The Dentist’s Diary – 630th

Pathetic, embarrassing and inept??

Writing this Diary straight after the game what can you really say eh??? I’m fuming after another capitulation against a team that if we had any sort of aspirations as far as the League is concerned, we should have beaten. What’s more it was another real kick in the teeth to all those folks who made the journey to Liverpool and spent their hard earned cash doing it. 

We were simply a shadow of the side that ground out victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium so brilliantly last week and there are absolutely no excuses whatsoever, for on Saturday the score-line told exactly the story of the game. What’s more, after a week when we were told several times that ‘we had got our Mojo back’ that was the twelfth time since the last Magic Weekend that we have conceived 30 or more points!!!! 

12 times in a year!!!!!!!

I’m not one for Coach and player bashing, you all know that, but few groups of coaches and players in professional sport would survive completely intact such statistics as that! Fact is once again we are back to square one, and left wondering just what the hell is going on. Even after 60 odd years of watching when we have been great at times (and dipped occasionally) and utterly crap at others (but peaked occasionally) I defy anyone to remember a time when we have swung so much, so quickly, so often. 

That for many just points to one thing and that is that the players only play when they want to (apparently in the Cup, when they are heavily criticised or when someone winds them up on social media) in other words they do as they like. That might not be the reason at all and there might be some deep sporting psychological explanation we are all missing, but in the perception of FC fans that is how it looks. None the less Lee himself doesn’t, by his own admission, even know what FC team will turn up each week once the players are left to their own devises on game-day, so what chance do we have?

So is the tail really wagging the dog? Well to many who have got in touch since Saturday it looks like it might be, because the Coaches and administration seem to have absolutely no control over which FC pitches up on any given weekend.They are according to what Lee has seen, World beaters at County Road and by what we’ve seen at times, egg beaters on the field. Our Coach in fact just says it happens, ‘Because it’s the sort of team we are’ and perhaps that is the real worry. 

Its heart-breaking stuff, but however bad we all feel there are always more important things out there and even that performance paled into insignificance this week when the situation concerning Jansin Turgot eclipsed anything that was to happen on or off the field. We have to get things in prospective because the tragic circumstances surrounding that news put everything else in the shade, as our heart-felt thoughts went out to our ex-player (and his family) who had earlier in the week, been fighting for his life. We all certainly send our love to Jansin! 

You know someone once said, that there’s more to life than rugby and ironically after Saturday, as far as some Hull FC fans are concerned, it seems that’s something that a lot of fans are contemplating finding more about.

This was to be a strange one (I seem to use that phrase a lot these days) and it was well publicised that when compared with Newcastle last year the Liverpool Magic event hadn’t perhaps captured the imagination as it was hoped it would. The fact that it was just a bus ride down the East Lancs Road for Wigan, Saints, Warrington and even Salford fans, meant that most wouldn’t be staying for two days, but rather just going for their respective games. If it is going to be anything like effective it needs to be far enough away to make it an excursion for the fans (and I don’t mean Barcelona either) and in a place that has more added value that makes folks want to stay over and in so doing attend both days as well.

Maybe perhaps the whole Magic concept has run its course (if it ever had one) we’ve had some good weekends out, but with loop fixtures, so many games and so many injuries, perhaps it should be scrapped and everyone given a mid-season weekend off. 

You know my views on the whole kit and caboodle, but had it grown and got bigger and bigger and captured the media’s imagination, then I would have begrudgingly admitted that I’d got it wrong, about what is for me a contrived and manufactured fixture. If we had more teams in Super League (say 14) and we didn’t have loop fixtures, it would perhaps have been more sustainable too. However, sadly, beyond the game and the two points at stake, it has a novelty value that hasn’t exactly grabbed the imagination of the sporting public at all.

Liverpool had been championed by the new management structure but, in the year the NRL has finally decided to adopt the Magic Weekend concept for itself, there is, I think, a real sense of irony that in the Northern Hermisphere the long-term future of the event is arguably, this morning, more unclear than ever. Still, for this season at least, it was a necessary evil that we had to get on with.

Our victory at Warrington had certainly seen the RL world sit up and take notice, it was a great win but for most fans just a reflection on our season thus far, which no one will disagree has certainly been up and down. We are starting to get players back and when we get injuries, then recently, thankfully, they haven’t been too serious. So it was that we were able to field a pretty strong team against a Huddersfield outfit that was, like us, a bit in and out! 

So, with all that going through my head the stage was set for a fixture I didn’t particularly like and that I, as usual, watched on the TV. However, it was a game that had to be played but as always these days, did anyone really know what we would see, which FC team would turn up, which Giants outfit would turn up and who in the end would get the two points on offer. There was little doubt though that a lot of us sort of suspected what might happen. 

Huddersfield certainly liked the Magic Weekend and had the second best winning record over the years the fixture had been staged. The Giants had won eight of their 12 games at the annual event, with one draw, and should they beat us, they could go top of the tree in terms of wins at the extravaganza. So anything but our best scrapping performance just wouldn’t have been good enough!

So it was that as the teams walked out it was to a more compact but thinner than usual populated stadium. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone? Well in certain areas of Anfield this weekend, there was a distinct possibility that you could!

From the off it was looking bleak. You can almost tell after two sets what it will be like and the first two ended with 20 meter restarts and on the back of the second, Shaul let it bounce, slipped, changing direction, and we were 6-0 down just as the rain started to fall in the 7th minute. Huddersfield buggered up the kick off and as we pressed we got a second set of six. We tried innocuous and sometimes ridiculous short balls and looked lost before a last tackle play saw Sneyd knock on over the line. It was all going wrong through a lack of any sort of enthusiasm and wanting and already that was that really. Huddersfield found us listless, and not up for it at all and they were certainly warming to the task as at 10-0, you wondered if the ‘Couldn’t be arsed’ FC was the one that had turned up this week and by half time we were all to be proved right. 

If we had got our Mojo back, then we had left it in East Yorkshire because the Giants, who were average at best, controlled everything and we couldn’t get the ball, yet when we did grab it, we just took all the wrong options and coughed it up before the end of the set. We were unrecognisable from the team that took to the field at Warrington, yet in theory we were stronger! At 21-2 down we looked completely lost but surely a good bollocking at half time would sort things outand at least see us keep it respectable; but now comes the disturbing bit because, not for the first time this season, after half time nothing at all changed, in fcat we got worse! 

We were simply bereft of any sort of passion at all throughout the whole afternoon. They just ploughed on and humiliated us in front of those loyal fans who deserved so much more. We just couldn’t get going in the second half as nothing seemed to have changed at all and some sloppy unco-ordinated line defence gave O’Brien the opportunity to score his second of the afternoon, from close in. Darnell McIntosh proved too strong for a lacklustre Minichiello to score his second of the game, before Huddersfield really started to take the mickey. Folks went to the bar, or even set off home, whilst others at home just switched off the TV, as Jermaine McGillvary scored twice and Alex Mellor and Aaron Murphy also got over to underline another pitiful, pitiful performance from the FC. Again, many on the terraces and watching at home were mad and upset and some no doubt were just blooming fuming. Yet what can you do? You just sit there take it and wait for the platitudes that come out afterwards!

If you just take one element of our game, then our play maker and general Marc Sneyd got no service at all from dummy half, where our play at times was nothing short of amateurish.Marc and several other first receivers were either leaping in the air, or lunging forward to catch passes and then in defence, if ever you want to see whether a team is trying or not, it can usually be gauged by how often the opposition are allowed to crash over the line from dummy half.  

As I said earlier, the fact that our coach couldn’t change anything for the second half and by his own admission doesn’tknow which team will turn up on any given weekend anyway, is really the worrying bit. Adam Pearson has invested well,there are some bloody talented guys out there and Lee has proved to be a good and inspiring coach in the past, butalthough the Club will fervently deny it, to many of the uninitiated, it looks as if they only play when they want to. 

It’s hard to believe that the players think that if they turn up on Thursday and beat the Dragons, all will be forgiven, but perhaps they do? However, looking at the Catalan pack compared with the Giants one, I think they might well be in for a massive surprise and by Thursday night we might just be out of the Cup as well!! 

But all this in and out stuff is wearing a bit thin now isn’t it? In fact, in the last 24 hours, I have spoken to a lot of dyed in the wool fans who have just run out of patience altogether. We are as one said, just fed the guff after these performances and that is supposed to make everything OK. 

Fact is whether they like it or not the experience of years of watching RL proves that such violent swings in fortune from one week to another should be preventable and should never ever come so often. You can’t control the odd loss when you are running hot or explain away the odd great performance when you are not, but such regular dire swings as we have seen in the last twelve months point only to great variations in attitude and application and are a real worry. 

One dire defeat sees you a bit disappointing, two becomes a little worrying, but to be in this position again for the 12th time in a year, is a massive problem. As I said earlier it just looks like the players only perform when they want to and bugger the Coaches, the owner and most importantly the fans who make such sacrifices to watch them. It was hinted this week that the players don’t react well to getting bollocked after games like that one, but for me, in any profession or walk of life that’s what you get when you are obviously performing well below your ability!! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, to those of us on the outside looking in, it all looks too cosy and pally, pally. The players groan and gripe about the treatment they get at home from the fans when they are dire and even insult the supporters by saying they prefer to play away from home! 

Yet they simply don’t get the fact that all we want is 100% effort every week if we are not good enough OK, but we all know that we are good enough most of the time, we just don’t perform that way. What the club must realise is that people are walking already and even in the case of the hardnosed ‘In any kinda weather’ brigade wondering why they bother. That’s not particularly my words, but based on those of loads of readers who have contacted me over the weekend. Some of whom are such ‘eminent fans’ you wouldn’t believe it!

Something really does have to give and soon and as far as I’m concerned I’m afraid even a Cup win on Thursday will only paper over the cracks. I’ll no doubt be in trouble for saying it but that appears to be how hundreds of other FC fans feel at present as well. 

So, to the rest of the week and let’s try and look on the brighter side, (if there is one) and as far as rebuilding for next season is concerned, if you disregard Andre Savelio’s surprise arrival two months ago, last week saw us getting started as Josh Jones was the first incoming player to arrive at the Club for 2020. For me he is an excellent signing and one that I hoped we could get over the line, despite increasing interest from several other clubs. 

I hinted last week after the Saints Coach said that he’d signed for another Club that I hoped it was us. The truth is that after Saints had gone head to head with us for his signature, we won out, simply because of the added value we offered in addition to the dosh. Adam, James and Radders played a blinder and took time to introduce the player to the City, the suburbs (he likes Brough), the squad and the lads down at County Road. Saints for their part acted honourably and bowed out, which is more than can be said for Leeds and Wigan, who it is rumoured jumped in with big bids to him at the last minute once they knew we were all but there.

But, it was certainly worth all the work because when you study his stats and see how year on year he has improved, there is little doubt that Josh is the best English second rower available and in the top three or four in the whole competition. He is moving towards full International honours and thus a fabulous acquisition and one that I hope sets the tone and the level of quality that we are set to see arrive for 2020. More announcements are to follow quite soon as well I’m told! And perhaps they need to!!

Now to more sobering things and in a high contact rough and tough game like Rugby League the word love is something that seldom comes in to the vocabulary of the average fan, unless its describing his or her feelings for their Club. However, I’m sure that last week we were all sending ours to Jansin Turgot and his family. When bravely the minutiae of his injuries were revealed mid-week by his motherthen quite frankly, they could only be described as horrendous. At least he is now out of danger as such, but faces being brought out of an induced coma today and then there will be weeks of operations on numerous broken bones and ruptured joints and months of convalescence.  

Jansin was always seen as a good guy and a popular figure when he was with us and the response from the club, the fans and the players without doubt indicatesjust how we all thought about him and how shocked we all where to hear the news. From the first minute it broke, everyone wanted to get involved and help out as much as they could. It’s not a surprise in the Rugby League family really because that’s what we do. That said, multiple injuries such as Jansin has sustained are unthinkable really and to be in that state, well, no one deserves that do they? He had experienced a rough time at Salford where he was carving out a new career for himself, before he was suspended and then released, after an ‘Off the field incident’. 

I read all the theories and ‘in the know’ comments from some Salford fans, that were left up on message boards, but no one really knows the real reasons and the morbid curiosity and even made up theories of some quite frankly sickenedme! I like many reading this I’m sure, refuse to listen to any of that, choosing instead to concentrate on the continued condition and hopefully eventual recovery of Jansin and on supporting the devotion and loyalty of his family.

This is a tragedy and whatever the circumstance leading up to it, they pale into insignificance in the bigger scheme of things, because one of our own is in trouble and we all have now to rally around him. Good luck Jansin, the thoughts and prayers of so many are with you and your family and well done to everyone who has donated to the appeals and helped out with fund raising! Give if you can, for the burden of the medical bills on his family is unbelievable and it’s destined to be a long haul. Yet, in all honesty, I’m sure we’ll all be there for him, because time has proved over and over again, that this is what RL fans are all about!!! Good luck Jansin, we’re all rooting for you. 

For me one of the great surprise stories of the 2019 season in British Rugby League is the emergence of Ratu Naulago at Hull FC. We have now to move heaven and earth to get him signed up on a longer contract although no doubt his full time employers the Army will have to beconsulted and play a part in anyagreement. However, last week Ratu, who is a naturally quiet bloke, certainly came clean about his hopes for the future and how much he hopes that will include playing at the KCom and staying at the FC.

The 27-year-old still has four years remaining on his 12-year military contract, but with his rugby league career beginning to take off with us he’s certainly keen to remain in the game and went to lengths to say how much the lads had made him welcome and how keen he is to stay on at our club. But, with his homeland of Fiji set to take part in the Rugby World Cup, we could even have a full blown international on our hands if he continues to progress as he has thus far. 

He said last weekend, “Since I got my contract here, it is just like playing for both the Army and Hull FC. I’m really grateful to them for releasing me and also supporting me to whichever path I get at this level. If I don’t get my future with Rugby, I’ll just go back to the army and finish there. I’ve signed a one-year contract but I’d like to stay longer. At the moment, I’d just take any call. If the Fiji call came and the Army approved it, as they are still my main employer, then I’d go for it. It’d be a good experience for me to be called up by that team.”

I think with Ratu we have unearthed a great great prospect and a truly talented player. I think we have to find a way to keep him, so let’s hope we do. 

Well you know I backed Robert Elstone and the breakaway by Super League Cubs that took place in the closed season. My support was of course based on a catalogue of mistakes, misjudgements and old boy and ‘blazer’ appointments that followed massive pay-outs to ‘retiring’ executives that had for me, rendered the RFL a spent force with their credibility shot. They were a body in whom few fans had much confidence and that was not really equipped to take the game forward as aNational sport. 

Since the changes were made, a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to get the staff sorted and engage the Clubs in the decision making process but now we are seeing the first green shoots of a revival in Super League’s fortunes. 

The ‘Big Bang’ start to the season that featured Derby games was a great success and got us off to a fresh and exciting start.We had the most fans ever through the gate for the Good Friday games, plus that experiment of taking a game to Barcelona saw the record for a Super league regular season game broken and now we have the news that after extensive negotiations Betfred are to continue their support of the competition until 2021; with the biggest sponsorship deal the game of Rugby League has ever received. 

After we had received the announcement of that multi-million-pound injection of cash, the Magic Weekend wasn’t assuccessful as they hoped, but you sort of know that it will now be under the microscope, whilst under the RFL it would probably have been allowed to just bump along.  The compulsory reserve grade from 2020 is another massive step forward and will be praised by all FC fans as it has seen the death knell of that bloody Joint Academy. So, we have. I think, to give Elstone and Co. some credit and although the proof of this particular pudding will be in the TV deal we negotiate from 2021 onwards, its not been a bad start!

That news that broke early last week that confirmed, what many fans had known for ages, that the joint academy project was to end, saw most of us reading this give a big sigh of relief. Yeh, OK, we understood that the change will put more financial strain on the Club but we don’t do anything with that lot and the Joint set up was never going to be popular. I for one will look forward to attending Under 18 games next season again and with the new compulsory Reserve grade coming in next year for all Super League teams, the time wasripe for cahnges. 

We are moving our operation back to Bishop Burton and taking on all but one of the staff employed by the joint set up. Providing it is financially sustainable the Under 18’s/Reserves/ First team squad progression through the ranks certainly engenders a lot more confidence that we will see the outcomes of all our efforts. It would be unfair to name names, but I know of one member of staff with the current and soon to be defunct set up who tried his darndest to persuade the son of a Diary reader to sign for Rovers. That despite the fact his family were all FC fans, he had been a season ticket holder since he was 5 and went everywhere to watch his beloved Hull FC. He had set his ambitions since as young as anyone could remember on playing for the FC and now at least he is on the Clubs books

Things had to change with the new Reserve set up and quite frankly for me they couldn’t have worked out better. Let’s all try our best to get down to Bishop Burton and support the kids back in the black and white next season!  

So to this week’s Codgers Spot and I want to feature a game that reader Tim Peacham mentioned to me last Thursday when I met him on the Westwood taking the air. I said earlier that we have always lost the odd game in a good run and won the odd game really well in the poorer campaigns and this was one of the latter, that stood out in both our minds. It featured the then mighty Leeds and took place on Saturday 23rdNovember 1969. We had already beaten the Loiners at Headingley 20-17 back in August that year and we always seemed to do well against them although back then ‘big spending’ Leeds was the outfit that everyone wanted to beat. 

Between 1968 and 1973 they reached the play off final four times and won it twice. They had some great players included in their ranks like that ‘sparkling’ halfback pairing of Seabourne and Shoebottom, who were still going strong and the ‘mercurial’ Bev Risman, who seemed to be always hitting the headlines in the ‘Rugby Leaguer’ newspaper.

This game was probably our best performance that seasonbesides that wonderful Yorkshire Cup final win and was played on a cold, cold night in front of 7,500 spectators. The visiting “Loiners” provided us with a stern challenge having lost just once in the League in 14 games whilst the referee we all loved to hate, Fred Lindop, was in charge! Hull on the other hand, were in turmoil with the players in dispute with the Board over pay and threatening to go on strike1

On top of that, two of our best players, Dick Gemmell and the great Arthur Keegan, (the latter still in his benefit year), were both missing through injury. Gemmell was still injured after his heroics at Headingley in that Final, whilst Keegan had been back playing since that game but had received a back injury in training in the week leading up to the game. We had actually already beaten Leeds on the way to that Yorkshire Cup Final triumph so the fans all hoped against hope for another upset. 

I watched the game from the Threepennies that night and although it was only November there was frost in the air and I particularly remember that the old ground looked really run down, something that was hardly helped by the fact that although they were musically a thing of the past by then, you could still hear The Bachelors crooning “Diane”, “Ramona” and “I Believe” as their nasal tones crackled out of the Rediffusion ‘tannoy’ speakers around the old stadium. If, that was, the one near you was actually working at the time!

Stood there in the old stand, amongst friends and amidst the smell of beer and cigarette smoke, we were all still discussing the possibility of a players strike, when that greatest of goal kickers John Maloney, kicked us into a seven minute lead and slowly but surely the confident Leeds outfit started to buckle under the threat of a well marshalled Hull pack. 

Players like the soon to depart Jim Macklin, and Mick Harrison, Alan McGlone, Joe Brown and Chris Forster ripped into the Leeds pack whilst Terry Kirchin again mesmerised the opposition’s tacklers by always being able to sneak the ball away before the tackle was completed. It was almost a challenge every week for the opposition to stop it, and in one incident he was surrounded by no fewer than 6 Leeds players, but still managed to stay stood up, before handing the ball out to Ken Huxley to start another attack.

Then right in front of us Clive Sullivan, with the embrocationthat he lathered his body in before games, shining in the floodlights, sped in at the corner following a superbly smuggled pass out of the tackle by Kenny Foulkes. Back came Leeds to ‘pepper’ stand in full back Owbridge with a series of high kicks, the third of which resulted in a dropped ball and Leeds regaining possession. The ensuing play-the-ball caught our defence flat footed and the speed of the Leeds backs saw Bev Risman sending Mick Shoebottom flying away for a converted try. So we went in at half time, just two points behind on the scoreboard but full of heart for the rest of the game.

The second half was just as intense as the first and Hull went back in front with two more Maloney penalties one for a foul on Kirchin whose magical ball skills in the tackle were by this time starting to rile the Leeds players. As the clock ticked on, Leeds suddenly seemed to realise that they were about to lose only their second game in the League that year and ‘cranked everything up a notch’, but try as they may they could not break our defence to score. In the end they had to be satisfied with a solitary try far out on the right by Atkinson after a last ditch tackling effort by Alf Macklin just failed to nail him. Risman could not convert and as the final whistle went the sound of ‘Old Faithful’ ringing through the rafters of the old Stand heralded a famous 9-8 victory for the FC. 

It was a fabulous night and a great “backs to the wall” performance that saw our Directors, coaching staff and players out on the pitch at the end. As we jumped the fences and chaired the players from the field we all thought that the Cup game followed by this great win had seen us turn the corner. As always seemed the case back then, it was another false dawn, and we fell away badly at the end of the season.

So what are we all expected to make of what we witnessed on Saturday eh? It was an important two points lost for us, because for me at present they are all important! Regular readers will remember that back at around edition 613/614 before we even got going, I restated my increasing belief that as a fan who had weathered the FC for over 60 odd years, confidence wise I was gradually regressing. Fact was, I said, that actually having a team to support in these changing times for sport, was now paramount and as I got older I could only really be happy when we had the golden 20/22 points that would see us hold onto our Super League tenure for another year. After that I could sit back, look to contest a top 5 position and really enjoy my rugby, but that’s just negative old me I guess! 

However, I concluded, at getting on for 70, it wasn’t about my appetite for a season in the Championship, but more about the Allams and our lack of any real Stadium tenure. You see I’m still not confident as to whether we would even survive all that as a club.  So, I guess for me, the points we have picked up lately had seen a deal of the pressure off for another year and another couple here and there will get us home to my first personal performance indicator!! I absolutely expected us to at least contest another two at Liverpool on Saturday! 

But in honesty we didn’t contest anything did we? Some of the indicators weren’t good at all. I love Scott Taylor but it says it all when he captained that performance and still found it possible to smile in the post-match interview. It’s hard, in such cases, not to believe the conspiracy theorists who claim the players are picking their games. You could just tell in the first five minutes how it was going to go, as we lost our way twice and kicked the ball too deep and over the try line twice at the end of the first two sets. That was it, we all knew what happens next, it’s just a question of by how many!!

Nor was it any good wondering what change we would see after a half-time bollocking for we all knew it would be negligible if anything at all.

It was a shocking afternoon and my heart goes out to all those families and fans that went over there in such numbers to be so disappointed. But they won’t put up with this for ever and so for the first time since the Agar days perhaps the inability of Lee to explain what is happening and the number of times it is actually occurring now, plus our inability as a Club to seem to stem the trend of these regular debacles, has started to see people who should know better refer to our demise as a crisis. But perhaps they have a point! Why do I say that? Well these pasting were at first coming when we were really short-handed, under the pump and fielded a team stuffed with youngsters and against Warrington Wakefield and Saints and all away from home.

Now however they are coming against teams like Catalan and Huddersfield and with the former at home and the latter against a very representative FC team indeed. It’s quite ironic that it’s not that long ago that such a capitulation to that same Huddersfield club (in just one game) in the play offs, saw massive changes made. Now we are expected to watch such reversals every four or five weeks and put it down to ‘a lost Mojo’. It’s not just those defeats but the manner of them too, with all time Club record reversals, all-time record home defeats and the joint all-time longest losing streak for Hull FC, plus now the biggest defeat in the history of the Magic weekend. 

As I said earlier I just try to reflect what you tell me about how you feel, add how I feel and avoid owner, coach or individual player bashing because that just gets everyone backs up. Never the less, its all really simple in the end because all the fans ask is to see the same passion and dedication they invest in their heroes reflected by them on the field. One or two such reversals is a joke, but bugger the pantomime we are currently experiencing! 

So that’s it, I’m off, I’ve had enough! Let’s hope for a win on Thursday and please let’s all try to get behind the boys; whether we consider they deserve it or not! 

We’ll speak again next week! 

Faithfully Yours 

(but currently devoid of believing)

Wilf