The Dentist’s Diary – 705th

We’ve signed a man called ‘Grub’!!

In a week when we saw the arrival of our new ‘Marquee’ signing in the form of Josh ‘The Grub’ Reynolds, there was certainly a deal of excitement about. Meanwhile, our new Coach was settling into his surroundings in the capitol of British Rugby League, whilst back home in Australia the NRL were discussing buying a stake in Super League and introducing another slew of rule changes to their competition, that no doubt many in this country with ridicule and dismiss out of hand; before, of course, we introduce most of them ourselves in 2022. 

However, before you switch off completely on those rules, it’s perhaps worth considering that their current list of changes have been led by the fans and their views on how the game can be improved. For us lot in this country who have existed under the stoic, autocratic and sometimes bombastic  stewardship of the RFL for so many years, is that refreshing or what??

In a statement the NRL rules commission said, and this is the really important bit for me, “You’ve got to give the customer what they want. We want to attract new fans to our game and we want our current fans to keep coming back to watch games live at the ground or on TV. It was important to understand what they want. It is clear the new innovations last season were a success. You only have to look at the data, there were more tries, more line breaks and more minutes of ball in play and the response from our fans and players has been positive. In  particular, the six-again rule has addressed the biggest issue that was in the game and that was the wrestle. The changes have speeded up the ruck and made the game more free-flowing which is exactly what the Commission wanted to see.”

At a time when, as I say, we are told tentative talks are taking place with regard to the NRL buying a stake in Super League and some in this country are already turning their noses up, you have to at least listen to what they have to say for their attitude towards the game is certainly refreshing!!!

So, we waited, wondered and I guess hoped for a great signing before on Sunday the news broke that our much-publicised  half-back signing was completed and confirmed as ex-State of Origin star Josh Reynolds. I’m sure like me you send out a big welcome to him and hope as I do that he is just what we need. The papers claim he’s a marquee signing, but perhaps not one of the magnitude some fans of the club expected. I am no expert on The NRL and I certainly don’t watch every game that is on Sky, but I have seen him play and over the years he has looked a real handful, even if he has not been seen much of late. 

One things for sure, the eyes of the game in this country will be on our new acquisition, for although he’s had some tough times of late, he arrives with a reputation of being tough, feisty and possessing not a small amount of talent! So, I guess what I’m saying is that all in all, with a new and unproven Head Coach and now a new playmaker, it’s all a bit of a risk,. Yet it’s something had to be done to break the mold at Hull FC and so it’s a risk that perhaps we as a club, have to take. 

For me, there are plusses and minuses with Josh’s signing really. The plusses are pretty obvious. He has played at the very top level and in State of Origin and is known well by Hodgson, who has come out and declared that he is just what we need. One things for sure, the guy certainly has a lot of ability. In addition, his playing style is the complete opposite to Marc Sneyd, being a direct player that can break the line and make things happen, whilst Sneydy, as we all know, is the master controller, the game organiser and the consummate end of set kicker. 

In addition, Josh has had some tough times at the Tigers and as such really has something to prove over here. He’s classed  as a Marquee signing, but he’s certainly coming here for a lot less than he was on in Australia, with hints in the Aussie press that his old Club Wests Tigers, might well be paying part of his initial salary. The former Canterbury Bulldogs two-time Grand Finalist admitted last week, before he came, that he would have to take a dramatic pay cut from his current deal to join up with his former Wests Tigers coach, but that he was willing to do it,  for a new challenge.

Finally, in the style of our other SOO players like Jason Smith, Shaun Berrigan, Mark O’Meley and Craig Fitzgibbon he is a real leader on the field and a player who always plays with passion and what’s best described as a bit of an aggressive edge as well. So, he has plenty going for him. 

However, on the other side of things, he is as I say, perhaps not of the magnitude and standing of the Marquee signing some were looking for, but then again, wishing and hoping is fine, but in reality who is there out there half back wise? None the less that is of course a big issue when it comes to enthusing folks to buy season tickets for what is still a bit of an ‘unknown’ season, for if we are to fire-up the fans to spend their ‘hard earned’ after another season that has come to nought, they have to be inspired. There is no doubt however that the ‘hype and bullshit machine’ has gone into full swing, the fans are bouncing  and the pressure is on before the poor bloke even gets here! 

I spoke to reader Kevin in Adelaide this week who has followed Josh’s career closely over the years. He’s a bit of an insider in the NRL and commented, “One things for sure you’ve got a great leader in Josh. He’s been loved by the players he’s played with over the years and everyone inside the game speaks highly of him. However, he’s really passionate and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t biff a few both in the ranks of the opposition and his own team, before the seasons out. For he doesn’t suffer idiots. However, he is a totally committed guy and he’ll do really well, if he stays clear of injuries. Many fans here really want him to succeed”. That I thought was a good independent precise of the guys demeanour and ability and I think such a strong character could be just what we need. It might not be the best move as he comes into the team as a ‘freshman’, but there is little doubt that he’s certainly looks to be real Captain material. 

  You have to agree as well, that since he was announced, the player has certainly covered himself in glory in his media interviews with the papers, radio station’s and on the Club site and rather like our new coach, after hearing what he had to say, most fans seemed to be on board and indeed buzzing. 

Of course, there are always potential draw backs and you can’t escape the fact that his injury record is not good and we have somehow to keep him fit, but much of that has been down to his hamstrings, on which he has had extensive treatment and he reports no problems since that took place.  There has been a bit of ‘domestic’ controversy (from which he was completely exonerated) in his past as well, but he has a clean record and therefore should get a visa without any problems. Finally, it looks to me with the players that other Clubs are bringing in, that 2021 is going to be a tough old season at the top of the League next year and so to even compete we need to be really on it with a settled half back pairing that is making the team tick. You have to just hope that a guy, on his own in a strange country for the first time, amongst a group of blokes that he doesn’t know very well at all, can settle in quickly. 

In the end though, Reynolds is the type of player who can lift a crowd and get the fans behind him and Adam and Hodgson recognises that as well I think. With and without the ball his nuggety nature and aggressive approach to the sport brands him as being a sort of Jake Connor, with fists. So, we can only hope I guess. 

Although he was on a big wedge over there, Josh certainly suffered from those injuries and not being selected to play first team rugby. However, he certainly says the right things as he stated to the Aussie press about his recent career that, “I can’t control injuries or selection, so I don’t know what people want me to do. It does put a dent in your pride. Some guys can come and take money and it is a business and it’s just a job for them and that’s fine too. But for me, it is hard because I love what I do and I’m pretty passionate about it. To be completely honest, I probably did lose the love for the game because I wasn’t playing. In the two or three days since I’ve signed this deal I can already feel it coming back again.” 

The more you read the more you admire the bloke and he certainly gave a brilliant interview on the Club site which indicated that he is going to be a pretty outspoken member of the team both on and off the field. He certainly says the right things!! He continued in an interview to the Yorkshire Post, “I’m very honest with myself. I know exactly what I can do. Whether I do finish there (at Hull) or not there, I just want to really make sure I can sit in a pub in 10 years’ time and say I had a massive crack there.”

So, I guess to sum up, Josh is a risk but also a guy who seems very sincerely to want to be a great success and who has the core skills to do just that. His signing is certainly a real statement of intent from the Club. Lastly as well, for all of us who know that the club would be stuffed without Adam, it’s certainly an indication from our owner that he is backing his new Coach and still enthusiastic about the FC and willing to speculate a bit on the future. We all now need to show our intent, do the same and get behind the Club in any way we can. 

Those of you who have read this rubbish for a few years will know that there has in the past been little love lost between myself and Kevin Sinfield, at least there wasn’t back in the days when he was playing for Leeds. Let’s just say he was never my favourite player and anyway, ‘We all hate Leeds’ don’t we? However, hand on heart I have to say that the guy is now a real icon. 7 marathons in 7 days for Rob Burrow and the motor-neuron charity and over £2.5m raised is a feat that will go down in the annuls of Rugby league as a heroic effort. It is on one plane a fantastic effort from one of Rob’s best mates and his life-long team mate, but on another it is just what Rugby League as a game is all about and although we marvelled at his actions, few of us were really surprised to see someone do such a thing. 

The camaraderie and friendships that runs through the game like lettering through rock, should never be underestimated, for ours is certainly a sport stuffed with genuine people. Good luck to Rob with his fight against this terrible disease and to Kevin Sinfield, well for me the guy deserves all the adulation and honours he gets!! 

Talking of honours, he might be too late for the New Year’s Honours List but surely Kevin should get some sort of recognition. As one contributor on RL fans said last week, “The honours system that rewards nepotism, crooked politician’s, TV celebrities and sportsmen who can drive a car or ride a horse is charged with bestowing knighthoods, so isn’t it now time that a Rugby league legend receives his honour”. To that end a petition has been launched and I’ve certainly signed it.  Brilliant stuff by Sinfield and everyone who contributed, for it was all in the true spirit of our great game.  

The new away shirt was launch almost simultaneously with the announcement of Josh Reynolds signing. As you know from my machinations this time last year, I think that ISC had become a bit predictable and their designs a bit jaded and I have to firstly say that Hummel, our new suppliers, had done a brilliant job with the home offering and some really smart training and leisure wear. 

Following that we all awaited the ‘reveal’ of our alternative ‘away’ kit. As an old traditionalist, as you know, I loved the home shirt but the away one took me by surprise a bit, because that kit was certainly different. But, having said that after some of the absolute messes of ‘different’ strips that we have seen over the years, this was well laid out and certainly an innovative departure. I’ve never been a big fan of teal blue myself, but this one certainly works. After gauging the views of fans online and readers of the Diary it appears that most people think that we have the best pair of shirts that the Club has had for years and I have to say that having seen both shirts close up they really are well made and first class.  

However, one thing that came to mind was the fact that the away offering wasn’t unlike the Rover away shirt in both colour or layout, however credit to Hummel ours was so much better in design and detail and once again, I love the new Club badge and the way that despite the fact I know we have to have them, the sponsors endorsements were tidy and didn’t muck up the overall look of the shirts too much. 

Two top quality designs for the shirts were an imperative because the Club desperately needs to sell tons of merchandise before Christmas and as such they have once again opened a pop-up shop in St Stephens Shopping Centre to compliment the store in Saville Street, something that is for me, a great move. The new look shop opened for the first-time last week, to coincide with the launch of that brand new 2021 alternate shirt and training range. 

The management of the shopping centre have allowed the club to take over the store previously occupied by Carphone Warehouse. All the necessary safety precautions were in place when I went down there for a look, with hand sanitising stuff available and social distancing and masks also evident. Plus, there were big Perspex screens in front of the tills as well. What’s more,  judging by the folks queuing patiently to get in, everyone was behaving themselves and it will certainly be a hit with Christmas shoppers. 

Now we all know I think that sport is a tough career and one that can really kick you in the teeth, at any time, for there is no room for sentiment in there at all. Just look at Andy Lasts whose case I have lamented in here long and hard of late. It wasn’t his fault or indeed that of the club it was just that circumstances transpired against him and once he had taken on the Coaching position, then he had in effect burned his boats should he not get the position permanently. 

However, Andy’s silence speaks volumes for the integrity of the bloke. Often it is not what happens to them, but more how they handle the tough times and disappointment’s that mark the quality and genuineness of a player or coach. I’ve said my piece on Andy and won’t labour that anymore, for I see both Lasty’s side, plus that of our new Coach and the Club. 

However, this week how refreshing it was to read an interview with Kieran Buchanan where he had nothing but good things to say about the club who had just in effect sacked him. Kieron, who I described a couple of weeks ago as, ‘having promise but not enough at present’, was perhaps the victim of our financial plight in these strange times and under different circumstances he would have been given another year. However, with money tight and no reserves league next season he was shown the door and is now working on the production line at Willerby Caravans, before he starts his new career at Batley. In those circumstances it would have been easy for him to have been at the very least a little bitter. 

However, when the HDM caught up with him he said, “I played in France against Catalan just after my grandad passed and I scored, it was my first try and me and my dad got a bit emotional after the game, it was a really proud moment for us anyway because my dad’s a massive Hull fan. I’ve always felt like a fan playing for Hull, every time I played for them I felt like I was talking like a fan. It’s different now, but I still love the club and I love the people at the club. I don’t have any bad blood, because time goes on and you grow up a bit so you have to keep moving in the right direction. In terms of the coaching staff, I couldn’t have left any better. It was quite hard and emotional because I’ve known Andy Last since I was about 13-years-old and I’ve grown up as a person and a player with him”. 

I wish the lad good luck and hope that one day he makes it back into Super League and what a dream come true it would be for him, if it was back at Hull FC. That’s very unlikely I know,  but one things for sure, he certainly won’t be short on determination and at a time when it would have been so easy for him to slag us off, kick a few stones and take his bat and ball home, he leaves with his head held high and my admiration. Well done Kieron, well said and good luck!

I have to say that the news that Super league are investigating the possibility of the NRL buying a stake in our premier division is something that I have to say certainly interested me when it was leaked last week. I have long said that we should have two aligned competitions in the north and south hemisphere’s as far as rules are concerned and that the forward-thinking customer orientated attitude of the Australian game was to be admired. 

This week their review panel has introduced a slew of new rules into their game, which some would rail at immediately here, as they always do, but none the less, it has to be said that most of them, tradition dictates, we will eventually adopt ourselves. These changes are aimed at just one thing; improving the product for the spectator and the TV spectacle for the viewer. I’m not one for wholesale rule changes every year, for they do confuse the uninitiated, but when they are aimed at improving the game you have at least I guess to have a look at them. Look what a difference the 6 again rule made to the sport as an attractive proposition last season!

I’m an old traditionalist, but I recognise like many of those reading this that the game over here is on its arse and although I don’t want to see a wholesale take-over of the game by the NRL, I do feel that handled properly the injection of a large amount of cash and the aligning of the two competitions could just save the game in this country. I know how the traditionalists like Etherington, the RFL, many of the lower League Clubs and the Editor of League Weekly will view the whole thing, but a Super League competition enlarged and mirroring that of the NRL would be a massive plus for our game and perhaps drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Jettisoning as it would in the process, some of the staid and outmoded attitudes that have developed around it. Let’s as a game at least have a look at what they propose eh? 

You might be surprised to read that I agree with talking with the NRL and discussing this idea further but if the owners and the Super League Clubs feel with our Sky contract likely to shrink it is worth pursuing, then we should do it. It would be a revolutionary road to take and we have to be sure about it and  ensure that we protect our game. However, if Super League can retain control of some of its destiny and autonomy and the move can catapult our game, (as it becomes a truly international entity), to the forefront of sport in the UK, then although it’s a road in the end we may not decide to go down, heck it is certainly worth at least discussing.

So, as I say, the NRL are to make wholesale rule changes next season all devised following extensive consultation with the fans and with a will to make the game even more exciting for the spectator. This week they said, “The message from the fans and our broadcasters has been clear – the game became too predictable and the balance between attack and defence had gone too far in favour of defence. Our changes last year were successful in addressing some of those challenges and the changes announced today will take the element of unpredictability and entertainment a step further.”

 As I said earlier, they are changes that are likely to be adopted eventually over here anyway, so let’s have a quick look at their ideas for 2021.  

Two points for field goals outside the 40m line

To encourage more unstructured play and increase the chances of a result changing in the final moments of a game, a two-point field goal will be awarded for teams who kick a field goal from outside the 40-metre line. That’s one that would certainly suit Sneydy!! The commission said that this new rule will provide an incentive to seek an additional point scoring opportunity at critical times of a match, particularly with limited time remaining on the clock in each half. I’m not so sure but hey, if the fans want it?  

Six Again for 10 metre infringements

To reduce stoppages in the game, 10 metre infringement penalties will be replaced with a “six-again” ruling. Referees maintain the ability to blow a penalty and sin bin a player, if a side has made repeated 10m infringements or in the case of professional fouls.

The six-again rule provided a sufficient deterrent for teams who purposely sought a penalty to slow the game down during previous years. This rule was trialled in two games during round 20 of last season’s competition. This the commission believe will result in a fast game, less stoppages and more free-flowing action for fans in the Southern hemisphere. I think that one’s pretty fair myself!

Play-the-ball restart after ball or player finds touch

When the ball is kicked or carried into touch, play will resume with a play-the-ball rather than a scrum. This rule was also trialled in two games during the final round of last season and the powers that be down under feel it worked well. Great idea again it speeds the game up. 

Handover for incorrect play-the-ball

This is a massive one for me because I hate it when certain teams and players persist in not touching the ball with the foot, something that is an intrinsic part of our game. In the NRL next year a handover will be ordered where players do not make a genuine attempt to play the ball with their foot. This will ensure greater compliance to the rule and integrity around the play the ball, without increasing penalty stoppages. Great idea

Captain’s Challenge

We don’t have this at present but, with our officials, there are plenty of times last season when I wished we had. Next season in the NRL in cases where a captain’s challenge review is inconclusive, the on-field decision will stand, but the team will retain their challenge. Fans have expressed frustration with teams losing a challenge, where replays prove inconclusive, this will ensure a greater opportunity for teams to have challenges available later in matches although as I say we don’t have it at present but as it was introduced in Australia last year we probably will have it in 2021. 

Bunker Reviews

We don’t have a bunker for all games and so with our video refereeing situation this will not be possible except in televised games, but they have decided that where the on-field referee believes a try is scored the referee will award a try and the bunker will review the decision in the background. A conversion attempt will not be permitted until the Bunker is satisfied a try has been scored. That would I’m sure get rid of a lot of controversy over try decisions in Super League and providing they have video referee’s at every game as the NRL does, the deliberations are done quicky whilst the kicker is preparing to take the kick and there is no delay, then so be it, for it would certainly keep some of our officials on their toes.   

Again this rule was trialled in two inconsequential games during the final round of last season and didn’t disrupt the game at all.

Trainers

In the NRL if a trainer is sufficiently worried about a player’s well-being on the pitch he can request the game is stopped. But this has been milked a bit and so now where a trainer asks a match official to stop the game for an injury, the injured player must be either interchanged or taken off the field for a period of two minutes of elapsed game time, before he is permitted to resume his place on the field. This, they say, will reduce the number of stoppages for minor injuries. 

The NRL Commissioners also decided the rule changes that were introduced for the resumption of the 2020 season will remain. Furthermore, to come to these conclusions and make the changes, the Southern Hemisphere game conducted a survey of NRL sponsors and club members to ensure fans had their voice heard and were able to make suggestions themselves, which were considered as part of the Commission deliberations. 

Look we don’t like tinkering around with the rules over here and often baulk at what the NRL are proposing changes wise, before as I have already said, following them the following season, but these aren’t gimmicks, what’s more you have to admire the fact that what they are doing is trying to make the game more of a spectacle for those watching it. Rugby League is the premier winter sport in a country that never makes any bones about demanding good quality and value for money. They are totally customer orientated and so we should be as well!!!  As I said earlier perhaps at least we should discuss with them the possibility of closer ties in the future, for they come at everything from an innovative and customer angle, rather than the traditionally based introspective view the authorities have over here. 

Well, that’s me done for another week as we all look forward to Monday’s announcement about which team is coming up into Super League next year. I think on the balance of things perhaps it should be Leigh, although all the candidates make a strong case, and of course Bradford are the conspiracy theorist’s favourites as I discussed a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if we will see any more signings this week as I write up what will be the last Diary of the year next weekend. I’ll have a couple of weeks off over Christmas and be back for the start of training in the new year. Thanks as always for all your support and all the correspondence this week which mostly centred on our new Coach. It’s always great to hear from the readers and as always I really appreciate your supporting this tome week in week out. 

Speak to you all next week

Stay safe and Keep Believing 

Faithfully Yours 

Wilf