The Dentist’s Diary – 691st

That Was A Great Weekend!! 

I needed the lift yesterday brought, but then again I think we all did. 

So, welcome back at last to a more upbeat Diary! 

…..and to a bumper two game edition in a week that threatened to defined our season as a Rugby League Club in 2020, lose both games and the season was in effect over, win one and we had a bit of hope for another week, win both and it would have been pretty unbelievable. But believe it, we did just that!! 

The league still looks a massive ask, for we are certainly bashed up a bit, but on Thursday Wakey were in a bit of a mess as well, we were nervy and it was error strewn, but a wins a win, under whatever circumstances it comes and at least it was a gritty and fighting performance. Lasty, the man with the most difficult job in rugby league, should be applauded too for giving the kids their head, for their enthusiasm and spirit got us through. Then on Sunday another master stroke from the Coach was again his selection and his tactics and what a heartening and great win that was over Castleford. Who knows what the future holds, but one things for sure, it’s been a great few days for all us FC fans. 

In these strange times when we seem to have more alcohol on our hands than in our stomachs, the virus gets more and more worrying and the RL season, more and more bizarre. We are living in a strange, scary and different world and a weekend like that was just what we all needed.  

It is then hardly surprising I guess that this is a season, when many of us were becoming pretty ambivalent to the whole thing. Admit it, who hasn’t looked to see how many games are left till it’s all over? 

Yet it’s a time our club, if it is to even survive, needs us all more than ever before and as Jacuzzi showed so brilliantly this week with their continued support, we’ll all always be there for it. The whole 2020 competition is becoming a log jam of games, based on simply keeping Sky happy (important though that is). That said, we needed a lift as a group of supporters and by gum we got one. 

For various reasons, this season has so far been a strange one, particularly when it came to being as involved with it all as we were before lock down, which is something that I’ve tried to address from a personal angle later in here! However, I was very proud by 5-00pm on Sunday and for the first time in months, I went to bed with a real smile on my face!

So, as I say, it’s been a week when we discovered that the League is now to be decided with a calculator and likely to be won by a team that has played less games than the rivals around them, whilst the Challenge Cup is the first when every team in the game hasn’t had a crack at it, where draws have been re-taken, teams given bye’s and games squeezed in between League matches. Every week in the game brings new cases and problems for clubs to navigate and several players (including, we found out this week some of our own), are having to play carrying the after effects of the virus.

I’ve watched Hull FC for around 62 years and been there with my Club week in week out, since my first 12/6p, ‘A season for five half Crowns’ children’s pass in 1960 and I thought that I’d seen it all, but I never ever thought that I would live through what we are seeing at present, as our beloved game travels the ‘Choppiest Waters’ it has ever seen. Still, as I say, two wins in varying circumstances this weekend, certainly lifted the gloom and got this supporter at least, back on track.   

When the team was named for Thursday night it was even worse than I thought it would be. I just hoped that some of the ommissions were actually players with knocks, who were not being risked and instead rested for the Cup game, but only time would tell on that one. There were two players listed in the 21 who I had never even seen play in a black and white shirt, but I was also pleased to see Connor Wynne back again at full-back for he’s a player I have always rated. 

Even with Wakefield’s woes, with only 4 of our first 13 players named on the team sheet and 11 out in total, it was certainly a big ask for us to get anything at all from a game that we should have been looking to win, particularly against a team that had only won twice this season. 

So, in St Helens, on a coolish, cloudy Autumn evening, the circus that is the 2020 season continued. 

We got through our first 6 with surprisingly Savelio kicking at the end of it and both sides went through their sets. Connor Wynne looked sharp and a bit of cover defence on the left saw Swift pull their winger into touch in a good position for us. But (anything you can do)  a shocking pass from Connor sent us into touch ourselves. Next up we had to drop out, before Savelio left the field after Houghton nutted him in the tackle. It doesn’t get any easier for us does it? 

Cameron Scott made a good break, but Fonua was needlessly forced into touch. before Bowden, with blood streaming down his face had had to go off too; two down and only 9 minutes gone and it appeared to be business as usual! But a great downfield move saw Connor Wynne dance through the opposition to find Lane running a fabulous straight line and we were in under the posts. We were doing OK and when in possession the ball carrier had loads of options which was good to see. 

We nearly got in again as Wynne threw a big pass out that just evaded Swift, before Connor himself got a bash but came through an on-field head test. A great flowing move featuring Kelly put Swift in as he finished brilliantly with three players on him and we were 10 nil up after 20 minutes, but perhaps critically, Connor missed the conversion. However, typical of an FC side that has taken the lead, we gave the ball away twice in our twenty and Jowitt crashed in. The Wildcats were back in it at 10-6 with their first try in three hours of play. It came after Bowden oblivious to what was happening just sauntered back to the line, as if he was on a Sunday afternoon stroll. Then straight from the kick off Lynne was off down that suspect left again and this time we were caught napping as they scored and in two minutes we’d gone from 10-0 up to 12-10 behind. The momentum was certainly with Wakey and we had to break it, however quite luckily we  got the ball back. 

Lane brilliantly held them up over the line. before Wynne did well to get out of jail over our line and we went down field and forced a really useful drop out after which a great pass from Savelio sent Swift in and a rather unexpected Wakefield drop goal on the hooter, took us in leading by one point 14-13. It was as usual tough going, we’d lost a deal of possession and let a team back into the game again, but at least our line looked a lot better organised than it did last week and our youngsters were all showing great amounts of energy and wanting.     

The second half started with us looking sharp again, but a pass from Connor went to ground as Scott fumbled it. Joe Cator was showing up really well again, getting in loads of tackles and some good carries, but most of all taking the ball right to the line before passing, which is so hard to defend. I like him he plays like he wants to be a Hull player and that will do for me.  

Savelio’s nose was by now spread all over his face and there was blood everywhere. Then a fantastic leap by Fonua got a tap back which ‘eventually’ got us a try after an age of video ‘tooing and froing’ after hero Savelio had crashed in. At 20-13, it was all still to play for and we had now to be smart. A lost ball to Kelly was a bit dubious, before Wakefield went close and got another six when luckily again, a forward pass eased the pressure.

We needed to keep them in their own half and we did it quite well before a Connor kick bounced off a wakey player straight into Lane hands and he was in for his second. It was 26-13 and a three-score advantage, but we all know that’s nothing in this game and this IS Hull FC.  Immediately ‘Rocks and Diamonds’ Connor missed touch on the sixth, but some great defence by Buchanan rescued the situation when a scoot out of the line forced a knock on. Then it was our turn again to do the same and they were in our half and pressing before Tanganoa went in to score and the game was back in the melting pot. We never do things easy do we? 7 points in it with 9 minutes to go. 

It was now really tight and Cator went close, to hand over on their line, but Wynne, scrambling back to make a professional foul and give our line some time, was off for ten minutes and right on cue Tanganoa sailed in again. It looked like we were just throwing it away, but they missed the conversion and it was still a three-point ball game. Then Buchanan ‘worked’ a penalty and we did really well to play out the last 60 seconds to grab a win. 

We’d almost given the game back to Wakefield, but a patched-up team full of kids and fringe players did us proud and it was an enjoyable game in which Joe Cator (70 minutes, 135 Yards and 50 tackles) shone. What a warrior he is and Savelio playing with I suspect a broken nose, was not far behind him either. I don’t know if it was me, but those first team players that were out there almost looked like they had one eye on Sunday, but the young guns didn’t care about that and brought just the energy we needed. I thought Buchanan did well when he came on, Brown was better this week and at full-back Connor Wynne did really well. However, Wakey were under even more adversity than we were and we did lose too much ball and made too many unforced errors. That said, in a season where it’s hard to see the point of it all anyway, it was an enjoyable hit up and most importantly, spine players Connor ,Houghton and Kelly, seemed to come through unscathed. 

So to Castleford in the Cup and the only consolation I took before we started was the fact that although I didn’t see the game, it appeared that the Warrington v Cas game had been a tough old hit up and that we looked to have rested some players for the Wakey game and just got away with it. Plus, we always play better in Cup games …I told myself and hoped! 

With so many first teamers coming back, I wondered most of all whether  their experience could make up for the energy and exuberance shown so valiantly by some of the youngsters three days earlier. I shouldn’t have worried for the call of the Cup was all they needed. 

It was a nice afternoon in St Helens, but there was a blustery wind swirling around the bowl. However, it was sudden death again and  we kicked off and got through the first set but made little progress ourselves when we got the ball back. We then got close, but Shaul put in a poor kick on the last and we surrendered the advantage. Then from nowhere Jamie ran at the ruck, turned them around and broke brilliant to put Kelly away He then easily put Carlos in and it was 6-0 after only 10 minutes. First blood to the FC. It was a great try to get us started. Then we created a good overlap, but Shenton got a hand in to break a good cross field move up and although we pressed from the restart sadly, a forward pass from Connor got Cas out of jail. Shaul dropped a high up and under and although we worked hard in defence, two ‘six agains’ saw Griffin crash in for the opposition. Fairamo dropped the next kick too, but luckily they were caught off-side in another strong position. We were certainly creating chances but we just weren’t taking them. That said at this point our energy looked OK. 

 Shaul got away again brilliantly, but there was an obstruction in the line and Cas were back knocking on the door before fortuitously a high ball found touch off a Cas hand. As Houghton came on earlier than expected we started playing the ball faster, and immediately started to run at them from acting half and a subsequent quick break by Carlos again saw him step inside, pass to Shaul who put the supporting Kelly in. At 12-6 we were doing OK. Then however, we got pinged for a ball steal and Cas were camped on our line again, before injuries to Shaul and Satea gave us a breather. We survived but had to drop out.  

They were pulling us about a bit and thought they’d got in at the corner, but somehow Tumavive managed to dislodge the ball as they went over. Connor missed a drop goal from way out and half time was beckoning with Cas. in possession, before perhaps the deciding moment of the game unfolded before us as a smart interception by hero of the day Carlos broke the Cas. Hearts and a Connor conversion made it 18-6 at half-time.  

Carlos Tumavive had been fabulous both in defence and attack and what a capture for another 4 years he is. But everyone had really tried hard and at times played well too, as we just held our breath and hoped we could hold on. 

As the second half started Shaul was missing with concussion with Griffin moving again to full back, but before we had time to settle a tap restart brilliantly gained by Faraimo catching a ball will a foot over the try line, saw the ball go to Ratu and it was the flyer of old, as he went away to score the try of our season so far. Of course, then still full of our big lead we failed to respond to a short restart and went to sleep, just as we did when we lead against Huddersfield and Wakefield . Cas. got the ball back, pranged down field and scored a good response try. It was business as usual, as just when we had an advantage, we knocked on, in the line, through Faraimo. We got the ball back in a great crash tackle but immediately Fonua fumbled in the next tackle and so did Blair and then Connor and then McShane, as no one wanted a ball that appeared to be more like a bar of soap at that point. 

Then Cas got a brilliant 40/20 that put them on the attack perhaps against the flow of the game, our defence was pedestrian and in went Castleford to bring it to an eight-point ball game as Richardson missed an easy kick. We looked to be throwing a big advantage away again as all of a sudden we had our backs to wall. We continue to make ground but mistakes as well, but The Tigers were little different, as fatigue became more and more apparent.

A certain try brought back for a forward pass, nearly saw us home. And then we broke again before a forward pass to Kelly in the open saw him pull up with a hamstring strain. That could again have been the winner, but it was the usual ride for Hull FC fans; all concern and stress and in a strange way it was good t be back!! It was torture to watch at this point with Ratu also now off the field with a hammy. We’d had the chances to tie it up, but we hadn’t and now we were short-handed and struggling. 

A brilliant Fairamo tackle (he was having his best game for ages), got us out of jail and then Griffin grabbed a grubber behind our line and steamed out 30-meter to relieve the pressure. We got a penalty and Connor opted to kick at goal from 45 yard, probably again to give us ‘a blow’, but converted it in style. Fonua took the short kick off with a brilliant leap and then got a penalty for a late grab. We marched play down field to create the position for Connor to drop a simple goal and we were home. It was hard work, not good to watch at times and we got some worrying injuries, but the effort and passion and indeed the will to win was brilliant. As I’ve said so often in here over the years that’s all we can ask for and anything else is a bonus. 

Some of our players really did stand up for us, Carlos was great Kelly did well, and there were big games for Houghton, Griffin, Shaul (till he went off) Ellis, Fash, Sao and ‘Mr Dynamo’ Joe Cator. But everyone put in a big shift and gave us all the lift we needed. It was a heartening display and I was really proud of all the players, as again for the second time in less than 72 hours,  the lads in black and white did us all proud. Well done too to Andy Last he got it right again!   

The news, on Carlos signing a 4-year deal, coming as it did just before the Castleford game, was just the indication of intention we needed to see from Adam about the future of our club and it was great news. He’s a top bloke, a great trainer, a good role model and most important of all, no trouble at all to the Coach. The security it offers to his family and the player himself is brilliant and it’s good to see such a talented player in his prime wanting to stay around here. It certainly set the scene for a big game for the FC in the Challenge Cup. 

How great it was as well, to see the continued support of our major sponsors Jacuzzi into the 2021 season for it was just the sort of news the Club needed to hear. James Clark and all at the Hull FC need to garner all the support they can get at this time as, if the current surge in infections continues, the likelihood of crowds being allowed back to games must be in doubt. The future of our club, like most others, is again on a knife edge. I guess we will be called on sometime soon to rally around the Hull FC we love too, but how good it is to see such a significant supporter jumping in first. Well done to them and everyone at the Club who has looked after them so well. 

The season certainly seems is in turmoil at present, as games come thicker and faster and more and more teams get touched by infections, what’s more it’s been hard at times to see how the campaign would be finished at all. Yet as seen by Warrington’s desire to play their game against us last week (despite their squad being decimated at short notice by COVID-19 restrictions), there is obviously some sort of agreement across the game to do what it takes to complete things, with the final round of the regular season currently scheduled for Thursday November 12.

That left before this weekend, 60 games to be played across eight weeks, and that’s without taking into consideration the Challenge Cup. For player welfare that was suicidal, so I guess something had to be done. 

Sky would want a rebate if we shortened or curtailed the season, but on that basis, an extension was most sensible, but that could gravely effect player contracts, which usually run out at the end of November. There was also the worry how a longer season might harm preparations for the 2021 campaign, especially as there is very little room for manoeuvre there either, due to the end of season World Cup. 

Step in the RFL to resolve things, and indicate that in case teams are not able to play a full set of fixtures, the table will now be decided by win percentage with teams required to play a minimum of 15 games to qualify for the play-offs. Immediately Catalans, who had played the least games and none under short turnaround pressure, shot to the top of the League. 

 In other word’s some clubs will get to play less games with more time between them therefore accruing better rest and consolidation and thus improving their chances of a win and an improvement of their win percentage. As I said early what a mess it all is, what next, perhaps as Anthony Gelling said, “Let’s settle golden point with an egg and spoon race?”  

If we were struggling for recognition as a game, already this latest development, after all the ‘who ha’ over Toronto dropping out and their fixtures being expunged, and the re-hashing and redrawing of the Challenge Cup, was just another blow to the already rickety integrity of the game we all love. 

So now, that brings me to a personal bit. You know, there are times when I write this diatribe when it would be easy to avoid stuff, but I always think that as a personal journal of an average fan, if I’m thinking something about rugby, then I should come out and open up on it in here, otherwise it’s not really worth writing it every week. 

So, in that vein, I ask myself early last week, ‘How do you really feel about your Rugby League at present?’. Is Hull FC still the most important thing for you after your family and friends? Do you get as upset or elated about losses and wins as you used to? And do you worry more at times about the players welfare than you do about results? 

You see, this fan who in 62 years has often been through Hell, and yet on occasions been transported to heaven, by the Club he loves, there is little doubt at all that up to yesterday, this has been a hard season to watch. 

How do I feel about the game and the club I love at the present time? Well, in simplistic terms, before this weekend I was finding it hard to be as emotionally involved with it all as I’m used to. Yesterday’s win made me realise that it will come and you can tell, I hope, when you read this every week that I’m still as passionate about the game and the club my family has loved for time in memorial and I probably will be till the day I die. But, being passionate about something and being enthusiastic and excited about it are, I’m learning, two different things altogether. 

When we beat Huddersfield and Wakefield I was pleased, but my heart wasn’t beating any faster as I watched the game, nor was I jumping out of my seat when we scored, or tempted to switch off the TV when the Giants did. In addition, during the games against Salford and Warrington, I wasn’t shouting at the TV, hiding behind the settee, or indeed looking for ‘a cat to kick’ afterwards. However, at last during yesterday’s Cup game the old stress and watching through my fingers was back and strangely I was pleased that it was. Before that it wasn’t the old me at all and even Mrs R., who knows me better than anyone, questioned my lack of enthusiasm and fervour thus far. 

Fact is as well, that talking to other folks who have been around the club as long as I‘ve been, I think many of them had those sorts of feelings too. Trouble is, you don’t really know, because everyone’s very loyal and no one really wants to talk about it, or admit that they had cooled a bit on the game, or the club they have supported all their lives. We all needed this weekend badly. 

That wonderful piece by Andy Last sent to all members on Thursday morning was heartening indeed and just the sort of thing you want to read as a fan. He’s had Covid himself and he was open about that fact, but he really did animate how hard the club and the players are working to keep going and to be turning up for fixtures. It was a great rallying call. We all need a bit of hope too don’t we, and the news of Carlos’s new contract further buoyed me and my hope that Adam was still looking to the future. Then that game on Sunday afternoon got me back in the zone again. Of course, the million-dollar question is, why has it taken till this point in the season for me to get back there again? Is it just a bi-product of this damn virus, or as an FC fan, is there a bit more to it? 

Firstly, on the virus, let me say that mentally, (perhaps for the first time since we had some severe illness in the family), I had a really tough time when all this virus crap started. I found it a bit hard to get my head around all the doom and gloom in the media, I thought it was coming to get me and that certainly changed my perspective on most things including no doubt where rugby featured in my life. Looking back, the fact I serialised the books instead of keeping the diary going, was maybe down to the fact that there was no news around, but more likely because I was too pre-occupied to look for any. 

How things ended before lockdown for Hull FC didn’t, I guess,  help either. We saw another humiliating defeat at home, this time by Warrington and the sacking of Lee Radford was left, in many ways, unresolved. What’s more, I guess an internal appointment to replace him, although completely understandable (and great guy though Andy is), hardly inspired me much either. 

At that time, there simply was no news out there at all to lift our spirits.

I think we were all pretty low anyway, as after the first few games of the season the fans knew something was radically wrong with the players attitude and indeed the whole dynamic of the club. You simply can’t fool the ‘speccies’ because they have seen Coaches, Owners and Players come and go and although those owners, Coaches and players may not like it, we know; for we have seen it all before!! Adam eventually cottoned on as well and the rest is history!

So, there wasn’t much optimism about, which is an important ingredient for retaining enthusiasm. Once we got back playing behind closed doors, at first it was a bit like watching a computer game with matches at the same ground, one after another. Traditional game times were abandoned and the rugby we were watching was for me, just a more brutal version of ‘tig and pass’. At first the six again rule and the tap penalties instead of scrums was making the game a bit of an absurdity. In a normal season they would both be good changes, I’m convinced of that, but when combined with short turn arounds, clubs decimated by injuries, testing and layoffs for the virus and thus limited training, it was visibly ‘killing’ players and that is not good to watch at all. At least this weekend we seem to have got rid of those blow out scores and there have been close exciting games, but that’s probably also a bit about everyone being  totally knackered.   

I think we all understand as well, that in 2020 the world and sport is something that’s just so unpredictable and so winning games means far less than it did in previous seasons, anyway.  

All that and then there was the fact that if we actually mange to get back to watching games live, and it looks like that might be a big if, I don’t know myself if I dare go back to those packed toilets, or have people pushing past me throughout the game to get to the loo, or indeed face the queuing to get into the ground, or the rush to get out at the end. Everything was all seemingly getting better, and confidence was growing, but now things seem to have taken a turn for the worst and there are worrying signs across the country. It all sounds like I’m a real wuss, doesn’t it, but I’m being honest here. As a 70-year-old with a dicky chest, I’m pretty wary about attending games yet I’ll feel really guilty if I don’t go!

I guess as well sometimes it’s just down to what we’re missing. In a busy and stressful pre virus world sometimes in the past the only normality we had in our lives was the ability to go to games every weekend to watch our heroes and be a part of a community that was divorced from everything else. We were amongst friend and like-minded people, it was something to look forward to and an escape, and I guess, a safe place to be. Again, that ain’t happening now is it?

Fact is though, this weekend has changed things for me in the current season and I’ve got my enthusiasm back a bit too. As for the future well, I’ll always love Hull FC, they are my Club and thus embedded in my DNA. In addition, I’ll probably subscribe to my season ticket direct debit, (I know that I’m lucky and I can just about afford to do it) ad infinitum, get there when I think it’s safe to go and indeed, defend MY CLUB till the day I die. I’ll write about them every week in here and if they are ever in trouble I’ll support them. What’s more if they are in danger of going under, I’ll be there on the frontline fighting to keep them going. None of that is in any doubt but in the short term, it was great to get a large chunk of my appetite for the game back yesterday!

The fact is that I’ve just tried here to bottom how I was feeling about the sport in general because I don’t think I was on my own and what I guess I’m trying to say is that although I love the Club and everything about it, all this Covid business and some of the other things I’ve mentioned above had conjure up the perfect storm and so conspired to temporarily change my relationship with the game. I needed a good win and a heartening couple of displays and I got that in spades this last few days. 

So, it’s great to be back but I’m still hoping that 2021 will bring a new dawn, a new season and us all back in grounds watching the team we love in safety. For optimism and hope are things we have to cling to.  I’ll always be FC till I die, therefore I guess in a nut shell, I just hope that one day I wake up and things go back to how they used to be, for those were the best times of my life. I don’t suppose I’m on my own on that one either!

So, there we are, I’ve had a great weekend rugby wise and it was just what I needed. I like winning but when it comes to my Club these days, I want tons of passion, playing for the shirt and leaving nothing on the field and I guess I got a deal of that yesterday!

One things for sure, it’s great to be hearing from you all and trying to make some sense of all the stuff that is going on at the Club and in the game. It started being a mundane old week which ended brilliantly. 

So, we move on to the next one and the next instalment in the mess that is the current season as we face Wigan in a tough old game in the Quarter Finals. All we can ask for is the same passion and wanting we have seen of late and then anything can happen. We just have to all battle on and get through to the end of the campaign. Well done to Andy Last, who has really done brilliantly in some of the most difficult circumstances any coach could have ever faced. Congratulations and well done to all the players this week, as they go forward, lick their wounds get patched up and look to go again against Wigan. It’s going to be really hard but who knows?? 

Thanks as always for all your support this week! 

And finally, to end this week something of a public service announcement that may be of interest to you:

England v Australia 

Rugby World Cup 2021

 A friend of mine has two tickets in a corporate box for this game. He paid £300 each, but he didn’t realise when he bought them that it was going to be the same day as his wedding. If you are interested, he is looking for someone to take his place.

It’s at Beverley Register Office at 4.30pm. The bride’s name is Helen, she’s 5’4″, about 8 stone, quite pretty, has her own income and is a really good cook.

Keep Believing and Stay Safe !!!

Faithfully Yours 

Wilf