The Dentist’s Diary – 703rd

Welcome to Hull FC. Brett Hodgson.

The waiting is over, the result didn’t appear to suit everyone at first, but at times like these I have always said in here that whatever you think as changes are made, we should never forget that Coaches come and Coaches go, Players come and go and owners come and Owners go but the fans go on forever!

That said, for me this is an important moment in the history of the club and the most important thing Brett said on appointment was this, “Whether it’s a win or a loss, I think the effort is what fans want to see and what fans and supporters will appreciate at the end of the day. It’s a big part of English rugby and we’ll be striving to make sure they’re happy”.That’ll do for me, for a start!

So, as predicted in here 4 weeks ago, Hodgson’s got it and as always, the Diary is (and will be) 100% behind him. That said, I’m a fan and as such allowed my opinion. So, I have to say that, as an unproven Head Coach it was still a bit of a surprise and a lot of fans reading this will have shared a bit of an initial feeling of being a tad underwhelmed when the announcement was first made. 

One or two on social media went spare, but some would go on a rant if we won the Grand Final, but no one had polished the trophy properly beforehand. However, what I would say to them is that there’s been an expression around the place for years that goes, ‘In Adam we Trust’ and after what he’s done for all of us that’s just how it should be. It’s his money and his risk. Furthermore, taking on board the year we’ve all had and the state of the game in general, Hull FC can in many ways be described as being in, if not the last chance saloon, at least a bit of a worrying state. So, we all have to do just that! Trust our Owner, for he has been pretty canny over the years and in many ways at present he has a lot more to lose than any of uslot. 

Now the new Coach is in place and good luck to him, he’s looking good and making all the right noises, so let get behind the bloke and move forward again together. 

To the sceptics I would just say no-one had even heard of Brian Smith before he came to the Club, but I can to this day still see him leading his players to the adoring fans at the Boulevard as we got to our first Premiership Final for years, as  ‘Keeping the Dream Alive’ rang out from the stadium speakers. Let’s hope that Brett can emulate that.

In a life time of a supporter, it is pretty customary that we don’t look at years, or seasons or even decades to connote our memories, but rather we point to whoever we had steering the club from the top at any one time. That’s how many of usbenchmark our lives and so, this is without doubt another important moment in our history. 

For me, The Brian Smith era, the Bunting Years, the reign of Roy Francis, etc. etc. sort of proves the point that we signpost our lives with Coaches. So, the announcement on Wednesday indicated a big day for Hull FC, as we all set off into a new era for the Club. 

To be honest the appointment didn’t surprise me much at all. As I have told you all before, I was present at a Danny Houghton Testimonial Lunch at the KCom in 2017 when Adam told me and everyone on our table, that we came within a whisker of appointing him as Assistant Coach to Lee. That,before he understandably reneged on a handshake agreement he had with our owner to return to his family and a job in the NRL. At the time Adam implied to us that he saw Brett as a Coach in waiting and he was disappointed that it fell through. So, as I said a few weeks ago, he was my tip for the job, along with perhaps outsider Steve McNamara. 

I really feel for Andy Last though. I’ve known him for years and he’s black and white through and through. As I said on RL fans last week when the news broke, although there is no room for sentiment in Sport, you have to feel for a bloke who has given his absolute all for the cause. Paying tribute to Last, Adam said, “I’d like to put on record our thanks to Andy for the extremely professional manner in which he has handled the second half of our season. He has done a diligent and dedicated job in very challenging circumstances. Following discussions, we feel it is appropriate for Andy to step down from his position within the first-team staff, but we have offered him an alternative position within the organisation, such is the high regard we have for him within our club”. Fine words by Adam but in the end a real kick in the teeth for Andy who must have thought he was in with a chance of becoming head coach of his childhood Club, instead he loses his Assistant Coach position as well.. 

The thing is that he has done nothing wrong and in fact just done what every loyal employee would, in that he did what he was asked to do and made a bloody good fist of it too, in pretty mind-numbing circumstances. Of course, he saw it as a chance to prove himself, but in the main he did it for just one reason; because he absolutely loves the Club. So, my heart goes out to him a bit! 

All that said putting the sentiment aside I get exactly where Adam is coming from. I remember well when I was a manager responsible for operating a dozen or so teams, it was much the same. When a team leader left the easy option was to promote their number two, but you had to look at the dynamics within that group and if they needed shaking up a bit or it was all getting too cosy and affecting output, then the hard option was to overlook the loyal number 2 and bring in some fresh blood with fresh idea, from outside the organisation. It was always the tough call to make, it caused me some heartache, it upset some people and instigated a bit of friction in the short term, but I had to trust my instinct and hope it worked long term. For me, this situation at Hull FC is little different really. 

But again, when all that is said, we’ve all cried out for a change and a shift from the same old internal promotions and ‘Club Hull’ for months and now our wish has come true. In fact, that change has been described by Adam as ‘A New Direction’ and with Brett we certainly have it. Although perhaps for some of us it was not the magnitude of appointment we had hoped for, the guy certainly seems to fit the bill now. What’s more, we do keep Gareth Ellis on board and that has to be a big plus. For me, his motivational skills and drive are great to keep in house. 

Some were sceptical, a few despondent, but most fans were glad at least to see an outsider coming in. The fact is the bloke longs to succeed, for he has spent much of his own time in both hemisphere’s studying training methods and group dynamics. He has been allowed to shadow the England RU coach and those at Manchester United and City and Everton,as well as a top French RU club and that shows not just a wide knowledge of the game, but also a dedication to be good at his job, all that is to be admired.

But People are people and it won’t be easy for Brett coming into a group of players that had been galvanised around Andy in a time of extreme difficulty and with Assistants that have worked with both the last two Coaches. On the other-hand he knows a lot of the current squad already and they know him. The first player he mentioned was Marc Sneyd and there is little doubt from what we read, that he is a Coach who prophesises long and hard about an attacking game which bodes well for all us spectators. 

The fact that Adam is really trusted and respected by the players will help get them through the change and it will have already been explained to them. Anyway, on that score,players are always the easiest to adapt. There was however a hint that he might be bringing an Assistant with him too, so that will help him, if it comes off. 

Those rantings of the vociferous few in their bedrooms with their keyboards won’t have escaped Brett’s notice either, but at Hull FC, he’ll have seen all that before and he’ll just have to get used to it. If he wants reassurance as to what he is coming to fan wise then he only has to read the letter we all received this week thanking us for our support of the club over the last 6 months and included the fact that 90% of the season ticket holders chose to keep their money in there and behind the club. We may be loud and we may be outspoken at times but we are none the less the most loyal supporters in the game.

Brett Hodgson arrives this week so let’s see what happens next eh? 

Now, loads of readers and fans have been asking me this week how Adam is getting on, because it’s all gone quiet of late. We’ve heard plenty from him about the new Coach, but little about his own health. I had a quick chat with him on Fridayand he’s out of hospital and off the Oxygen and doing well, but it’s a long haul back. The support he has received has been phenomenal and I’m sure the fact that he’s making progress is a great relief for us all. 

Well to other things and for the second time in recent years Gareth Ellis has retired. He came back after his last retirement and played some cracking games for us but the depreciation in his knees finally got the better of him. He was told by the Club Doctor that to play on would mean permanent damage in future years and anyway he believes that he may need to have his knees replaced sometime in the future. Gareth said last week: “Whereas the decision to retire at the end of 2017 was very difficult and one I wrestled with for some time, as you can imagine this time around it was much more straight-forward and something I have alluded to throughout this year’s campaign”. 

He added: “The plan is now to pick up from where I left off in 2018 and take up a coaching role at the club, something I’m really looking forward to”. That said, we are all lucky to have witnessed one of the greatest professionals in the modern game and indeed done it whilst he wore the famous black and white shirt. 

The man will always be a ‘Cup Lifting’ hero and frankly he’ll be impossible to replace. He has been a pleasure to watch and on and off the field a real example to any young player who is thinking of making his way in the game. We’ll miss him on the field but as I said a few Diaries back, its important that we keep the guy around the place because he is such a strong influence on the other players. Good Luck Gareth for the future and good to still have you around!

The launch of the new shirt came just too late to be included in the last edition but what a master stroke the design is. Going right back to the 50’s with a vintage badge and hoops that actually go right round (No blank side panels thank goodness) it’s the best shirt that we’ve had for ages. The new suppliers Hummel have come up trumps and at times such as these the Club couldn’t have come up with a more pertinent design which I’m sure will be a best seller. I love it!! 

Tying the launch and the design and badge to the 90th birthday of Johnny Whiteley was again another great idea and featured one of the nicest blokes I have ever met. Never sent off in his career as a player, Whiteley gained the title of ‘Gentleman John’ and that is an image and rationale he has carried throughout his life.

I have spoken with John a couple of times about helping him write his auto-biography, because he has such a wonderful story to tell. However, on both occasions he said he would have done it, but unfortunately, he said, he had only fallen out with a couple of people in the whole of his life, yet to miss those incidents out would not do his story justice however, he would not want to upset anyone or anyone’s families so it was best, he said, if he declined my offer. What a great guy he is! 

The idea of celebrating the life of the great man with the shirt and getting him to reveal it on his 90th was a great one and the shirt as I say does all that justice and more. We’ll sell thousands!

Of course, as the season finished there would always be departures as Lewis Bienek, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Ryan Johnson and Charlie Graham all left the KCOM Stadium. I suppose the most ‘high profile’ is Lewis who none of us were surprised to see leave really. Having had loan spells at Batley and Leigh he has always flattered to deceive and although a massive unit and one who looks good on his video clips from his previous career, he has never cut it for me. He certainly has good leg strength and a real turn of speed for a forward,but his application has never been there, with his constantturning in the tackle and failing to make an impact off the bench being the hallmarks of his few first team appearances. 

‘Chatty Man’ Daryl Powell at Castleford seems to feel that he can make something of him and it will be interesting to see where he gets on a one-year deal with the West Yorkshire Club. He never cut it for us and at a time when money is tight,at Hull FC we simply can’t afford any luxuries. With Albo, Naulago, Ellis, Bienek and 5 other lower profile junior players departing the first team roster, we have a quota space and some money to spare. Good luck to Louis, but I’m afraid he was a luxury we just couldn’t afford!   

Well, the season is over and what a strange affair it has been really. This time of the year usually comes earlier, (if you get my drift) but here we are in late November, just starting to look back on one of the craziest seasons any of us have ever known and trying to make some sense of it all. As usual an edition after we finish I’ll have a quick look at our players this year and see who stood out and who didn’t impress as far as this fan is concerned. This week I’ll peruse the backs and next week the forwards. 

Jamie ShaulWell, he started quite well and did improve a bit as the season went on. The change of tactics needed to suit the new ‘no scrums and six again rules’ seemed to suit him as he became more of a spine player and got involved in play more often. Unfortunately, his year was ended prematurely after picking up a knee injury that will see him miss a big partof next season and for Jamie it couldn’t have come at a worse time. He might in fact be a bit worried. The emergence of Jake Connor at last into a position that he looks to be comfortable in could see Shaul struggling to get back in the team when he returns, although at the time of writing he hasn’t yet signed his new deal anyway. I’m not sure about this one, because Jamie is a one position player, in a game when more and more backs have the ability to play in a few. It’s impossible to know what will happen here. As for this year,well I’ll give Jamie a 12/20

Bureta Faraimo: In Faraimo we have seen one of the biggest improvement’s in a player this year. Bureto, flatter to deceive for me up to lockdown and frankly, I was pretty surprised when he was given an extension to his contract so early in the piece. His positional defensive play was poor, he wasn’t particularly good under the high ball and he just didn’t for me,make the impact he should have. However, since lockdownhis improvement has been quite astonishing and he has been so safe under the high ball and pretty lethal when returning it. His positional defence has improved and he’s scoring regularly at last and so he should be a shoe in to feature out there when we start up again. He has certainly proved to be one of the club’s key players in the closing weeks of the campaign. Last year I was lamenting his form but well done to him, for he has proved me wrong in 2020! 15/20

Carlos Tuimavave: I’ll be talking a bit in these appraisals about players who do a lot that goes un-noticed and that is the case with Carlos. For me, the thing about him is that he also does some spectacular stuff and perhaps his biggest strength is the fact that his form and stats are always up there with the best and they never varies whether we win or lose. All that and 8 tries as well. He is consistently good and his stats show a very low mistake rate throughout the year. It’s certainly great that we have him signed up for a couple more years. Now let’s get him back in the centre where he is, for me, much more effective than at half-back. Great season for Carlos …again! 18/20

Josh Griffin: The second rower who still wants to be a centre! And, why not! Josh has had a great season and is now Hull’s only representative in Shaun Wane’s England squad. He consistently performs at a high level and had the ability to break the line wide out with great effect. Running at his opposite number on a curving ‘run towards the touch line he is so hard to handle and for me he has to stay in the centre,where he is much more lethal than when he has had to be drafted into the second row. His stats as far as meter making go are as good as anyone in the game and he regularly tops that section in our own weekly returns. Top centre for me but let’s keep him there! 17/20 

Adam Swift: Adam made just five appearances after his move from St Helens. He scored three tries but he’ll have to get more involved if he is to make anything of an impact next season. He’s hard to judge really, because since he arrived he’s been out a lot more than he’s been in, but if he can’t get some form next year he needs to be on his way. In fact, for me if we have to cut back he could be one of the vulnerable ones.  Here’s hoping he play’s a much bigger role next season. 8/20

Jake Connor: Well, had I been writing this just two months ago he would again have been the endless enigma that was the nearly man. However, over the last few weeks he has really shown us what we have always known he possessed in his locker. Jake is one of the best creative players in the game on his day, the trouble is until he was moved to full-back, it was rarely his day. That’s a bit unkind really, because he actually started to show up well after Albo was injured and he got a settled few games in the half backs, but for me full-back is his position. He is, as I say, an enigma and our new coach has to somehow get the most out of him, although Jamie’s injury should at least offer him the opportunity to train at full-back from the start of pre-season. He has now to keep that great form going and add to it some consistency, but he’s still a really exciting player to watch. 14/20

Marc Sneyd: My Favourite! (I hear you say) but by his own admission it’s not been one of Marc’s best years, for when he was good he was excellent and when he wasn’t he was at times pretty anonymous. That said in his position as play-maker and organiser in chief, he relies a lot on standing back from the line to work his magic and he needs a lot of protection from his forwards to play his natural game. On several occasions he hasn’t got that and he’s been harried rushed and crash tackled as he kicks. Just recently against Warrington he was imperious and against Wigan he was nowhere. That was completely down, for me, to the fact that our forwards let the Wigan guys get at him whilst against the Wire they gave him much more protection. That said he has a brilliant field and short kicking game and a good passer of the ball. What’s more he has produced some of those trademark special displays on a number of occasions. He tackles well above his weight and more than he should have to do, but you could never leave him out, for he is simply an iconic player for us. He has shown that for several years and he never really loses form or goes through any prolonged spells where he is off it. Give him the service and the protection and he’s the go to guy. We simply need to give him the space he needs to operate in. 15/20

Ratu Naulago. The man for the spectacular try and the one I would have liked to keep the most. There is little doubt that had he stayed in Rugby League with us for a couple more years he could have been seen as another Martin Offiah, because the bloke has an amazing ability to strip the field and score some spectacular tries if we find a way to put him away. His positional play is at time neive and his defence a tad suspect as well. But that’s just inexperience and would have come. However, we will never know what he could have been as he leaves us for `Bristol. He has a quality that is rare in the modern game and that is that he is genuinely exciting, Lee did so well to find him but now he’s gone. He scored 8 tries this year most of which were top draw and I’ll miss him. It’s not easy to find players that can excite the fans, the commentators and the media as Ratu did and we won’t replace him; simple as. However, this year for me he’s done OK, but what he could have done in the future was what is such a disappointment. Good Luck Ratu, we’ll miss you!! 14/20   

Albert Kelly: Simply a legend and sadly a player that has suffered from injury more and more. Yet, over the last two seasons we have still seen some fabulous game changing performances, but also witnessed him more and more ‘playing on one leg’. Concussion has been a problem too probably because of his muck or nettles approach to defence, or because of his perchance to attack the try-line through a pile of forwards, both of which he always did with maximum effort and a performance way above his weight. He would have wanted to leave on a higher note I’m sure, but we should never forget that in Albo we have witnessed one of the best line breaking half backs we have had in the modern era. Great player, big loss but dare I say, I think it was time to go. He struggled for fitness and form in 2020 and a disappointing end to a remarkable stint with the Black and Whites is reflected in his score this year. 13/20 (for Hull FC) 20/20 (ForMcDonalds)

Mahe Fonua: For me perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season. Signed late on almost as an after though by our previous coach, he was designated a marquee player but never got anywhere near that billing. He was at first profligate with his ball retention and poor in defence particularly wide out where he should have been so much better. His early performance smacked of a player that wasn’t fit and one who had enjoyed the acclaim that met his return and one who believed his own publicity a bit. He improved a lot towards the end and started to show what we all know he can do. However, this was a season in which he flattered to deceive and we’ll all be looking for a big improvement next yearHe’ll also be keen to put 2020 behind him and come back flying for a new coach next season. 9/20

Of the Others;-

Kieran Buchanan: There was always something there for me, but he didn’t show his best in his six games in 2020 and in the current circumstances had, I believe, to go. He’ll move on to Batley Bulldogs with our best wishes. 8/20

Connor Wynne: For me he should be one for the future, for he is brave and a good player when he joins the line. However, he already looks to be a one position player and with both Jamie and Jake vying for full-back he might find game time hard to come by. That said having watched him closely, I think that providing we don’t have to get rid of everyone on the fringes to keep the club afloat, I’d give him another season because the lad is courageous and fearless with a great pass and a deal of skill thrown in. What’s more he has some real flair. 11/20

Cameron Scott: For me there is nothing better to see than Cameron Scott put into space and given some room to run in. He however just doesn’t seem to be quite ready and he should have been by now for me. With Griff and Carlos he will struggle to get game time in the centre and his future must be in doubt but he’s certainly a trier and again a brave guy under a high ball against often bigger wingers and centres as well. 9/20.

Ben McNamara: For me perhaps the find of the year. We all know that half backs rarely look ready for the first team before they are 21/22, but here is a guy who at 18 stepped into the first team and didn’t look out of place at all in fact he scored a try on his debut. I don’t know where he will end up and how he will progress but what I liked about him most,was the way that as a young lad he wasn’t phased, didn’t trythe impossible but instead did the simple things well and thusvery quickly he commanded the respect of those around him. He is the epitome of one for the future for me, we have to hang onto him and hope that he continues to progress. He, obviously didn’t play enough games but I’d give him 13/20(to encourage him).

Next week I’ll have a look at the grunt department!

Well since the last Diary the RFL and Super League Officials have confirmed the start of the 2021 Betfred Super League will be delayed and say the annual World Club Challenge may be played later in the year. The season traditionally starts in late January or early February but, because of the lingering impact of the coronavirus pandemic, is now likely to kick off in late March. That will certainly suit the Super League clubs as they prepare for the likelihood of games continuing to be played behind closed doors or at best in front of reduced gates at the start of the season. Much of that of course depends on vaccines. 

As well as home and away matches and a Magic Weekend in Newcastle, teams will play four loop games to provide them with 13 home games whilst Championship and League 1 clubs are looking at starting their campaigns over Easter, by which time it is likely at least some fans could be allowed back into grounds, while playing the early rounds of the 1985 Cup probably behind closed doors in March.

So, there we are the week started quietly with a launch of a great new shirt and then went into over drive with the news of our new Coach and perhaps some incoming signings too. It’s never Dull at Hull is it?  

As for our new Coach well, whilst as I said earlier, I was fully in support of Andy Last I have said in here for ages that we needed some new blood and something different to shake the players out of the inertia some of them seem to descend into from time to time. However, I have to say that after an early wobble I’m pleased with this appointment for Brett seems to be a guy who really knows his stuff. With the Sky money going down by 240k for each club next season he could prove to be real value for money. He may be a gamble but appears to be a real student of the game. I know that is nothing to go by but he has certainly come across well in his interviews to date and I’m sure Adam will have done his research and obviously rates him from his last spell at the club. I don’t think he would have got a three-year contract if he didn’t! What’s more,hopefully he’ll increase our access to talent in the NRL in future years.

Like me and the Diary most of the fans will get right behind the bloke, anticipate a more attack minded approach to our game plan and hope … and there we go again with the most used word in the FC supporter’s vocabulary. Hope!!!!! 

But from me at least that’s it for this week. Thanks as always for supporting a pretty ‘Brett Hodgson loaded’ Diary and for all your feedback this week, I’ll be back next week, let’s see where we are by then eh?

Keep Believing and stay safe! 

Faithfully Yours 

Wilf