The Dentist’s Diary – 648th

The 2019 campaign ends next week with the Grand Final between Salford and Saints, but after a season that promised so much it all went wrong form us and so it’s already all quiet at Hull FC. But, hasn’t it been great watching Salford!! 

However, as I sit here on Saturday morning, off the field things are changing!!! We as fans are signing up again for next season, whilst the appointment of a current Championship coach of some standing as assistant to Lee Radford was a real sign of our ambition and the owner should be applauded for making such a statement.

But, more of that later, because for me personally a period of reflection has followed the last Diary. In fact, as the local media regurgitate stories and try to keep us amused with pen pictures of our new players and ‘look’s backs’ at seasons past, it has for this fan been a time to take stock. Personally, with no involvement in the play offs, I’ve sat back from it all a bit and wrestled with the parlous state of our game; for if you dissect our sport Club by Club, we really are in a bit of a mess. I’ll be having a look at that this week and what I would do (which won’t please a lot) to drag the game into the modern era of ‘multi-platform sport’ and make it again, what it most needs to be; entertaining. 

Off the field at the club the push is on to sell season tickets! Things certainly started well although I guess the first day sales figure of 3000 included all the direct debit clients who had decided to not drop out of the scheme, or had indeed forgotten to do so. But with almost another 1500 added in just 7 days since, it’s all going pretty well.  And after that disappointing end to the season and all the doom and gloom it engendered, once again the FC Faithful have come up trumps, had faith and instigated what can only be seen as an extremely encouraging start. 

So here we go on the first of our closed season fortnightly editions of the Diary, in which I hope you will at least find something to interest you!

The 2019 campaign ends next week with the Grand Final between Salford and Saints, but after a season that promised so much it all went wrong form us and so it’s already all quiet at Hull FC. But, hasn’t it been great watching Salford!! 

However, as I sit here on Saturday morning, off the field things are changing!!! We as fans are signing up again for next season, whilst the appointment of a current Championship coach of some standing as assistant to Lee Radford was a real sign of our ambition and the owner should be applauded for making such a statement.

But, more of that later, because for me personally a period of reflection has followed the last Diary. In fact, as the local media regurgitate stories and try to keep us amused with pen pictures of our new players and ‘look’s backs’ at seasons past, it has for this fan been a time to take stock. Personally, with no involvement in the play offs, I’ve sat back from it all a bit and wrestled with the parlous state of our game; for if you dissect our sport Club by Club, we really are in a bit of a mess. I’ll be having a look at that this week and what I would do (which won’t please a lot) to drag the game into the modern era of ‘multi-platform sport’ and make it again, what it most needs to be; entertaining. 

Off the field at the club the push is on to sell season tickets! Things certainly started well although I guess the first day sales figure of 3000 included all the direct debit clients who had decided to not drop out of the scheme, or had indeed forgotten to do so. But with almost another 1500 added in just 7 days since, it’s all going pretty well.  And after that disappointing end to the season and all the doom and gloom it engendered, once again the FC Faithful have come up trumps, had faith and instigated what can only be seen as an extremely encouraging start. 

So here we go on the first of our closed season fortnightly editions of the Diary, in which I hope you will at least find something to interest you! 

…………………………………………………………………………

Over the last few days I’ve heard from a couple of players and indeed I received a lovely note from Danny Washbrook in response to the ‘kind words’ (he said) about his departing the club, which I had written on the fans behalf here in the Diary. Danny has always been a great club man and loves the fans (because he is one) and I thank him for his response and I’m sure we all wish another of our retiring ‘Immortals’, good luck at York. 

Now if you remember in the last Diary, you read my thoughts on Ratu Naulago’s future at the club as I availed you all of the information I had received from some of his acquaintances about his situation with the army and his love of Rugby Union and I commented that I just hoped that he decided that his place was at Hull FC. I think he’s an exciting player and so do many more FC fans and that is without doubt what our game needs; as many exciting players as we can get! 

Following my revelations last week Lee Radford was brought into the discussion by the Hull Daily Mail when our Coach commented that he is settled in the East Riding and said, “He’s happy, or at least he seems happy enough!” but in an article entitled, “Lee Radford discusses Ratu Naulago’s future’, with only that one comment, he hardly did that! 

As a club with Ratu, Mahe, Swifty, Fairamo and Dawson-Jones we probably have more front line wingers than any club in Super League, so competition will be high and I guess we could afford to lose one. However, I do feel that from what I’ve seen in a few short months, Ratu is a very special talent and what’s more he’s immediately become a real hero with the supporters and as I said earlier we can’t have too many of those in our game. Another case of wait and see? Well I still think that questions still persist around his future going forward. 

Now, for anyone to be nominated for the Dally M medal over in the NRL and then join a Super League Club the very next year is almost unheard of, however that’s what is happening at Hull FC, as this December Manu Ma’u is to join us after being nominated for NRL second rower of the year. Our new recruit has had a brilliant last season for Parramatta and now the scariest man in the NRL is joining us. I’m really looking forward to this signing and although I’ll only be happy when he’s got his Visa, work permit etc. sorted and he’s here, he’s looking to be a big catch for the Club. 

However, after seeing him play just a few days ago and watching him square upto top NRL enforcer Dave Klemmer, after fixing him with that famous stare, it really whet my appetite, I couldn’t wait!  He’s certainly a menacing character and his actions are matched entirely by his looks, with tattoos all around his neck and a massive scar under his right eye (where titanium plates are fitted into his face) which all add to ‘the Tongan Terminators’ frightening presence. A great character and apparently a thoroughly nice bloke off the field, I certainly think he’ll be a big drawing card for the club as we build towards next season, once, that is, he gets here. 

How intimidating is he? Well, I read recently that David Fifita, one of the most destructive, dominant forwards in world rugby, admitted to ‘sh*****g bricks’ when asked, by head coach Kristian Woolf, to call Ma’u to see if he would be interested in playing for Tonga.

So, why has a guy who, after being locked up for being part of a gang and committing violent crimes, blossomed late in his sporting life into one of the most feared players in world rugby, suddenly decided to come to the KCom when he was at the zenith of his NRL career. Manu says Hull FC’s offer was too good to refuse, but that doesn’t mean we offered the highest wages for his services, because his decision to join Hull wasn’t based solely on the money. When speculation leaked that we were interested, other Super League clubs moved in, but Ma’u didn’t speak to any of them for as I say he wasn’t chasing the money, but a new challenge and to that end, we had been courting the 31-year-old for almost a year. 

Once the decision was made by the player to leave Parramatta, he honoured our persistence and signed without trying to play us off against those other clubs, which I’m told included Leeds and Wigan. He said in a recent interview, “I’m big on family. I’m a family man. When I spoke to James Clark and Lee Radford, I could just tell when I was speaking about the club it was family orientated. They were big on families being involved in the club. That stuck with me. I’m a big believer in clubs bringing players together”.

He continued, “It was a very long process. They kept coming back to me with an offer, my manager kept telling me about the deal but I wasn’t ready to make the move, just because I had a lot of things going on and I wanted to stay in the NRL and see how far I could go. Winning a Premiership with Parra was on top of my goals. It was a hard decision to move away from that, and for my family with kids and stuff. But when I made the decision the world was off my shoulders. I always knew I wanted to play Super League. Now everything has happened and the deal is signed, me and my family are looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to the challenge and to challenge myself coming over to a new environment and seeing the other side of the world.” 

That’s exciting stuff for me and it’s interesting to also note that he sounded out Bureta Faraimo and Mahe Fonua before deciding that the FC was for him. As I have often said in here, there is little doubt in my mind that the greatest season we have seen for years was the 2016 campaign and much of that success was based on the ‘brotherhood’ headed by Big Frank Pritchard and including Manu, Fonua and Feke. They were the nucleus of the team and with Mahe returning and Ma’u looking to head up another family style approach to things, we can only hope for a repeat can’t we! Exciting stuff though isn’t it?    

Well, at this time of the year, when there’s little to talk about, the speculation is usually about our new playing strips for next season. There have been few leaks around the design of the home shirt except that its likely to be black and white, whilst the colour scheme on the season ticket information (which is usually a good indicator) that combines pink in the design   points to the possibility that the away strip will feature that colour. Time will tell but I expect we’ll at least know about the home shirts by the next edition of the Diary comes out in a fortnights time.  

Now a bit of dreaming and how great would it be if come this time next year we have been given the nick-name as a club of ‘The Entertainers’ for our efforts in the 2020 season. Great, but extremely unlikely I hear you say!!! The fact is though this season has proved that we have to be more enterprising and exciting to watch and certainly need to produce more success at home, but to do that we need some new ideas on board. To this end I was particularly taken when William Jackson in the Hull Daily Mail at last confirmed that we, “Are closing in on new attack and defence coaches, ahead of the 2020 campaign”, and of course by last Friday an excellent addition had been made to our coaching staff. 

Jackson also confirmed that Horney has left the club after a 21-year association with the FC first team. Also leaving was Strength and Conditioning coach Adam Whitney, whose departure brings to an end his seven-year association with us as well. We have as fans wanted some new blood on the coaching side in the past but the funds haven’t been forthcoming and anyway it was not a priority as far as Lee was concerned. But after a big de-brief with Adam, Purtill’s arrival and other coaches on the way, it looks like it’s certainly a priority now! 

Kieron, is more than we could ever have expected. He is a first class coach who was a half back, which has to be a great start, but he was also well liked by the Widnes fans, appreciated and respected by his peers and loved by his players. Technically he is one of the most qualified coaches in the game and for him to walk away from a top Championship coaching job, into an assistant role at our club, shows his eagerness to be part of what Hull FC stands for and in turn it displays our ambition as a Club, for he won’t have come cheap. What’s more for me he is an outsider and a respected one with a big voice and that should help to shake up the ‘’comfy’ feel I believe there has been in our camp of late . 

 I have to say I was expecting a couple of internal appointments or a ‘Charlie Hearthrug’ character who no one has heard of. When the announcement was made on Friday I was quite amazed really, for it was certainly a high profile one and shows I think that we certainly mean business. 

At Huddersfield as number two, he very successfully stood in when they sacked Jon Sharp and I guess having such a cultured and experienced member of staff on our books will be useful. It puts a bit of pressure on and that is always good in such situations and so I think Kieron is a great acquisition and a massive step forward for us. The Coaches have I think been told to spice the attack up a bit to get the fans cheering again and Kieron is just the bloke to do it. I now look forward to the announcement of the defensive appointment, which is taking a little longer apparently. 

As a last word on Purtill, I’ll leave you with his comments to the Yorkshire Post when he said, Hull’s recruitment has been outstanding for 2020 – to come in as an outsider and have the tools like that at my disposal to work with is brilliant. To have the chance to work with some of the attacking calibre we will have next season really excites me. From my point of view, when we have our big guns firing next season, we are going to be a really threatening side in attack”. Welcome Kieron; we all hope your right!!! 

As for signings, well I’m expecting some announcements for the Reserves team next season, although they will be made up of low key up and coming talent from around the amateur game, rugby union and West Yorkshire, who will be brought in as part timers to populate the places in that team. I’m also told that we will see someone come in to train the Reserves, taking on the role that Yeamo did so well in last season, when our reserves won 14 of their 16 games played. 

Kirk did a really good job with them and has been re-engaged by the Club. He’s always wanted to be involved in the conditioning side of things and is moving up in the ranks there on a two-year deal. However, we have to make a lot of the Reserves next year and I expect that providing the timings of their games and those of the Academy are accessible to the fans, then we should start to see the crowds coming back to Bishop Burton to watch the matches. 

Never the less, we have to go into this new mandatory competition seriously, (although looking at the progress made by some across the game I doubt everyone is) and if the second string team is to be properly positioned within our Club, we have to make more of it than we did last year. For instance, why isn’t there an award, at our awards night, for the Reserves Player of the Year. For me, you either do it properly for all the teams, or don’t do it at all! We rightly added one for the Ladies team this year so why not the Reserves? Miss them out and it does appear to some that you ain’t taking the second string seriously. 

For these youngsters and squad players to perform to the top of their game there needs to be a regular man of the match award and a player of the year celebration to reward their efforts, whilst across the game there has to be a proper table structure and an end of season celebration of the champions.. But it’s progress.

Now, having a couple of weeks between Diaries certainly offers a chance to reflect and a chance to sit back and watch what is developing in and around the game we all love.

On any given Saturday I usually walk Mrs R to work and then come home and switch on a game from the NRL, which I always enjoy. I’m not particularly partisan to any one team over there, but I absolutely love watching the action in a league that is at its zenith and I always marvel at the intensity, skill and wanting that is on display in every match I watch. 

I know that a policy of televising every game has seen gates at some of their matches drop, but the TV figures are phenomenal and the fact is I guess that the nation tunes into the weekly rounds over 4 days, simply because it’s recognised as quality entertainment. I see great games even when they are ‘blow outs’ and the consistency of the standard of play I’ve watched is far better, far more often, than what I have seen on Sky on a wet Thursday night in say Huddersfield or London. The NRL is fast furious and that good, yet they have no relegation, but instead treat the sport as an entertainment and gear everything up to ensuring that it is. Their players are icons and held up as celebrities and their pundits and commentators are first class. The whole hype around the sport is brilliant and most importantly matched by the product! But you all know that!  

Watching that Saints v Wigan game last weekend, I concluded that Saints were the only British outfit who could hold a candle to an NRL team on a week to week basis and they are 16 points better than any other team in our premier league. Everything over there is geared to developing and consolidating a competition that is really exciting without, as I say, having any sort of relegation to worry about. 

It all starts at the grass roots were kids who would walk into our academies can’t even get in the often 100 strong selection streams for teams over there. The stars are held up as heroes and the kids want to emulate them. Like it or not there is a lot I think that we can learn from the NRL. First and fore most we have to inspire youngsters to want to play, to stick at it as Ma’u did, in his early twenties (when the going was tough) and then to offer them a pathway to realise their ambitions or help them to aspire to keep playing the game at ‘their’ level, if they don’t make the top grade. 

That increase in involvement is easier said than done, but the mandatory Reserves league is a great step forward and should start to reignite the production line of players coming into the game, what’s more, its come not a moment too soon, because, as the amateur game is struggling and less and less RL is being played in schools, our game is in decline. 

The NRL model is good and worth following. However, the future of the whole game in this country depends on a renaissance at all levels, for we have to portray a resurgent thriving sport, particularly as we are about to go back to the broadcasters to try and get the money for a new TV contract. That’s imperative for our survival as a sport because sadly that income is the life blood of the British game. We have to get more people participating at all levels and encourage teams both amateur and professional to develop their playing assets in a positive environment. 

I have said before (and I know a lot of you don’t like it) that, if we cannot properly compensate relegated Clubs, so that they can keep the players they have brought on in a season in Super League, we should look to pull up the drawbridge for three or four years and stop the farce that is our current relegation and promotion see-saw. Look at the season past; British Rugby League should never have ever been celebrating the fact that, two games from the end of the campaign, up to 5 teams could still go down. But we were! Nor, incidentally should we be hailing the fact that one team finished 16 points clear of everyone else in a table of a league of just 12 teams. The League is too small but the size of the competition is limited by the talent being developed and the lack of quality coming through the ranks limits the participants and makes the whole thing too volatile. 

With the exception of Rovers (and they have found it bloody tough), teams that come up go straight back down. That’s a fact, simply because by the time they have got promoted in the first place all the good players have been signed up elsewhere. Yet, once in Super League the current set up doesn’t give them the time to develop their young squads and so they go down again and the vultures descend and what emerging players they have managed to bring through, disappear to other more successful Clubs. So the cycle continues. Unless a Championship club has a ‘Sugar Daddy’ owner who can fund keeping such players in that division out of their own pocket and pay them full time wages whilst they try to get up again, they are stuffed. 

Relegated teams are pillaged for their players on one side and financially squeezed on the other so have to start again from scratch. That can’t really be fair can it? Then there are the four that narrowly missed out on relegation this year. Whilst the top half of the table built their squads for 2020 and with the bottom clubs future’s so much in doubt, no one would sign for them either. Now they are left to scrabble around for the scraps of what’s left in the British game and the NRL and hope for a bit of luck! So, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll all struggle again next year too. 

The only reason that Toronto have been so invincible this season in the Championship, is that they were funded from alternative means, have a rich owner and interest from other broadcasters and thus were last year, able to protect their players in the last close season and retain their assets and build on their core player base again in 2019. 

Then, despite not being promoted, they held their team together and they have grown again this year. London, meanwhile haven’t been so lucky. Their team has been broken up again, yet when you watched them last season they really tried to play expansive entertaining rugby, they had a coach who wanted them to entertain and a lot of young players who took a devil may care, never say die attitude to playing with a smile on their faces. It’s also what Salford decided to do at the other end of the table when no one gave them a chance and look how many friends it has made them! 

However, although that’s entertaining to watch and appealing to the public in the minds of most Coaches and clubs it doesn’t get you enough W’s in the fixtures column. Salford were established in Super League but London weren’t and their emerging talent needed more time and less jeopardy on their shoulders to develop. They didn’t get it so, despite their heroics they’re down. It’s a scenario that is played out year after year and season after season. The system we’ve reverted to in 2019 was better than the ludicrous middle eight stuff of last year, but still too volatile for a promoted team to have much chance of survival.  

Most of you reading this didn’t like it and don’t like me supporting it, I know, but the period when we had licensing and granted Franchises based on a club’s financial stability, systems, structures and ambitions produced a bit of much needed stability and the game thrived. However, these days we seem obsessed with constant and unending jeopardy at the expense of development and consolidation.  For those who vehemently disagree with that, then I would point to the success of the NRL. 

If a team doesn’t perform to a certain standard as a business, they are out on their ear, but otherwise Clubs know that they can build and invest in the future, safe in the knowledge that they will be playing in the elite league next year. They can as clubs build strong sustainable squads which appeal to the fans and, for the TV companies, produce exciting rugby week in week out. If they don’t entertain the game goes backwards so they endeavour to do just that. 

That said, our current system would possibly still work if there was money in the Championship from say their own TV deal and the gulf between the two competitions was less severe. Teams down there could build year on year and prepare for promotion, if they want it, but let’s face it there are teams in the competition that really don’t aspire to promotion, because their stadia, lack of ambition and business models show that!  But there isn’t a TV deal or massive sponsorship to save relegated teams and so if your promoted, the penalties for failure the following year are devastating. 

Indeed, if you’re an established Super League team they are too. Thus, in the bottom half of the table, with a handful of games left, panic reigns and we see teams bringing in journeyman, signing stop gaps and grabbing aging players to ‘save’ them. This is stifling the progress of their emerging youngsters, because with so much at stake, a club’s whole future can be on the line and they can’t be risked.  

The state of our relegation and promotion set up is so volatile that its always safety first tactics wise and we need stability to encourage teams to start playing exciting expansive rugby again. Super League needs to be as entertaining as the NRL is. However, with a salary cap of around £1.9m and the TV income about the same per club, what is the incentive to grow your crowds? James Clark and Co have shown what can be done crowd wise, if you’re innovative and work hard at it, but some Clubs clearly can’t be arsed, because they don’t need much more than the TV money and the gate income from their die hard regulars, to keep going, as long as they focus on not getting relegated. Why should the game in general bother about being entertaining? 

If I were trying to re-engage with the public and grow our audience, I’d get the clubs working harder at it! How? Well I would myself, link the Cap to gates, so with average gates below 8,000 you’d get a basic rate, but above that there would be a graduated scheme that increased your cap as your average gates get bigger. That would incentivise growing your supporter base and clubs would employ people specifically to do that, because it would be worth their while. It wouldn’t matter if clubs offered ticket for a quid if they thought it worth-while to increase their gates, that would be their call, because in the end the final product would see better populated grounds and fewer empty seats on show on TV and in turn the owners would be getting more to spend on players. 

Club’s would, as I say, have to look to play more attractive rugby week in week out, to make the product more exciting and appealing, but you could also appeal to your fans to attend and introduce their friends in the knowledge that their actions would directly impact on the strength of the team going forward. Crowds would grow, the quality of squads would improve, as would the quality of rugby and so TV viewing figures would improve too. 

Times have changed and it’s not only now about bums on seats in the stadia. The media’s involvement in the game is paramount and although first and foremost we have to get people believing that attending games as an entertainment is something not to be missed live, but we also have to increase the breath of the means by which new audiences can be introduced to the game at home. 

In these multi-platform media time we have to etch a TV deal that allows other parts of the competition to negotiate their own arrangements and what’s more we have to look at streaming games on occasions. Last Sunday whilst Featherstone were playing in France Mrs. R was watching the ‘Strictly’ results show on BBC1 and I wanted to watch the rugby on Sky, so I tuned into Sky plus on my phone. I really enjoyed watching the game and suddenly realised how accessible Championship and Division One games could be on there. Too much streaming would affect attendances, but watching occasional matches on the go has a big appeal and streaming, certainly worked when Bradford Bulls experimented with it when they were in Division One and outside the Sky deal, in fact famously for one game, almost 100,000 tuned in. 

Of course when we negotiate the next Sky deal we have to ensure that we look after the broadcaster and make sure they get a deal that ensures they sign up again (or if not get another to put as much if not more in), but then we have to look at either them or another source streaming games with adverts, with a financial benefit to the clubs featuring on the broadcasts. I say this not to create a means of encouraging people not to attend matches, but instead to widen the scope of the sport to the occasional viewer who might just be on the go and looking to watch a bit of the action. We simply have to look at every way we can engage people in the first place and then move them on to attending games.    

That’s just my utopian view of it all and I guess those in charge and many of you reading this won’t agree; getting rid of relegation, how dare I even suggest it? Such a suggestion as linking the cap to attendances wouldn’t get past the Clubs either because they would all look short term at their own circumstances and continue to work in their own insular vacuums, seeing any such initiatives as a threat rather than a real opportunity. In Rugby League we always dumb things down rather than moving them on up. 

However, the game is in a real mess at present and you only have to look at the gates in the first round of the play-offs to see that. Action needs to be taken but whether it will or not, as always with good old rugby league, remains to be seen.  

So to this week’s Codgers spot and we go back to happier times. It’s the 27th November 1988, our new coach Brian Smith has had a mixed start when we lost our first four league games and although things were just starting to come together, we had already had a few of ‘Smithy’s’ famous miracle last gasp wins, one against Leeds at the Boulevard and another unlikely one against Saints at Knowsley Road. Brian was a great, great coach who I remember with much affection, but not many held out much hope for us, as we went back to Saints for a second time in a month, this time in the second round of the John Player Trophy. They didn’t get caught out twice by the same team!!!

We all went over the Pennines more in hope than expectation, and in the end we lost, but the FC Faithful although disappointed and dejected, stayed behind and sang Old Faithful long after most of the 5000 Saints fans had gone home. The game kicked off with us playing into a stiff breeze, but none the less the first two sets were really encouraging with Gary Pearce finishing both with telling deep kicks that pinned Saints full-back Vievers in his own twenty-five. Then disaster struck in the fourth minute, as an insignificant move between Bloor and Dwyer saw Holding break the line as Wilby and Sharp missed a tackle, he passed to John Fieldhouse who sent Les Quirk speeding in at the corner.

It looked like it could be a landslide win for the hosts, but for the rest of the game Hull were at their defensive best and Saints hardly had a sniff. Eastwood landed a penalty after 12 minutes and Laughlin replied with another for Saints three minutes later. The referee Mr Volante from Halifax went mad on penalties in that half, in fact he awarded on average one every two minutes of which 14 were to Saints. This was largely because the Hull pack brilliantly led by Dannett, Boyle and Jackson, tore into the Saints side and completely knocked them out of their stride. We swarmed all over the hosts, giving them little time to think, never mind play the open expansive rugby that they were famous for.

Despite missing loose forward Gary Divorty, whose wife went into labour four hours before the game, his deputy Jon Sharp was everywhere, and behind the pack Craig Colman organized and encouraged the play. After twenty minutes firstly Dannett, and then Welham, drove at the heart of the Saints defence, the latter getting up quickly to play the ball to Jackson. Lee fed Coleman, who dummied twice before sending a superb long range bullet pass to Sharp who took the ball into the advancing defense before turning inside to Welham who galloped over the whitewash. Eastwood missed the conversion wide out and a Loughlin penalty ten minutes later saw the scores tied at 8-8. Then just before the hooter, Eastwood re-established our lead converting the games 20th penalty, after Haggerty had almost pulled centre Moon’s head off, as he shot through a gap we were standing.

The second half was just as exciting and our pack again shone throughout. The referee had, as they so often do, decided that enough was enough, and only awarded 5 penalties in the second period, although 4 of them went to Saints. After 61 minutes we broke out in our own half and Pearce dummied his way through the line to feed Wilby who galloped 30 yards before turning the ball back inside to put Sharp in under the posts. Somehow however as we celebrated, Mr. Volante saw a forward pass and the score was ruled out. As the game wore on ‘Porky’ Pearce dropped a great goal whilst Eastwood got another penalty and Laughlin bagged two. So we went into the last five-minutes one point up at 13-12.  

Then disaster struck again! Finishing without doubt, the stronger, we pressed and pressed and the home side was on the rack as we laid siege to their line. Then Sharp failed to take a Dannett pass that would have seen him score, the ball went to ground, and Fieldhouse pounced. Quick as a flash he fed Bloor who whipped the ball wide where, despite a real chase from 4 FC players, O’Connor outpaced everyone to score a heartbreaker in the corner. 

The try was timed at 76 minutes, and Laughlin missed the conversion, but we just couldn’t get back at the Saints and in the end we lost a titanic battle16-13. Anyone who was there will remember the game and the way Alex Murphy the Saints Coach ran on the field at the end obviously relieved at the outcome. We were to have some notable victories later that season, including a brilliant 35-20 win at Wigan in January, but as losses go there was none more memorable or indeed more heart breaking than that Sunday in St. Helens. 

 So there we are the players are on holiday, we’ve seen a great appointment of assistant Coach and season ticket sales are moving towards 4500, so not a bad two weeks I guess. There is little doubt I think that at a time when you’re not playing games as a fan all you want is good news and hope for the future and with next year’s squad and the recent goings on we have certainly got that. 

This week’s Diary gave me a chance to look at what I think is ailing the game and there is, when you start to look closely, quite a lot! Sorry to go on a bit, but we are I think as a sport in a bit of a mess. Thanks for reading the Diary and for all the correspondence I have received. The appointment of Kieron Purtill certainly woke us all up a bit and from the contact I got from all of you, it was a move that was met with unanimous agreement. The next Diary will be out around 20th October, let’s see what progress we have made by then. Thanks for your continued support!

Enjoy the break! 

Faithfully Yours 

wilf