The Dentist’s Diary – 709th

It’s been quiet again this week hasn’t it? Well, it has with regard to our club and even the Mail (which at times produces articles that at best resemble those of Hans Christian Anderson) have struggled to find anything meaningful or otherwise to discuss. Our noisy neighbours seem to find plenty to talk about, but news on our side of the City certainly seems to be in short supply, but more about that later. However, I hope I have got something included in this week’s edition that will interest you. 

If it’s been quiet in West Hull, it’s certainly been another strange week around the game, with both Leeds and Huddersfield declaring cases in their ranks and having to shut down their operations for 10 days or so. I guess that was to be expected and whilst, with masks to be worn when training inside and sometimes outside and daily testing in place, the game has done its best, it only takes one player to bring the disease into camp and the whole thing collapses under the pall of self-isolation. As it was in the spring, we can’t help but wonder who will be next and whether we will ever get to the start of another season any time soon! 

At Hull FC our Coach at least seemed happy with the delaying of the start of the campaign because, as he prepares for his first season in charge, it gives him another two weeks with the players. Those players must however wonder what is happening in the bigger scheme of things because there is certainly a deal of understandable uncertainty about across the game.

So, although I’m still trying my best to find something to talk about, this week it hasn’t been easy.

Although it’s become apparent that we are to have a shortened season and that we are now definitely destined to start playing games behind closed doors, club’s soldier on and training across the game continues. Time goes by and the long suffering and game starved fans across the sport desperately look for news going forward. That said, there is little anyone inside the game can say to change a situation which is, like all our lives, dictated by a disease that seems as if it’s never going away. For us lot at Hull FC searching for some positives, it was certainly good to hear Brett Hodgsonsaying he’s been impressed with the application of the players across the squad, when he stated that he thought that there was a new sense of togetherness becoming evident right across the group. 

We are now three weeks into pre-season training and he said last weekend, “I’m very impressed with the way the players have come in and shown a great mindset towards what we are trying to achieve. We have challenged them in a couple of areas and at this stage everyone has risen to those challenges that have been set. The boys seem to be really happy with how they’re getting on and it’s been a good start that we can build on going forward over the next couple of months”.

He has perhaps been influenced by what he has heard and indeed seen with regard to the dynamics within the group he inherited and so made his first priority improving things team spirit wise. It’s something he has described as ‘togetherness’ as he commented in the Yorkshire Post, “We’ve done some things around training that encourage the support of one another and togetherness within the group. At this stage everyone is investing in what we’re after.”

In the same interview he took time to pick out a couple of players that he felt worthy of a mention although it’s not his style apparently to select individuals for comment (he said). The two in question were Carlos Tumavive and Joe Cartor.

Carlos, he explained has become the proud father of twins and was given some time off on paternity leave, but typically, he is now back in training, leading the way and tearing it up, whilst in Joe’s case he is head and shoulders above some of the squad when it comes to pushing the boundaries of fitness and conditioning. The bloke is a blooming dynamo and apparently ripping into it again in the fitness drills. So, using the all-weather facilities at the University, training at least is going well, but the players must wonder as we do, just when they will be getting out there on the field against some proper opposition in a meaningful encounter. 

Whilst he was talking to the paper Hodgson also gave an update on Jake Connor, who we were all worrying about as he had not appeared on any of the Clubs photographs of the squad training. He said, “We’re just monitoring Jake a little bit at the moment in these early stages of pre-season, but I’ve got no doubt that by the middle of next week, he’ll be back out on the training field.” Which was a relief for all of us. 

Talking of the media, I’m indebted to regular reader Alec Smith who sent me an article from Australia which I had missed myself completely. In it our new signing Josh Reynolds talked from an Aussie point of view, about his past and the reasons behind him signing for the FC. It also gave an insight into what the players over there thought of Josh Hodgson. In the article  our new half back said, “I’ll be completely honest ‘Hodgo’ was a massive factor in me coming over, because I’ve obviously had a fair bit to do with him at the Tigers and I knew if I was going to go over there I wanted to have a coach who knows what he’s about.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got to prove myself to everyone at the club, but I know he’s a good person. I know he’ll need to make a couple of hard decisions here or there, but I know he’ll always have my best interest at heart.”

In Australia Reynolds has had a tumultuous couple of years away from the field with off field accusations and claims made against him, all of which were found to be false. Over there a player’s private life is constantly under the microscope and the media love a bit of muck raking, even if it’s all lies and Josh appears to have been judged as guilty until proven innocent. So, it was to be expected when he commented in the article that he admits the opportunity to live a quieter life, with much less media attention, was also a big factor in his decision to join us.

He said, “I’ll be brutally honest, back in Australia the media is onto rugby league players a lot more and love exposing everything about their lives… and they don’t really care about what happens after it. But over here it’s a bit different, it’s not as big in a sense and you fly under the radar a bit more. That’s something I really appreciate at this point of my career. After what I’ve been through these past couple of years, I sort of just want to fly under the radar, play good footy and just have fun. In the end that’s why I came here, I know it’s going to be tough sometimes but in the end, if I’m playing footy it’s what I love most, so if I’m doing that I’ll be sweet.” 

Reynolds went on to say that he has tons of fight left in him and stated, “I just want to show my teammates and myself that I’ve still got a lot to give. In the last couple of years, I probably haven’t been able to show that because of certain reasons, but I definitely know I’ve still got the passion and the love for the game.”

He also  spoke highly of his old Coach and ex-FC half-back Des Hasler when he added “I’ll be forever grateful for him and what he’s done for my career.” Josh and Hasler left the Bulldogs at the end of 2017 but for very different reasons. Reynolds took up a lucrative offer from the Tigers, while Hasler was sacked. The two have however stayed in contact, with Reynolds revealing Hasler, who spent an eventful season playing for Hull FC in the 90’s, gave him a cheeky congratulatory call when he heard the news. Josh said, “He actually gave me a call before I came over here and told me he’s the king of Hull and I have to pay him some tolls for being over here.”. Hasler apparently still has great affection for the FC and it’s fans and I bet he still remembers Sunday 12th December 1993 when in a 10-6 victory over Widnes (and along with Mike Dixon) he actually got hypothermia at a freezing Boulevard. 

Anyway, thanks for sending me that piece Alec I’m sure it made interesting reading for us all.  

Last weekend, too late for the last Diary being released, the Club announced something that a few of us had known for a while (from our perusing of the Company House website) in that we have appointed established local solicitor and lifelong Hull FC supporter Gordon Sewell to the club’s Board of Directors as a legal advisor. Gordan has been around the Club for ages and was actually born on Hessle Road in the shadows of the Boulevard and he is a member of the Sewell family, who have been highly regarded for their business endeavour across the City and region for years. The Clubs official site said on his appointment that he, “Brings a wealth of experience and expertise in general, civil and commercial litigation gained from representing regional and international clients in business”.

Of course, Sewell joins another Non-Executive Director, Ralph Zoing, whose appointment I commented on in here last year. He, as I said then, is involved in privately funded banking organisations and a real financial wizz and both these appointments add to the original board, that was just made up of Clarky and Adam, although it was also revealed that they are all supported by financial advisor to the board, Nigel Hansford, who has previously been a Director at Wigan Warriors, St Helens and JJB Sports.

 I’m pleased that Adam is not soldiering on alone anymore, because you need a circle of expertise with a wide breadth of skills and both these additions bring that. However, although these two should be viewed as welcome additions, they don’t fill the most pressing need that Adam has talked about over the years, when he has commented on his wish to bring someone in with money, to share the financial burden. Our owner has always commented on how hard it is to find anyone willing to invest in a Rugby league team; and all that before Covid came along to make it an even more unlikely happening! Since the inception of the pandemic, it will have been almost impossible to attract anyone for that role, but Adam will still be looking. He has always said getting another ‘money man’ on board could be the key to lifting the Club up into the echelons of the biggest in the game and it has long been his wish to have someone in there to boost the finances or at least share the load a bit. However, for now, it’s good to see that the Board is increasing and it will be interesting to see how both Zoing and Sewell get involved in future weeks. 

Last Monday, ‘Before the Deluge’ that descended on us all this week, we were out on our daily walk in Beverley and bumped into my old pal Tommy, who is a member of the Ex-players Association and a real soul mate when it comes to his love of Hull FC. Tommy understands the game really well, having played a lot of A team rugby in the 60’s for us and I have often spent a happy late evening in the Drum and Monkey and the Dog and Duck in Beverley after home games, dissecting the match and exchanging opinions. 

As we chatted it became apparent that he was, like most of us who don’t work anymore, bored with the mundanity of life and the lack of rugby to watch on TV. In addition, we both also lamented the lack of atmosphere that there is in general with TV sport without crowds in Stadiums. However, our conversation got me thinking a bit as well. Like many reading this, Tom will continue to support the Club he loves and do anything he can to make sure that it survives through these unprecedented times. 

However, we got to chatting about how we both felt about going back to watching live games and admitted that although at first not being able to go to games was a massive loss to the both of us, we have sort of got used to not going now. Before all this occurred we could never ever believe that would happen, but it has, for the pandemic, the uncertainty and the constant lockdowns of the last year has worn us all down. I know that makes us sounds very unfaithful to the cause, but of course we aren’t, it’s just that we have not only got used to not going to games, but we’ve also become resigned to the fact that it might well be a long time before we can do it again. Something completely out of our control has stopped us doing something we have done all our lives and although we were all pretty unhappy about it at first, amazingly in 12 months we have somehow become resigned to it all. 

You know how much I love Hull FC and will always do so, but this bloody disease has changed us all in different ways and now we are somehow accepting of the fact that some things in our lives might never go back to how they were. Of course, Tommy and I will be back there as soon as we can be, because the fact is that we can’t be anywhere but in attendance when the FC are playing, but it’s strange how in less than a year we have all stopped missing something that has been an integral part of our lives for, in some cases, decades. 

Why do I mention this? Well, I guess I do it to try and explain just what a difficult task the Clubs will have in getting folks engaged again and back into Stadiums, when indeed they are able to do it. Of course, some fans will be queuing up waiting for the gates to re-open, and great for all of them, but others particularly in the older age range will at first at least, be very wary. If there is the personal safety issues amongst this dedicated group of fans to consider, at last most of them are signing up for new season tickets or just continuing to pay their direct debits through their simple love of their club. 

Of course, come the day when ‘everything is back to normal’  and we all feel safe attending games again, then we’ll all be back there queuing up to get in and complaining about the SMC not having enough turnstiles open! What’s more we will be so thankful that we have been given the chance to meet up with our pals, be part of that crowd and continue following our dreams again, whilst feeling safe in doing it. However, until that day comes we all seem to be resigned to the situation we find ourselves in. 

However, there is the more worrying fact that surrounds the raft of folks who are normally on the margins of the supporter base anyway and who, because of the general malaise that we are all going through at present, (that I’ve describe above), have now simply got out of the habit of being engaged with the club.   

If the game was to come back all at once, on one weekend,  when Stadiums were open to all and gates weren’t limited then the job of a massive re-launch with ‘a big bang’ would be easy for the marketing boys. But that won’t happen and a gradual return to games and attendance levels is almost a certainty and something that with be hard to do with any sort of impact. You don’t want to get folks all revved up to go and then tell them they won’t actually be able to attend yet, because we ain’t allowed to get everyone who wants to go, into the ground, do you? The issue is re-engaging with the whole supporter base as and when the different factions can attend games.

So, I guess the big problem doesn’t concern us lot who are the ‘Attenders’ and who in normal circumstances go ‘In any Kinda Weather’, but rather surrounds the ‘Intenders’ who go to games, not because they had to be there, but rather that they go to see a winning team or just out of a habit; a habit which due to circumstances beyond their control, has now been broken. 

Getting those folks back into the stadiums when they are allowed in, is the massive challenge that faces every Rugby League Club in 2021 as, if what we are hearing is to be believed, we finally come out of these terrible times. It’s a massive challenge for the Board at Hull FC and for owners across the game in general. Its not about loyalty or indeed about passion but rather about changing the casual fans belief systems and habits back to where they were before and about reigniting those people’s enthusiasm. That’s certainly  a big task and a sobering thought when you think of it that way isn’t it?  There are some tough times ahead for our game and they won’t stop immediately Stadiums are open again either, for perhaps as far as all the clubs across the game are concerned the work really starts then. Just my views of course and some thoughts after a casual conversation with a fan, who cares as much as I do!  

Now, I see that one or two FC fans were making hay on the internet this week, about the story concerning the revelation that there was an internal investigation being carried out at Hull College by their new interim Chief Executive. The investigation centred on Hull’s principle Education College’s recent financial practises and particularly on the fact that they struck a sponsorship deal with Hull KR for the naming rights of their Stadium. A deal said to be worth around £240,000!, and after which Liz Winn the Vice Principle of said College left to take up another position ….at Hull KR! We all drew our own conclusions and I’ll leave you to draw yours but no doubt all will be revealed in the fullness of time. 

No-one deislikes Hull KR more than me, you all know that, for I wouldn’t pee on them if they were on fire,  but I have to say that I have been impressed (with a small i) with how they have recruited and remodelled their business during the pandemic and in the wake of the iron grip of Neil Hudgell being relinquishing, as he gave up his control of the Club. They look to have a much better team this year for they have recruited extremely well, they have a good Coach and they are (as is seen by the appointment of Ms Winn to act as a community engagement conduit) getting a strong business model around the administration side of the Club. This all seems to have come about since ex Hull Ice Arena Manager Paul Lakin returned to take over as Chief Executive again. 

What’s more my pal Richard who is a Diary reader tells me that since his son has signed for their academy set up, he has been really impressed with the way that they look after their kids and how involved the first team players are with what is a very strong squad of youngsters. In addition, as a club they are really open in their press persona and keep the fans informed as was seen by the recent extensive interview with Lakin in the Mail. So perhaps before those trying to make hay over the Hull College stuff get too carried away they should just be careful for I believe that judging by the way that they are getting all their ‘ducks in a row’ at present, Rovers might just turn around and bite us a bit this year. I still hate them though!!!!  

So, there we are, that’s it for another week when news coming out of the Club has been sparse to say the least and when little has changed in our quest to one day get everything back to something like normal again. It’s a strange old world though because the other night I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep again, so I put BBC Five Live on in my headphones, to be greeted with an advert trailing the stations upcoming spring featured sports. Imagine my surprise when this included ‘Rugby League’s Super Eights’; I couldn’t believe my ears but an hour later there it was again, Super Eights??? Do they know something we don’t? 

Thanks as always for sticking with the Diary which seems to have shifted from a tome of news, speculation and analysis to a journal of one fans thoughts over another tedious 7 days. I hope some of you are getting those jabs and that we’ll all soon be back watching our beloved FC again. I kinda think that might be a bit of a way off yet, but until we can all meet up at the KC again, I’ll do my best to keep going in here. Thanks again for sharing a few minutes with me and Stay safe. See you all next week. 

Faithfully Yours 

Wilf