chairman who are either new to the game, steeped in the financial self-interest I outline above or just bloody minded! Their fans were the last to be asked, if at all! Thankfully, it all blew up in their faces with 68% voting for a change back to something more traditional that is tried and tested and most of all accepted across all sports as the way to handle promotion and relegation, i.e. the bottom team goes down! In the fullness of time it might not provide the answer, but it is our only chance in what is fast becoming the last chance saloon; for me and many more, it was the only option.

The demise of Rugby League and the arguments like this one, that flare within it and so many more sports is all really down to one thing, money and the way it is distributed!! Make no mistake about it, in the future, history will show that Sky TV never saved our game or indeed any other sport. The growth, inflated wages and subsequent irreversible financial dependency it brings to participating clubs, is in effect holding Rugby League to ransom. But, as I say, that’s where we are and so we have to make the best of it!

Our greatest moments as fans, when we close our eyes and relive them in our minds eye, are always when you’re there watching on from the side lines and never ever on what we saw on TV or heard on the radio. It’s the same as live theatre really its about being there and being in the moment. We might play it back to relive it, but what we are chasing when we do that is that moment, remembering being there and how you felt at that precise time. The ‘faithful few’ are all that are attending now though! Look at our gates, at County Cricket attendances, at Rugby Union Club attendances and the crowds at football in the lower divisions, for some are literally pathetic at times, but that has all been caused by too much exposure on the TV. Yet there’s the conundrum and once the dye has been cast, without TV money they would all be no more, because sport has all but become a slave to the media and dependant on it. Just as video killed the radio star then TV is killing live sport! At least perhaps, we can see a way forward now!

Just as always my take on things but I do feel better for saying it!

We have now, once and for all, to change things for the good, no gimmicks, no arguments and no surrender to the media! How the Clubs and Mr Elstone do this, will no doubt generate a few paragraphs in here in the future, but for now at least sense has prevailed, sanity has returned and we all await what happens next with great interest!

So to Saints and on a grey Friday night the travelling fans were at their lowest numbers for years but again how heroic were all those of the supporters who went. Griffin had emerged from his sick bed to play and only I’m told after he volunteered to have a go for the team. Had he not played we would have seen just 16 players turning out and when do you ever remember that happening? Saints had dipped a bit in form, whilst we had absolutely bombed over the last few weeks. As kick off approached and the Saints fans were already in celebratory mood it was a massive ask for our lads. We lose and its our worst ever losing run, they win and they are the Champions. Not much at stake there then!!

Before hand in the Directors box Adam and Robert Elstone literally ran towards each other to embrace no doubt in relief after that mornings happenings, whilst across the terraces and indeed the airwaves, the rest of us put that aside and just felt apprehensive for what was to come.

We started OK and exchanged sets and in fact we looked quite feisty. Matongo looked like a man possessed and led from the front from the off. Our end of set kicking was high, but not bad and we held our own. Maloudi took two big kicks at the back and we managed to get a penalty as well in those critical first few minutes. Connor was back to himself too at least with his ‘verbals’, as he soon upset Babar who turned to have a real go back, before on 9 minutes Jake went off and, as if by the script, Saints took the lead through Percival.

Already we were under the cosh, but at the League leaders what else could we expect and soon we switched off at marker defence as Scott Taylor was caught out and it was 12-0 minutes and immediately our minds were all back at Warrington. We were letting them play the ball too quickly and that is a recipe for disaster. Next up the mandatory serious injury occurred when Seke Manu went off injured, before somehow from nowhere Jordan Lane nut-megged the great Ben Barba before getting the ball down and we were on the score board for the first time, with a great try. Thankfully Connor came back on, but we had already seen 4 interchanges in the first 20 minutes, but at least we had scored and a good try it was too.

We were at last asking a few questions of the Saints defence and Fairemo got within inches of a score but true to type for him of late he lost the ball after all the hard work was done. Again two minutes later he lost it to give them the ball back 35 yard out and again as last week that is simply unforgiveable, but par for the course for our winger.

The pressure mounted and Saints threw everything at us, but after a great hit by Connor on Lomax Brad Fash went in brilliantly from a standing start as he stepped and then wriggled over the line. It was totally unexpected from that player for me, but I have to say watching it back the lad did incredibly well. But true to type we eased off again and poor tackling saw Saint run straight over Dean Hadley on the stroke of half time after a needless penalty had given then good field position. However, at 18-12, with Manu off for good and Connor missing for 10 minutes, we had done really well. In fact, as well or better than we could really had ever expected.

The second half started with Litten knocking on and immediately we were under the cosh. However, we got back at them before Hadley gave a penalty away to relieve the pressure and it was business as usual from there on in.

‘Rocks and Diamonds’ Miloudi was showing some great stuff and although naive at times, he certainly has great feet when in possession. They got a penalty to stretch the lead to 8 points, which was a tribute to the FC after what had been thus far a titanic effort littered as usual with missed tackles and mistakes in possession.

It was turning out to be a reasonably good showing under the circumstances but we just couldn’t get over and Harris and Maloudi both missed bad tackles as Saints cruised in again to stretch it to 26-12 and we were done for. Some appeared to be accepting defeat already, although up until that point we had fought so well but our finishing, inexperience and composure had let us down and we had now to hold them. They had several players rested but still looked yards better than us on the break. Hadley was however, working hard in defence with Matongo having his best game for the Club, but Saints scored again as more bad tackling saw Grace slide in at the corner, after a weak effort from Miloudi and Fairamo, should still have stopped him.

We’d done well but we now had to try and keep the score down. We still looked to get things moving, but we were being forced into touch and taking all the blind alleys. So it went on, Saints squeezed us when we had the ball whilst when they had it they started to make many more yards than we could. Litten still buzzing around the ruck and thriving on the time he was getting on the field, but some of his colleagues looked to be falling by the wayside as the pressure mounted. There was some relief when we looked like scoring until Talanoa knocked on after some real classy play from Connor, as the mistakes early in the set continued to come.

But we were never gave up trying as Washbrook continued to show up well before in the end he was buggered and had to be substituted. We even thought we had scored through Lane but Talanoa knocked it forward, but then a gaping hole at the back saw Saints sail in for another try to Grace and all of a sudden the score looked a lot worse than it really was. There were some massive efforts from several players and although we again fell well short several had a real go and again for the second week running we gave it our best shot. In such circumstances as we find ourselves in we really couldn’t have wished for more, but some of our tackling looked as if we were waiving the white flag well before the end and that’s really not on at all.

So its nine L’s in a row for the first time in our history, but at 38-12 we had at least avoided another embarrassment but one or two did look like they had got into the habit of losing and that is disappointing; but when the tide is against you there should still be no surrender. Once the momentum was running against us we went too much with the tide of the game instead of trying to turn it around. We grafted and fought hard, but again we lacked much idea and failed to get to the sixth tackle on too many occasions. But the spirit and energy was there from most of the players and with 11 missing and Manu having to go off in the first half, we probably got away lightly really. After the relief that came earlier in the day after that meeting in Manchester, it was all as expected really; another defeat! If I’m honest though, I can’t honestly see us winning again this year can you?

As for other Hull FC news well, this injury crisis is now perhaps the worst I can ever remember the Club having to endure. With three players dropping out during the Captains run, which is pretty unheard of in the first place, it’s unbelievable, particularly as all three were, I’m told, desperate to play and yet unable to get their bodies over the line. It was another calf injury for Danny, an Achilles injury for Jamie and Carlos has a shoulder injury. We were in fact on Friday so close to having to register an amateur player or go with just 16 players. Can we just end the season now please?

As for the Gareth Hock stuff, well the Club didn’t deny an interest in him as they should have done as soon as the rumours broke, however, Lee did make a point of saying that he hadn’t personally spoken to him and surely it would fly in the face of everything we talk about culture wise at the Club if he had. Let’s face it if we get rid of Wattsy, a great player who we all wanted to stay at the Club and do it with no explanation as to why he went, other than ‘bad boy’ rumours that circulated on social media, and then go to sign a man whose record of misdemeanours (that have actually been made public) reads like a ‘who’s who of the magistrates Courts’, well it would beggar belief really wouldn’t it? Let’s hope that it on that one.

It’s been a really tough season for Albert Kelly hasn’t it? But at least it was great news to hear that the 27-year old play maker, who has a perchance for getting involved in the hardest of tackles for the cause, has confirmed he has been cleared to resume training, all be it without contact and is at last on the way back to full recovery.

Talking last week about a frustrating few weeks on the side lines he said, “It has been a disappointing season for myself personally. I had two spells of five weeks out earlier in the season and I was in a really bad place at that time. I just couldn’t wait to get back out there and when I did, I ended up getting the third head knock. I knew it was a different one because I felt weak in my legs as I was walking off the field. If it was up to me, I’d be playing this weekend but with all the new protocols clamping down on head injuries, it’s just not possible. You’ve really got to take it seriously because of the area of the body it is affecting”.

He’s back at work now and doing some gym stuff and running, but his come-back has to be handled carefully and he’s been over to Manchester to see some of the best experts in the field on several occasions. It’s a massively serious condition, if it isn’t treated carefully (and several boxers have had to retire with lesser conditions) and it has to be taken very seriously indeed. As an aside, one has to wonder too just how much medical care and consultants etc. have cost the Club this year. As for Albert, well, concussion is serious stuff and you just have to wonder what will happen if he suffers from the same condition again don’t you, in some cases, in other sports, it has actually heralded the end of a player’s career.

All that and a Lazarus like recovery from Connor that no one saw coming and at Hull FC and in the game in general, it’s a case these days of waking up, switching on your phone and wondering what’s happened now!

Well my chat last week on the vagaries of the forward pass and how many games are won or lost by them certainly set a few hares running with loads of you getting in touch to comment about how games you had watched were settled by a duff refereeing decision that ignored a perfectly obvious forward pass.

Alan a regular reader summed up what everyone was saying when he wrote, “A lot of the forward passes occur near the white lines on the pitch and you clearly see a player release the ball forwards whilst behind the line, the ball travels forward crosses the line and is caught well in front of the line. Surely that’s proof on a replay that the ball has gone forward. The pass that won Saints the game at Catalan last week was a mile forward, I’ve re run it several times on my sky box. Tommy Makinson was stopped and held up about two feet before a white line he threw the ball wildy from behind the line and it was caught 7 or 8 feet in front of the line, so far in front that on TV the moment the ball is caught you can no longer see the white line behind the catcher, who then goes on to score the winner. It’s totally wrong and it’s affecting the outcome of games, which in turn affects the outcome of league places and cup competitions and it drives fans nuts. Rant over!!”

Another case I guess of Officials; could do better!

I’m always on the lookout for different angles on things and never get fed up of reading anything about that glorious day at Wembley in 2016, when all our dream’s came true. This week I came across a blog written by local author and Diary reader Ian Pindar which covers his exploits in Guatemala on holiday, whilst we were all at the National Stadium watching through our fingers. It makes an interesting read and a different angle on things. If you fancy a look here is a link!

Good stuff!

In this week’s Codgers Corner, we go back to 1988/89 the first season for that most memorable and successful of Hull Coach Brian Smith. For me, it’s a real favorite period in the history of our club, and one that saw a cobbled together FC team inspired by Smithy, a phenomenally accomplished motivator, go on to reach the Premiership final for the first time in 6 years. Things though started badly. As Smith told the fans to keep the Faith we began with one win in the first 6 games and that a 14-12 ‘sneak’ against Leeds at the Boulevard. Then we went to Saints with little chance of winning and, in a game that I could not attend because of work commitments, we confounded the critics and most of our own supporters by turning the red hot Saints over 20-9.

The following week we were away again, this time at Thrum Hall, against Halifax, the Champions of just two years earlier. The ground itself had a massive slope that usually worked to Halifax’s advantage, and they were reported to have always trained at least one night a week on it practicing precision kicking both up and down the hill. We stood at the Hanson Road end of the ground just next to the score board. It was a fine old stadium constructed of the dour, craggy local stone which often mirrored the tactics of a Halifax pack, that were always big and uncompromising.

The imagination of the fans had certainly been captured by the win at Knowsley Road, and as we went down the motorway we passed cars and buses full of the Faithful which saw around 2000 of the 7,340 crowd coming over from East Yorkshire. I well remember Brian Smith himself supervising an on pitch warm up, which back then was certainly not normal procedure, and then going to every player in turn offering advice etc. on the game ahead. As the teams came out of the tunnel Smithy waited at the side, and was still encouraging the players as they ran out to do battle.

We were still in the relegation zone but knew that a win would pull us clear, although we all doubted that we could repeat that great win of the week before. The first few exchanges were fast and furious as the two packs ripped into each other. Andy Dannett had a real go at Pendlebury on the ground which saw a bit of ‘Handbags’ erupt after the Halifax loose forward had regained his feet. Then Welham and Beevers had a go too, which resulted in a Fax penalty that saw Whitefield drift his kick just wide of the post. There was another bout of fisticuffs from which we were awarded a penalty and Eastwood scored our first two points. In fact, the same player crossed in the corner and scampered round under the posts after Craig Colman had caught a charged down Whitfield kick before he released the winger. Paul converted his own try for us to quickly be up by 8 points, and we had only played 9 minutes.

We were rocked in the 15th minute though when our full back Paul Fletcher got a real battering when his head collided with the knees of winger Mike Taylor as he went in for the tackle. He was out cold right in front of us, and there followed a seven-minute delay whilst the medical teams of both sides attended to him. He was carried from the field with a suspected broken neck. That injury saw a young Phil Windley take the field and the player, who was usually a half back, went straight to full back to take the unfortunate Fletchers place, although Phil had never played there before at any grade of rugby. Straight away second rower Staines ran straight at him but somehow Phil just held on, until Dannett arrived to floor the big forward.

Then as Halifax sensed a weak link in our defense Phil could only watch as a Pendleberry bomb hit first the upright and then the bar, before going dead. It certainly looked as if our lead was in danger, and as we hung on, Whitefield kicked two penalties for the score to be 8-4 at half time. Halifax were famous back then for a novel if uncompromising defensive pattern, that these days would be called the sliding defense but which was back then a new innovation. In fact, Halifax probably invented it! The second half saw them stifling our playmakers with this and our lads hanging on. It was then that Windley came to the fore with two massive tackles.

As the game wore on Phil started to gain in confidence, but in the 57th minute Paul Dixon sent the Aussie Flyer Bob Grogen haring down the wing for what looked a certain try. However, Windley pushed him towards the whitewash and away from the support, and once the Aussie flyer was isolated, Windley somehow got to him and with one last ounce of effort, forced him into touch. It was a superb tackle that even had the Halifax fans applauding. Then two minutes later in almost the same position at the other side he repeated the tackle on Scott Wilson the other winger. So hard did Windley hit him that he had to leave the pitch to be replaced by George in the 70th minute. Those two tackles had the FC fans in raptures and were the turning point of a dour uncompromising game. A penalty by Whitefield reduced the arrears to just 2 points and at that point of the game it was all Halifax. They could however not penetrate our line, despite having a 12-2 pull in the scrums and our poor handling giving up the ball seven times on the first or second tackle.

In past years those errors and the Fax pressure would have told, and the FC would have capitulated, but with Smithy running up and down the touch line barking encouragement, (until warned by the referee), we held out. The end of the game is probably the most memorable for this fan because as we looked to drive the ball in the hooter went, and several of the Halifax players including Coyne, Taylor and Anderson, started to walk disillusioned off the field. Quick as a flash Divorty handed the ball out of the tackle and quick hands from Moon, O’Hara and Boyle saw Price cross the line and Eastwood add the conversion, by which time most of the Halifax players were probably in the bath.

It was a great victory and us delirious fans poured onto the pitch to congratulate our players well before Eastwood had taken the final conversion. First on the field was of course Brian Smith, who shook everyone’s hands and congratulated his troops before they left the field. It was the start of a good run and away wins at Rovers, Wigan and Leeds were just around the corner. But with Windley’s tackles, the surreal ending, and the injury to Fletcher long lasting memories, the Halifax win is still one I savor even after all these years.

Away from rugby and what I did do last Wednesday was go through to Manchester with Mrs. R and my good mates Ian and Sarah to the Lowry Theatre to see the stage production of ‘Early Doors’ which I have to say was fabulous. In fact, I haven’t laughed so much since Rovers signed Willy Mason. My jaw ached with laughing in the end. Now well over a decade old since it featured on the TV, the series about life in a Manchester pub, has got a real cult following and to see it played out in a small theatre in front of an adoring set of fans was a great experience. No wonder it’s national tour has sold out! It’s an absolutely brilliant show, which I saw in a pretty intimate 500 seater theatre, I just hope now it transfers to the big auditorium without losing its undoubted edge!

So that’s it after a seminal week in the history of our game sense has prevailed and now the onus is on Elstone and the Super League Clubs to make a statement of intent by their actions and put their money (and Sky’s) where their mouth is. They are now in charge of the game and they have to deliver. The sport was managing before Sky came along and now it is barely managing at all, but we have to live with what is around us and get on with it, although in the true spirit of the Brexit remoaners, I’m still expecting a movement to form that will be demanding another vote, thankfully this one was pretty conclusive.

It’s been great to hear from you all again and although I know many will not agree with my thoughts on the seminal decision that was made last week, I hope you at least found my views on it interesting to read. You often hear Coaches and the expert pundits in the game say, “Rugby League is a simple game”, well let’s hope now with a more traditional look in place for 2019, it becomes a more-simple game to understand for the uninitiated too!

Thanks for reading another Diary, number 600 next week, can you believe it eh?

Keep Believing

Faithfully Yours