The Dentist’s Diary – 694th

Just when you thought it would never come back, how great it was to be a smiling FC fan again come 10-00pm on Thursday.

On any given night the Hull FC of late would have lost that in those last few minutes…. but some real resolve and a bit of pure magic got us home. 

As the players left the field, one things for sure, the strains of ‘Sweet Caroline’ weren’t heard echoing around the Stadium! For although we had witnessed one of the more brutal games since lockdown, we battled and came through and although we still made those mistakes that put ourselves back in danger time and again, it was a determined and gritty performance. 

Of course, as a display it was certainly flawed and far from perfect, but the spirit was back and some brilliance from Sneyd and Connor got us the win with two minutes to go, and how we all needed that!!! 

Never ever underestimate what Marc can do if the forwards are performing in front of him, as on so many occasions before, a win snatched from the jaws of defeat, was down to his vision and execution. A bit of a prophet in his own land is our Marc, yet one day in the future we’ll all look back on him and realise just how good he is! 

It wasn’t exciting because of the rugby we played, for we made  the same old mistakes out of yardage and in defence near our line, but we showed spirit and a never say die attitude which made for some real drama. That’s all any of us want to see at times like this. As fans we needed a lift and I for one did feel my heart beating faster, I was watching through my fingers at times, I did think we had no chance at the end and I was out of my seat when we scored that final try; in short for this supporter, the roller coaster was back, there was a bit of tension again and boy did I need that lift!! 

So, mistakes, yes, bad options, at times of course and several other teams would probably have beaten us on that form, but for once who cares, for we won and those players certainly put a grin on everyone’s faces again. 

What fired us up? Well perhaps it’s something about us playing Castleford and of course, don’t ever discount the X factor effect of their smiling Coach.

I wondered beforehand if we would give the youngsters a go because many feel with the season all but over for us, we should be giving youth their head. I guess it’s a fine line because everyone can see the benefit of doing that, whilst  Adam and Co. have to find something to somehow ignite the fans fervour again, for they desperately need to sell some season ticket for next season. 

Perhaps the only way to start that process is to be winning games on a regular basis again, so as to fire the enthusiasm of us all, although after what came to pass in West Yorkshire on Thursday night, I guess a bit of passion and the right attitude goes a long way to sort that too. Many fans just want the season to be over and for us to make plans as to how we will survive as a Club. Indeed, perhaps we need to know too, how we can perhaps help that effort.  

When the 21 were announced, the loss of Griffin and Houghton was a big blow, because Griffin has been a massive yard maker for us, whilst Houghton has come good since being dropped to the bench. But ‘Tag’ was back as was Sneyd however, when the team was announced on Thursday I was dismayed to see both Ma’u and Shaul out too and that made the whining of the Cas coach all the more irritating when he said beforehand that Castleford were ‘decimated by injuries’. What does he think we were then? For we lined up without Ratu, Shaul, Ma’u, Houghton, Jones, Swift, Kelly and Ellis. Not exactly at full strength ourselves then!!!

What’s more, that pocket handkerchief of a pitch at Wheldon Road was always going to offer the usual home advantage for that always makes it a big ask over there. So are the ups and downs and ‘the pluses and minus’s’ of being a fan, it’s never dull is it. In the end and I’m sure as is the case with many of you reading this, I simply had no idea what to expect and it was again more with hope than anticipation that I approached our next hurdle on the way to the end of the season.   

It was I guess good to be playing in a different and traditional  ground, as another slither of normality returned to proceedings, but Cas. own their place and so it was what they wanted to do, but with the amount the Allam’s charge us for game day alone, I can’t see us playing at home at all before the end of this season. 

The game started with us receiving and we put in a good set and a good kick chase at the end of it. Cas came back with a good set themselves but next up we drove down-field and after a good lofted kick by Sneyd, Connor, with great slight of hand,  passed back to Carlos, who put Cameron Scott in at the corner. There was plenty of movement and energy and it was a well-executed try. Sneyd was back and running things! Then as usual within 3 minutes they were in when Lane went to sleep, missed a tackle and they scored under the posts and at 6-6 it was business as usual. We can’t seem to pull away in such situations and the game was back in the melting pot. 

The kick off was then too deep (the usual one a game on that short pitch) and they started on our 40 before we were caught off side and they got another 6, followed by another set restart as we were killing ourselves for energy on our own line. However, on the 14th tackle in our ten-yard area, McShane knocked on. We moved downfield before Buchanan knocked on a good pass from Sneyd. They came back at us and Eden, with our defence at sixes and sevens, walked in on their left to make it 12-6. What’s more, we were doing far too much tackling. Then a big kick found Buchanan out as he dropped it, got clattered and went off for a head assessment. Again, under the cosh we just survived on our line before Mcnamara was on and almost got a 40/20, finding touch with his first action of the game. 

A right mix up on the 6th looked a try to Cas but the video referee over ruled the referee’s decision. However, with so much lost ball and thus backs to the wall defence, we looked knackered. Yet we got a penalty and got down field but a poor pass saw the move break down, but we looked out on our feet already. We were squandering possession and putting ourselves under tremendous pressure as again we lost the ball under our posts on the third tackle. We had then to drop out as we seemed to have done nothing but tackle for 30 minutes. 

When Sao and Satae came on to stiffen up the centre of the field we looked more secure, before a great piece of play from Hull saw us switch play right and then left for Johnstone to cruise in, whilst half the players were still scrapping on the half way line.  Powell was out of his seat again, ‘Whinging for England’ about the referee, but the score stood! 

Then a great tackle by Fonua saved a try on our left before we were forced to drop out but Sneyd’s kick was purposely all along the ground and Moors knocked on. McNamara put in a clever kick and caught them off-side on their line as we started to press before a late tackle got us a pop at goal and Sneyd put us back into the lead. 

We almost got in with a minute to go but the pass went forward and as the hooter went we were quite amazingly in the lead by just two points. 

It was a half in which we had gifted Cas possession and been under the cosh for long periods of the game, but despite the old frailties on our own line, we looked up for it and certainly put the ball about well when we had it. I enjoyed the half more than I had a few this season, but it was the amateur dramatics of Gladys Powell that made it for many; what a moaning Minnie he is becoming. He moaned and groaned about that fracas whilst our second try was being scored, claiming that Joe Cator pulled a Cas player down in the ruck, but completely omitting to say that before that, one of our players was blatantly shoulder charged off the ball. 

Of course, no game is won in one half, as they started the second half with Cook in the sin bin. We had to start our first set ten yards out from our line but we drove down field and Eden dropped a kick. Johnstone went in but was held up, however we pressed their line before Chris Satae got in next to the post and we had got the first score of the half; it was 20-12. We got close again but were caught just short. Cas got in but we were saved after a double movement by ex FC winger Sanderson, before Brad Fash had the ball stolen off him for the second week running. Then of course once again, just when we had a lead they got through, as we bought a dummy on the sixth and Millington got in. It was poor goal line defence that did for us again! 

It was now a 4-point ball game as O’Brian missed the conversion and the next score was critical. Then a superb bit of play out of a tackle put young McNamara in behind the post and we were back two scores in front. He’s going to be a big player in the future for he seemed to do nothing wrong all night. Castleford’s short kick off was just that and made around three yards. Sneyd decided to go for goal from half way, but he missed with a bit of a flapper. 

Connor went down injured which gave us ‘a blow’ as the exertions of the first half started to take their toll, but we were caught off-side on a big up and under and they took possession in our half. We gave away a six again on our line and it led to a McMeeken try and we were back in trouble. 

A rare poor end of set by Sneyd put the pressure back on us and a great little kick from McShane produced the bit of magic he had threatened all night and Shenton was in. 

The conversion was good and with 5 minutes to go, after shading it as the better team, we trailed for the first time in the second half. All that tackling in the first half was starting to take its toll on us and time was running out, so we desperately needed the ball back. Cometh the hour cometh the two main men of the night man and a brilliant short kick off from Sneyd had Connor leaping to get the ball back before a brilliantly weighted kick early in the set by Marc, had Jake time his run superbly, to dive in for a spectacular try. 

Jake then brilliantly took their short kick off, we gave a penalty away on the last play, but held out, for what it has to be said was in the end a good win and a great finale. 

We all want to see us come back after we are down like that, but in honesty few of us thought we would do it. Sneyd was great again, that final dink of a kick was brilliant and throughout he was top notch. His kicking into space at the end of the 6  constantly pinned Cas. back and of course, it was his goal kicks that won it for us in the end. Sneyd knockers take note; get our forwards on the front foot and there’s no-one better.  

As for Connor well is there now any doubt that he is a better full back (or centre) than he is playing in the halves? He was brilliant in that second half and it will be a test of Lasty’s mantra of ‘play well enough and you keep your place’ when we see whether he does just that, when Shaul is fit again.  As for young McNamara well, his Dad will be proud and how good it was to see a very young player get his chance and take it with such aplomb. Many such debut’s in the past have seen youngsters ‘snapped in two’ by the opposition, but with his stocky build and strong legs he looked the part of an old-fashioned scrum half in the Andy Gregory, Kevin Dick mould. He has a long way to go before he emulates those two, but it was great seeing him not trying to win the game himself, but rather controlling his side of the field as Sneyd visibly mentored him throughout. He showed poise and anticipation way above his years.

For me however, the game turned when Satae and Sao came on from the bench as we started to control the centre of the field better. I also thought that our back three of Lane, Savelio and Cator did really well and Taylor as Skipper, led by example throughout. Well done as well to Johnstone who ran himself ragged and produced the coolest side step of the night for his try. He can pass both ways with accuracy too, which some would say is a bit of a novelty at Hull FC. Also, its fair to say that Mahe Fonua had his best game since his return to the club and of course Carlos was spot on again. It was in fact hard to fault anyone for effort, but we still have to cut out those mistakes, because a better team would have been 20 points up at half time after some of the clangers we dropped with the ball in our half in the first 40 minutes. 

 And finally, on the game, at last the totally invidious situation that John Wells is in, as a Sky Pundit and Chief Executive at Castleford, was found out by him being put on the spot by Brian Carney, when he was challenged and asked if the Club he represents backs Powell’s rantings on Referee’s. He spluttered and stuttered and gave Carney a real ‘wait till I get you off air’ look. 

But, it’s ridiculous to have a bloke offering punditry when he has a full-time job with one of the clubs he is expected to comment on. He ought to make his mind up which side of the fence he is on and leave the other one behind!! How the hell can he objectively criticise the players, whose welfare he is responsible for and with whom he rubs shoulders every day. Rugby League eh? You couldn’t make it up!

Afterwards the great Bill Dalton was immediately on the phone to ask me if I’d let you all know that Ben McNamara was only the second player in the history of the club, to make his debut when three generations of the family, Ben, his Father Steve (1989) and his Grandfather Ted (1967), had all played for Hull FC. What’s more amazingly all three made their debuts from the bench and both Steve and Ben scored on their debuts. The only other family to do that, was the Sutton’s when Tommy, Thomas and Mick all played for the Club. So, in front of exactly no-one at Wheldon Road, a bit of history was made on Thursday night. 

I’ll now move onto other things as I pose the question,  are we actively looking for a new Coach, are we still ‘test driving’ Lasty, or is the job already his because financially we are in a real hole at present, who knows eh? I have always said in here that if we continue to lose games on a regular basis and the fans get disenchanted, Adam will have to get a new coach to fire everyone’s enthusiasm, before next seasons tickets go on sale.  

Even at tough times such as these, when there are always distractions, there will always be speculation as to what is happening behind the scenes. So, it was last Thursday, when we read on one RL rumours site hosted by RL journalist John Davidson that we were looking at bringing Toronto Boss Brian McDermott in to take over at the KCom and that we were also courting London Coach Danny Ward to be his assistant. It was also stated that Simon Woolford who has recently left Huddersfield was ‘an outside contender for the job’. That all seemed a bit far-fetched to me. 

However, I’ve always rated Ward at London, particularly when they were in Super League where it’s fair to say he worked wonders. I’ve often also wondered what he would do at a Club that could give him some resources and what’s more, he always comes across to me, as a bit of a stickler for discipline. And boy do we need one of those! 

However, I have never liked McDermott’s rather arrogant attitude to opposing teams and indeed the rest of the game and his record at Leeds was pretty up and down to say the least. When they were good they were very good and when they were bad they got relegated. In addition, I wonder anyway, with Toronto’s negotiations with Super League now in hiatus for another 3 weeks, would it be a good time for him to dip out of there?  

As for Woolford, well, I quite liked the way he worked and he talked a good game, but he lost the team at Huddersfield in the end and as the first thing we need is a few heads banging together that doesn’t seem like a good move either. As I say it’s all rumours, but ones that have enough kudos to have at least got into print last week. We’ll see!

It would be nice as fans to at least be let into the Clubs plans and to know exactly how they see us getting through to next season without gates coming in. We keep getting told these are tough times but it’s hard to know just how tough. It’s also hard to see where we are going with Andy Last and this current squad of players, as the only thing that seems to be consistent at present is our inconsistency. Time as I always say will no doubt reveal all!!   

Well there isn’t much good news around but it was great to hear last week that the FC have signed Wales Under 16 International Jermarie Chatham from community club Torfaen Tigers. Chatham, who is 18, has been with the Welsh side since the age of 12 and made his first team debut at the age of 16. He played in the Tigers’ only game in 2020 to date, in the Challenge Cup against the British Police. He has been courted by several Rugby League Clubs including two others in Super League, but I wonder if Lee Crooks involvement with Welsh youth Rugby has had anything to do with his joining the FC.

The lad certainly started well when he made his first statement to the press as he said,  “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I am over the moon to where I am now. This is something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s a dream come true to see it all happening. I want to thank everyone for wishing me good luck, I’ll keep striving for bigger and greater things.” Let’s see how he gets on, but as my pal Mike over there in Cheshire said of Jemarie’s signing, “I hope that he’s the next Clive Sullivan!” Boy so do we!!!

It was interesting to hear the ramblings and ravings of Ian Watson the Salford Coach after our game with them as he  complained about Dan Sarginson and Luke Yates being suspended. Sarginson was initially suspended for two matches for a high tackle on Jamie Shaul, while Yates received a one-game ban for dangerous contact on Danny Houghton. Come on Ian why the surprise??? Don’t become a perpetual whinger like Powell at Castleford, where there’s only the tea lady left to be blamed for a defeat. You should know by now that no one can predict what the outcome of such kangaroo courts will be and few these days bother to contests their decisions, because its futile, for if you win an appeal, experience dictates they don’t forget and they’ll get you next time. 

We all suspect too that the ’Big Boys’ who can shout loudest often get the benefit of the doubt. For me the tackle on Shaul was dangerous and I said that last week before Sarginson was cited, but that’s just my perhaps biased opinion. 

However, the fact I have never liked Sarginson’s attitude to the game anyway and the news that Jamie had to have not one, but two head tests, (one after the event and another at half time) might have coloured my judgement. I also doubted Watsons claim that Shaul went down on purpose perhaps to get the penalty; complain all you like mate but don’t look for scapegoats. I did question the hit on Houghton too, but thought nothing would come of it and I was more worried about Brad Fash’s controversial tackle on the back of the knee which went by with a warning, but without a ban. 

Watson is a good bloke and as I said last week a great Coach who I’d welcome to the KCom tomorrow and he should defend his players, of course he should, but he shouldn’t be as surprised as he appeared to be about the conduct of the Disciplinary Panel. For across the game the fans have all grown to largely ignore them on the pretext that they ‘move in mysterious ways their wonders to perform’. Salford duly appealed and of course Sarginson got off, but Yates appeal was over-ruled. So, Salford appealed again and again they failed in reversing an action that has rendered Danny Houghton out for up to three weeks. However, it wasn’t so much that, but rather Watson’s whinging response to the initial verdict that got me. OK appeal by all means but don’t get into conspiracy theories and bad sportsmanship, show some style!  Powell at Castleford has always been a whinger and is now quickly becoming the pantomime villain of the sort, but I thought Mr Watson was better than that. 

Anyway, we all need any lift we can get n these dark times so it was good to see Rovers losing again this time at Huddersfield wasn’t it? As my Pal Kathy text ‘So much for the Entertainers’, as that is how they were billed in a Hull Daily Mail headline just 4 weeks ago. I simply replied, ‘Well they certainly make me laugh!’   

Well last week’s musings on the state of the club and how we have got to where we are certainly brought me a bumper bundle of correspondence. Some of you disagreed with my hypothesis whilst most it’s fair to say, harboured similar thoughts as myself. Andy Last sems to agree with my assumption that a lot of what has become increasingly wrong with Hull FC over the last few seasons, is psychological. Last weekend Andy said, “I think sometimes the external guys we sign get hit by how big a club this is. They are drawn to us by our fanbase, size and potential. Then when they start playing games its perhaps a much bigger Club than they anticipated it would be. Some players seem to find it hard to perform under that expectation. They struggle to perform week in week out and they don’t seem to have that pressure at other clubs. But Hull is a big club and the expectation hold huge weight and they struggle with it”. 

Most FC fans you talk to are upset by what they are seeing but some I’m afraid seem to be less enthusiastic about it all than they have been for many years. That for me is a massive issue for sports clubs in general be they Football League, Rugby Union or Rugby League. 

Wins like Thursdays help, of course they do, but what the Club has to worry about fan wise is the amount of us who are less enamoured with it all and the fact that some might be so disillusioned and preoccupied with other things, or indeed just too scared, that they may not want to come back once the attendance restrictions are lifted. That might seem unthinkable for some of you reading this, but I was amazed after last week’s Diary how many people felt a great level of empathy for my comments about the hollow, unreal  feeling of this season and how nothing seemed authentic anymore. Add to that the way things are panning out for us on the field and you can see why some even said that they hadn’t missed going to the KCom much at all. 

I guess the team we all love showing a bit more resolve more consistently might help, they certainly showed some this week but will they next? You know, I do feel across a lot of sports, fans are becoming disconnected with their clubs. It’s hard to explain but what I read about soccer fans and indeed the feedback I got from many fans reading this, bears out that fact. It’s a Strange one isn’t it? 

I won’t labour the Toronto stuff any further for you all know how I feel about that fiasco, but I have to say that the latest revelations about the meeting between the Canadian Club and Super League, begger belief. 

Imagine you were running a national business and a supplier let you down, then wanted to come back on board and reluctantly you invited them to meet you. Imagine then that they turned up with a business plan full of holes, a financial statement that didn’t add up and a lack of overall knowledge of the way forward for their relationship with your organisation. Then, imagine too that they wished to have a better deal than the last one they had with your company and one that would actually cost you income in the long run. Finally, ask yourself if you would send them away put everything in your sector of the business on hold, whilst you give them a month to cobble together a new pitch???? Well that appears to me to be where we are at present with the Super League’s negotiations with the Toronto Wolfpack!!!!

At present Clubs are haemorrhaging money, fearful of losing fans forever, worried about being able to pay their players and thus concerned for their families. Yet those same players are pitching up and playing games, sometimes endangering their health to do it, just to keep the sport afloat. Toronto walked just when we needed them most and what’s more they haven’t paid their players since. Those that are left need every penny to just have a chance of keeping afloat. On that one I rest my case.

This bloody Virus has a lot to answer for because almost everyone I speak to these days has a changed rationale about Hull FC, rugby league and indeed sport in general. Our love for Hull FC hasn’t died nor will it ever do that and we’ll always be there for them when called upon to be so. They have, over the years, taught us to take defeat and disappointment and taught us as well, how important those ‘two imposters’ are when it comes to really appreciating and relishing success when it arrives. But, I guess for us all, there are certainly a lot of other things to worry about at present. 

That’s why I think Thursday’s victory and the way that it came, was so important. 

Our Club have given us some of the best times and the greatest memories of our lives. However, in a sort of surreal environment Sport continues, the game continues and we as a club continue, whilst all around financial issues close in. As those clouds gather we seem to be in a sort of state of inertia about it all. Reader Alan summed it all up this week in an E mail, prompted by my heart searching of the last addition, when he said, “I don’t know if fans genuinely can’t grasp all the ominous signs around them or can’t comprehend the possibility that the club and the professional game itself could actually cease to exist as we know it if things continue as they are. Most fans I speak to seem to have written off this season and like we all do on New Year’s Eve cheerfully believe that the coming year will be much better than the last one”. will be much better than the present one. 

 Alan is spot on, but for me, well at present it’s a funny old time because I guess I just want the season to end and yet I loved what I saw against Cas. It heartened me and gave me the pick me up that I needed. For the last two FC campaigns I wanted the season to end way before it did and that of course for obvious reasons. The problem is this time around I’m pretty worried about what might happen when it does!!! All we can do is hope that everything is OK, that we are back at the KCom next year and that the Club get through this and come out stronger, at the end of it all. 

In the mean-time, as I say, thank heavens for a heart-warming game to boost our flagging enthusiasm. 

Because of the energy we had used defending in that first half,  it would have been understandable had we capitulated in the last quarter, but we showed great resilience and great determination as Cas. came back. 

All round it was a great fighting display, with plenty still wrong as far as valuing the ball and goal line defence is concerned, but we battled right to the death and also kept the penalties down when it all got a bit heated. Sneyd was imperious and Connor at full back, at last a real threat. In the end it provided just the distraction we all needed. 

Thanks again for supporting another Diary and to Bill Dalton, Dick Ollett, Richard Kirk, Alan Smalley and all the other contributors to this week’s edition. Your thoughts, messages, musings and complaints always play a big part in building this tomb every week. Our next game appears to be a week on Wednesday against Huddersfield but these days who knows when it will be? 

Enjoy the afterglow from that game, keep believing and stay safe everyone

Faithfully Yours 

Wilf   

And finally ……