The Dentist’s Diary – 704th

‘All is calm all is Bright!’

It’s certainly been a quiet old week and I’m not sure at present (Friday night) if our new Coach has even arrived in this country at all. That said, I’m not sure either whether he has to go into quarantine or not on arrival anyway? What’s more, at the time of going to press it’s certainly been quiet on the transfer front and on what Andy Last has decided to do with his ‘job offer’ as well. Paul Cooke had some strong thoughts on that last one this week in the `Mail’ and I’ll be dissecting that article in some detail in here.

However, here we are with just the first of no doubt a lot of shorter closed season Diary’s, but I do hope you find something to interest you, on these wet, dreary and short winter days.  

Firstly, as I say, we do know that our new Coach has left Australia at least and indeed got as far as Japan, but now of course everyone is preoccupied with speculating on new signings coming into the club. It’s what fans do at this time of the year anyway, but we seem to be dropping behind the pace a bit compared with other clubs, although  as we have already seen at Warrington, Wigan and Huddersfield, some players may have to leave before others come in. 

Of course, at the FC some have gone already and ‘homesick’ Jones is, we are told, on his way out too, but economics dictate many teams might go into next season lighter on numbers anyway, simply because there are still so many financial uncertainties surrounding Covid. With crowds still not nailed on for next season and other costs unknown, it is going to be hard indeed. One big concern is whether clubs will be paying for testing? No one actually knows where we will be with vaccines by then, but if clubs are still having to test their players on a weekly basis, then according to figures released by SL that could amount to £120,000 per team, per season, which each individual club will have to find from their existing budgets. We have a reduced level of Sky money too next year and we’re still unsure when we will see the return of maximum crowd levels, or indeed what impact that will have on the sport and the clubs when they the fans do return.

All that said, it doesn’t stop the rumours does it and of course the biggest one this week was the pretty unlikely Benji Marshall story, that no doubt his agent hyped up to get maximum coverage in the Australian newspapers. I expect that was done to perhaps get him a deal for another year over there. Of course, the figures quoted went up like a balloon in the media; which is I’m afraid, quite natural in such situations. However, to think that in our current position as a club, Hull FC would be considering offering the player £400,000 is just ludicrous and something I’m surprised anyone believed; but of course, some did whilst others chose to give it credence in the spirit of a good story!! 

I mean to say if and it’s a big if, Adam had that amount burning a hole in his back pocket, I’m sure that he would be out there trying to secure at least three players with it! Fact is of course, although we had spoken to him the rest was all just agent/paper talk and the bi-product of a bit of greed and a lot of lazy reporting. As for Marshall, well if he had come for a year he would have done great things for our game and indeed our club as far as exposure and profile was concerned. No doubt, he would have sold a few hundred extra season tickets and made a big media splash for the British game. but would he have cut it at his age in Super League? Well injuries would be a worry, although watching him this year in the NRL there is little doubt that had he got going with the FC, he would certainly have made an impact, for he is still a great talent. In the end after this terrible year such expenditure on a 36-year-old guy would have been just ridiculous really and could well have been seen as just another ‘Sonny Bill’ moment. That said, there was a deal of interest in the story in the NRL as the papers over there were still trailing a headline ‘Benji Knocks back Monster Deal’ as recently as Wednesday. 

So, it was exciting whilst it lasted, but I’m not losing any sleep about whether he’s coming to Hull FC. However, we had at least approached his agent and the player and the fact that we have actually talked to players of the quality of Benji and indeed Hastings has to be a good sign. As for Marshall, well I did see the benefits commercially of his signing but at his age and at this time, I doubted the validity of the economics of it at all from the off. Watch this space? I seriously doubt you’ll need to! 

I’m told that the Club will be releasing tickets details for 2021 in the next few days and that they are really thinking deeply about what to do with 8000 season ticket holder if say the government dictates that only 4000 can attend at first. It must be a real dilemma for then although I would say that if the virus is still around in numbers, then a lot of the more vulnerable folks like me, will think twice about attending anyway at first. Not because I am not aching to get back to watching my team, because I certainly am, but simply in the first instance, because we might be just too scared to do it. 

If I were them, then the first thing I would do when things become clearer is ask season ticket holders if they actually intend to attend the first game, because unless things change drastically I’m sure a lot won’t! It’s certainly an issue but one that I’m sure we will get over. That said, one thing I can tell you is that the club is so thankful for the way that the fans have stood by them and literally kept the whole thing afloat. They are so grateful for what we have all done and want to do everything going forward to ensure they keep everyone on side and rewarded in turn for their loyalty. With Adam and Clarky at the helm that’s never been in doubt really, and we will, I’m sure, be seeing more about that in the coming weeks.   

Now I did wonder what would happen about the player of the year awards this season and indeed whether we would be having any. In the past the celebration has been one of the off-field highlights of the season and a big earner for the commercial side of the club. But undeterred last week our administration went ahead with a virtual celebration. What’s more, how good it was to see Joe Cator getting the recognition he deserves when the announcement were made last Wednesday. What a difference a few years can make as a guy who was an avid fan, that never missed a game home or away suddenly finds himself playing for the Club he loves. Not only that but then in his first season he becomes the Fans Player of the Year. Something no doubt he himself had voted for in the past! What’s more it was thoroughly deserved! As for the rest of the awards well Carlos certainly deserved all the accolades he got for he has had a brilliant year in really tough circumstances. 

However, whist we are on awards, I have to give a big well done to my mate Bill Dalton who was presented with the Clubs ‘Volunteer of the Year’ trophy. Bill has so often provided us here in the Diary with such inciteful and interesting stuff about all things historical as far as the club we all love is concerned. His records have to be seen to be believed, as he approaches the club’s statistics from all possible angles and so can come up with even the most difficult answers really quickly. What’s more, he guards and cherishes those records with unending dedication and love. Often the unsung hero of great Daily Mail and Club stories the guy is just an absolute mine of FC information both succinct and trivial and the club would be a lot less of an interesting place without him. He has been a good friend to the Diary over the year and I am so pleased he has got the recognition he deserves from the Club. Well Done Bill!

Well, it was hardly a surprise when we heard over last weekend that Josh Jones was wanting away was it? The guy has, we are told, been struggled with recovering from Covid, but he’s hardly pulled many trees up in his time at the Club has he? He started OK, but nothing special, in a team that stated spectacularly against Leeds before it lost its way and confidence and looked pretty ordinary until lockdown. 

That awful loss to Salford, after we recommenced, was the last game in which he played for us and even if he was fit in the last few weeks, (which we’ll never know for sure), there was no chance he was going to dislodge Ma’u, Cator, Lane or Savelio who have all played really well. I won’t miss him really, although as an international second rower he was a massive signing when we captured him. He’ll say that he was unsettled and couldn’t get used to Hull FC, but he never made much of an effort to move here and indeed, he commuted from Manchester for five days every week. Not being able to settle is an old one that we have heard before and one that usually covers a multitude of other reasons, best not revealed. 

The guy has had Covid and struggled to get over it and I sympathise with that, of course I do! But the fact is he knew where Hull was when he signed, he knew the distance and the issues it threw up, so any reasonable person would have simply made the decision to either relocate or commute. Then whichever he did, he had to ensure that he got on with it and didn’t grumble about it almost immediately he had signed a big money contract. And…. he is on big money!  

He never really integrate or mixed with the squad and so, on that score I have little sympathy with him at all and as a club I don’t think that we should simply let him walk away without us getting a fee and if there is a bit of haggling involved that holds his deal up, so be it! That said, I guess we need his cap space for any future signings we may be making, so a quick deal involving a fee changing hands, would be best all round. 

I know times have changed and things are different these days. However, because I’m an old bugger I always remember Arthur Keegan our brilliant full-back from Dewsbury who played for us in the 1950/60/70’s for a total of 13 years and was player of the year for 7 of them. He worked full-time, but still manage to commute to Hull at least three times a week after work, for training and games. He lived in Dewsbury and made the journey by either car or train and that in the days before the M62!! Jones knew what the crack was, so although as always I wish him luck, I have little sympathy for the guy myself. 

I’m not a big fan of my next subject, but I guess that goes back to old wounds and me being a bit staid in my ways, but rest assured, Paul Cooke has never been top of my Christmas Card list. However, I’ve mellowed and from time to time in here I have certainly complimented some of the stuff he puts in his Hull Daily Mail column. That was the case this week when he argued the fact that poor old Andy Last had painted himself into a corner when he took the coaches job and now with him being dropped down the pecking order, (if he takes the job he has been offered), he is in a pretty invidious situation. Andy took the reins because he loves the club and battled through some of the toughest times that it has seen in its history. What’s more the team was a much better looking outfit when he left, than we were when he took over. Something that when taken holistically, was all we could really have wished for. 

However, in agreement with a lot of fans a clean break and an outsider was what Adam settled on and so it left Lasty high and dry. Cooke suggested that his future now lies away for the KCom and although that would be a sad development, I could see his point. 

Those of us who know Lasty however, also realise that the guy is black and white through and through and as such he must be in a terrible quandry. He saw his future at Hull FC a Club he has supported since a lad and who have as Cooke said, employed him for more than half his life. He stepped up when called upon to manage a group of guys who were his mates and do it through a pandemic during which he got Covid himself. If he wants to be a head coach in the future, then he must move on because at FC he’s obviously not seen as the man to fill that role. What’s more, he may never now be that person!! So perhaps he has a big decision to make. 

I have to say I thought Paul Cooke put the situation perfectly and gave an opinion from the angle of a bloke who had been there, done that and now chooses not to do it anymore. Why? Well simply because Cooke has seen the pressure that the position brings and how it makes someone a hostage to fortune, he’s been there and thus knows exactly what it is like on the inside. 

However, that same interview did throw up an interesting fact few knew about, when Cooke actually confirmed that he was once offered the Assistant Coach job at Hull FC. It was under Peter Gentle in 2012 and boy how I cringed when Pete told me about it back then. One things for certain in that it have rattled a few cages amongst the intelligencia on the terraces and message boards back then, wouldn’t it? 

Cooke said, “I was offered a part-time role for what I was told by the head coach of a Super League club would be treble the amount of money I was being paid 9In Rugby Union) at £18,000 for a couple of days coaching back in rugby league. I duly turned the offer down as it clashed with the two days I was coaching at the Doncaster Knights and as I explained I was only prepared to walk away from the Knights on a handshake if I wasn’t enjoying coaching not for material gain. Ironically the club in question, yep you guessed it, was Hull FC in 2012”. 

For me though the article was in fairness a real insight into the role of assistant coaches in Rugby league and more to the point the awful position that Andy now finds himself in. I’m sure that he is a man who if he does have to walk away from the Club he loves, will do it with a tear in his eye. It’s a sad old situation all round really.  

On Wednesday we heard from the RFL that the Reserves League is to be disbanded again next season and that is a difficult one for fringe players to swallow really. With no duel-registration either next season the chances of game time for some players will be limited. It’s really ironic that if a team steers clear of injuries then it’s good news for everyone except for the players on the fringes that are pushing to get into the starting line-up, as now they will struggle to show their potential against ’real’ opposition. Loan deals are the only way out of that conundrum and they will perhaps have to be mainly of a short term nature, with clubs running on smaller squads  

So, to the second part of my personal Player Review from the 2020 season, when I have a look at the forwards. As always it’s just a matter of opinion of course, but here goes.  

Scott Taylor: Scott is 100% Hull FC and I would always have him in my team simply because of the passion and wanting he exudes on and off the field. However, everyone would agree that he must have had a frustrating old year because all he wants to do is play. He set out well at first but only managed four appearances after the first national lockdown, mainly  through injury. However, as I say firing on all cylinders Scott is our best Prop and for me he has always been real Captain material, so his score only really reflects his appearances 12/20

Danny Houghton: It’s certainly been a bit of an in and out year for our Club Captain as well. Before lockdown he struggled and actually admitted to having lost his appetite for the game which, if you know the bloke is a pretty worrying state to be in; particularly when you’re the Club Captain! I worried because I wondered if  we had seen the best of Danny and whether all his high action tackling stuff over all those years, had seen him burn himself out. However, he used the enforced hiatus to re-focus and accepted the fact that Andy Last felt (as many of us did) that he would now be most effective coming off the bench and so it was. He found his mojo again and was back to form coming on after 30 or so minutes and staying on until the end. I think he has found his best spot coming on off the bench and a good 2021 beckons for a guy who is 100% Hull FC. 13/20

Chris Satae: Chris has had a good first full season with the club. He is an ideal impact player from the bench and has made a big difference in so many games. He not only brought massive impact but changed the state of our go forward and he looks a brilliant signing. He’s so direct and scored a couple of tries too, so looks to be a real handful. One year left on his contract but one to keep for me, if possible. 14/20. 

Josh Jones: Started OK, faded and then we didn’t see much of him at all. Had bad luck with injuries and Covid, but as I said earlier sadly lacking in application both on the field and travelling to it!! However, he’s off and we move on.  9/20

Manu Ma’u: This is a guy who has a big presenceon and off the field. Branded the Tongan terminator, once I’d got over the hype, what impressed me most was the amount of work he does un-noticed. Yes he’s a great wide running forward who can break the line, but his work rate is really good and I think he could be in for a big season next year. He provided an aggressive and powerful partnership with Josh Griffin on the left edge, which can only get better as well. 14/20

Ligi Sao: Ligi is without doubt for me the best closed season recruit from last year. Making 18 appearances in total he is such a powerful player who just puts his head down and goes for it. He hasn’t had a bad game in the black and white and is another one that you would hope our new coach will get at lot out of. 17/20

Joe Cator: Joe came to the club a bit under the radar compared with a few of our other signings and I wondered whether it was a good move or just an old pals act again from Lee. However,from day one he has been a revelation. An all-action player who has taken over Danny H’s title of the tackling machine, the guy simply chases everything. He’s been one of the best loose-forwards in the competition, if not the best this year. He struggled to get to Super League fitness levels at first, but next season he will undoubtably be one to watch from the off and for me, the skies the limit for him. 17/20 

Jordan Johnstone: Drafted into the starting hooker role under Last Jordan has a great pass on him and looks to be a real one for the future. Starting games with aggression he has given his all before handing over to Danny and I think he’ll do a really good job for us going forward.He still struggles to produce the same level of performance from game to game but that will come and you get the impression that there is a lot more to see from Jordan.  13/20

Masi Matongo: If any player could have been said to have a poor season, that player would be Masi. A great kid with a big heart and a lovely demeanour, he simply couldn’t get going. It’s something that is probably a reflection on the fact that away from rugby he has had a really tough year at home. The thing about Masi is he doesn’t make much of an impression at all at the point of impact. He should be rearing up the yards by now but he isn’t! The problem is he has slipped back down the line behind some of the other forwards and so has only played 5 times. He has to do something next season, if he’s still here, but all in all a season to forget for the lad.   9/20

Brad Fash: Whilst Matongo has struggled, Brad has had a better season. He got a sort of ‘masi type’ write up last year in this bit, but although I’m still not sure about him, when it comes to doing the hard stuff and getting stuck in he has had a much-improved season. He loves playing for the club and should be given another chance to cement a position next season. Still a lot to do though for me! 12/20

Jordan Lane: There is little doubt for most fans that one of the success stories of 2020 after Lockdown, was the form of Jordan. Sadly, Coronavirus saw him drop out of the side and once he was on the road to recovery the form of others ensured he couldn’t find a way back into the team. However, this season he’s really kicked on, he has strength, great positional awareness and a real turn of speed, as he showed when scoring one of the best trues of the season for us. I think Jordan could have a massive year in 2021. 15/20

Josh Bowden: Credit to the guy, had I been writing this two months ago he would have been getting a real slating for he looked to have gone backwards. However, Bowden was dropped after lockdown because he was struggling for form but he got his head down, battled back into contention and in the end produced some  encouraging displays. I have to admit to still not being sure about him though, so I’ll wait to see what the new Coach makes of him I think!  12/20

Andre Savelio: For me Andre had a brilliant October and November as he finally shook off his injury curse and looked a great player. He’s a real ‘rive arse’ of a forward when he’s being tackled and he’s also got a great ability to spot an opening and pick the right line at the right time. We all wondered what he would be like if he could have a run without injury and latterly we have found out. Injury has certainly hampered Savelio’s career with FC, but he was arguably our best performer throughout the last two months of the season. Now the challenge I guess for the player and the Club is to keep him fit! 14/20

Gareth Ellis: What can you say about the bloke? He played on with no knees and one leg and yet never put a foot wrong, or let anyone down. He managed to make eight appearances in his final season as a player but was always the leader when on the field.   His amazing ability to inspire those around him  will be missed, but injuries got the better of him and it had to be the end of the line . 13/20

Jack Brown: Jack certainly underlined his potential with some excellent performances in the second half of the year. He’ll be looking for even more involvement next year and if he works hard he could be a regular by the end of 2021. Great potential massive heart, runs good lines and has good leg speed too. 13/20

Lewis Bienek; Well, I said it all about Lewis last week really and he has now departed the Club for Castleford. He never got a go really and when he did get a chance, well, you could see why he hadn’t got it earlier! 6/20

So, there we are, another Diary and another week gone by as Christmas creeps ever nearer and the new season still seems an age away. The game itself is quiet, although as I said in starting the Diary, a few clubs are getting players signed up for next season, whilst despite all the claims made a couple of weeks ago, all is quiet at the KCom. We should be hearing soon which team comes up for next season, an announcement that will have one club dancing for joy whilst all the other contenders start the recriminations and accusations. That should at least be good for a laugh.  

Thanks as always for all your support, it seems many of you are already as bored as I am with it all. Still, in the next few weeks. we can at least  hope for a couple of arrivals on the playing front and some insight into what our new coach has planned. 

Stay safe, keep believing and see you all next week.

Faithfully Yours 

Wilf