This is going to get messy and all FC fans must unite behind our owner and our Club!!!
I make no excuses for leading with that headline, because the black clouds are gathering over the KCom as our long battle with the SMC is finally out in the open and after Adam’s programme notes on Monday, the gloves are most definitely off! This is really serious stuff and there is a lot more to come out yet believe me. It may soon be a time for us all to ‘man the barricades’, get behind the owner and back whatever he decides is best for our club. At present it appears that we are being bullied and I don’t like bullies!
As for the game, well, the fans were back and typical of the FC, we saved the worst for the best, as it wasn’t the homecoming any of us hoped for, was it? Just like that first ever game at the KC when London came to spoil our party, Catalan did the same and as Diary reader Jim commented afterwards, as 4 of the 5 games on the night were won by the away team, perhaps the pressure of playing in front of your fans, after so long, really did get to teams.
All the expectation and wanting that had gone into fans returning to the KCom was blown away in what, I guess, can only be described as a typical Hull FC fashion.
Everyone knew that whatever happened on the field it was still a momentous occasion. 431 days since the last attended game and at last the fans were back, but vociferous though we are, fans don’t win games! We simply didn’t deliver this time and the Dragons were worthy winners in the end. Brett has done a superb job on our defence and attitude, but for me he now needs to major on finding more ways to score tries.
So, in the end I guess for many it was business as usual, as the supporters turned up at the KC full of hope, only to go home frustrated and unfulfilled. I was bitterly disappointed, but come on, why were we surprised, for that’s Hull FC for you isn’t it?
You know, for 64 years of my life, I have had the luxury of knowing that Hull FC was always there for me and I could go along, in good times and bad, and watch my team, whenever they were playing. When times were tough the Boulevard was my escape from the woes of life, my haven and my spiritual home and the FC was at times the one constant that there was. Back in 1999, I worried that my Club might not survive David Lloyd, but never could I have imagined what would come about in March 2020. Who would have thought any of us would be denied the chance to watch our heroes live for 14 months!
For the supporters it has without doubt been the most difficult time in the history of our club. Monday was a very special day, not just for those who attended, but also for those who couldn’t, for we were all perhaps at least reassured that things were at least starting to get back to normal. So, for Hull FC it was a very special evening, but could we come up with the goods? Well as I have said to many folks in the last week, as long-suffering FC fans we all knew there was a distinct possibility that it would all blow up in our faces.
In itself playing on a Monday was a strange one indeed, but who cared, for the chance to get there and support your team again was a dream come true for so many people, some of whom in the darkest of times wondered if they’d ever do it again. What’s more we all have to give a massive pat on the back to Adam and Clarky who have worked tirelessly to get the game on against at times, all the odds, but more about the bloody ‘odd’s couple’ later.
Of course, Catalan were a formidable foe and McNamara was making all the right noises before kick-off, as he talked of the Dragons getting back on track again after their Cup defeat. As you looked through their announced squad, it was obvious that there was a lot of class in there. Still, ours was strong and on paper at least, even stronger, (with the return of Connor, Fash and Fairamo), than the group of heroes that did so well 9 days earlier at Headingley. However, as Mahe Fonua hinted earlier in the week, the big question was, could we raise our game for these ‘bread and butter’ matches, as we did for the big ones? For in the past that ‘After the Lord Mayors Show’ scenario, has so often been our downfall.
Hodgson said, about his first game in front of the supporters, “Fans won’t win us the game, but they definitely help! The crowd are our 14th man but we know we have to do our part for them to give them something to get excited about. We understand that our supporters want us to put in a strong performance having been away for so long.” So, the right things had been said and the scene was set perfectly for our return to our spiritual home.
When the teams were announced it was much as we expected except that Fonua was preferred to Fairamo as Hodgson continue his stance of being loyal to the players that performed and rewarded Mahe for two good performances whilst Bureta was out suspended. Fash returned as expected and the team looked strong and had the luxury of having 4 props available although again Taylor’s absence would be a big miss.
As the team walked out the crowd rose to them and it was a great moment as was the minutes clapping before kick-off. We started the game with a deep kick, before The Dragons produced a good set that pinned us back in our twenty, we got a penalty and went down field before Lane knocked on. Then we were caught off-side and Catalan put the first points on the board. It was sloppy stuff from us early on and to me we didn’t seem to have that zip we had shown of late.
We were letting Catalan run at us too much and were starting our sets too deep in our own half. Then we got in a real mess as we failed to kick on the 6th and gave them good field position, but Catalan produced a forward pass and we breathed again. We got a penalty and started 10 yards out and then Kendal sent Moloney off for dissent. We forced a drop out as we tried to get in on the right with a smart kick, before in the next set Fonua did so well not to go in touch as he latched onto a great cut-out pass from Connor. It was a great bit of play from us and a superb score. However, Sneyd missed the kick from right on the touch line.
We moved out smartly downfield form the kick off but Griffin threw a bad pass into touch and they re-started in our half. Then Carlos pulled a player back near our line and was sent to the bin for 10 minutes. We looked lost coming off our own line but cleared well with a booming Sneyd kick, Ma’u forced a knock on and we started again in their half before Fonua was held up over the line. Fonua, who was looking good nearly got in again, but was pulled back for a forward pass.
We nearly got in from Satae but he knocked on close to the line, however everything was really tight before Reynolds get a great 40/20 and Swift got in but was brought back for another forward pass. As time ran out Moloney went for a drop goal on the hooter, but sliced it wide and at half time it was 4-4, but we’d been a bit unlucky to get pinged for two forward passes both of which denied us tries. Watching that half back afterwards, it was as tight on replay as it was in the actual game, but we were at least scrapping well against a well drilled, street wise and aggressive Catalan outfit.
Catalan kicked off the second half and straight away we went down the field and as Carlos sprung the defence, before he found Connor who drew the full-back and Reynolds was in and at 10-4 it was the perfect start. Sadly however, it was to be our best play of the game! We gave away a stupid penalty as Savelio stole the ball in a two-man tackle and Catalan were on our line, but thankfully Julien was held up on the last tackle and we got the ball back. It was brilliant defence but then as was becoming the norm for us, Connor knocked on a poor pass from Reynolds as we streamed forward.
Griffin was then really unlucky to not grab an interception and straight afterwards we had to concede a goal line drop out, after a great kick through by Drinkwater. Of course, the pressure was now on and we had to defend another 6 but a lucky bounce off the post got Cassiano in after an astute kick from Drinkwater. And as the scored were tied up again, more and more uncharacteristic errors were creeping into our game.
Connor off-loaded near our line and Carlos knocked on as he took his eye off the ball and they were knocking on the door again, but a penalty relieved the pressure. Then a drive down the left almost got Catalan in but we scrambled back before they went right across the field and Tomkins put McMeekin through a hole to score. Now the chips were down and we had it all to do as the scoreboard stood at 16-10 to the Frenchmen. We had to find some energy, as Fonua chased a kick to the corner and laid one on Tomkins to conceded a penalty. Catalan came down the field and engineered a drop goal to stretch their lead to 7 points.
We tried a short kick off, but Tomkins defused it and as Moloney slipped and Satae gave away a penalty he was harshly sin binned. So, with 9 minutes to go we were down to 12 men and trailing by 7 and that, at that point of the game, was it really. We looked short-handed on attack and Catalan just played us at our own game as they piled forward down the middle before sending the ball wide. Cameron Scott lost a cross kick and Davis dived in to put the game beyond us at 23-10. Carlos came back on after a head check, whilst Swift departed with a hammy and Davis got another after another blunder by Scott, so by the end it all felt very much like the old days again. It was disappointing in real time and even worse watching it back to write this.
When I try and analyse what went wrong I think our bench was too light to match the Catalans forwards and perhaps we would have been better with Brown and Faraimo included. Fash did really well, but Johnstone is a bit part player at present and Scott was certainly caught out when he came on. From the outside looking in it appears that we probably desperately need a new prop to give us some depth.
Performance wise I will just mention a few players as most functioned at a level a tad below what we have come to expect, but Sao and Satae were massive up front, and Danny Houghton and Cator ran themselves to a standstill again, whilst I must mention Ma’u, who I thought had a much-improved game.
Reynolds worked hard and looked the part, but needs to be more creative, whilst Connor’s two try assists were great but more of the same was needed. Sneyd struggled as our forwards were matched up front and otherwise everyone tried hard, but fell well short of our best stuff this year. However, there was no lack of effort and no shirking of responsibilities, but as I said earlier Catalan had us sussed and there are lessons to be learned with 6 straight away games coming up.
So, to the week passed and it was one that was dominated again, with talk of our ‘unhealthy’ relationship with the Allam’s. It was also a week when our owner shared his concerns in some detail, with regard to them making life difficult for us as joint tenants of the Stadium. Having addressed an impassioned meeting of the vice-presidents, Adam pulled no punches as well later in the week, when he spoke more publicly to the Yorkshire Post and came out all guns blazing in his programme notes.
Talking in the paper of his relationship with the Allam’s and the SMC he said, “We’ve had to pay a lot of money to get our landlords to even switch the game to a Monday which is an ongoing debate. However, come hell or high water, we will get this game on!” He continued, “We need to find a more harmonious relationship with our landlords – or we need to find ourselves a new ground. It’s unhealthy at the moment and it’s exacerbated the issues organising this game”.
As an aside, I wouldn’t mind if the Allam’s were looking after the place, but with no hot water in a lot of the toilets again and with the whole place looking decidedly unkempt and shabby, it doesn’t appear they are. Reader Kathy Kirk commented to me afterwards, that she needs the hand rails to assist her getting up and down the stairs to her seat and to find them absolutely festooned in bird muck, (which can be highly contagious stuff), impaired her access and was a real problem for her.
Then, in his programme notes, Adam really let rip as he made public some of the stuff he told the VP’s. He said, “James is working on several encouraging projects that we believe will enable us to take significant strides forward over the months and years ahead, not to mention the exploratory work into our own stadium. It is a genuine consideration for us now, having had to pay £700,000 to use the KCOM last season for just five matches. That simply isn’t fair or sustainable in the long term”. What’s more Adam emphasised too that the Council is ‘running scared’ of the Allam’s and that we as fans may need to unite with him against the Stadium management and indeed to lobby the local authority.
You’ll notice that the mention of a new ground was in there again and according to our owner it is now a distinct reality. What Adam said, only really hinted at a lot of the issues that are going on at present, for he knows to say too much, will just cause us more issues and much is in the hands of solicitors anyway. For me personally, as the Allam’s are currently making life almost impossible for us as a club, I just want an obviously frustrated Adam to stick with us and stay as owner of Hull FC, for there is little doubt that any owner would find this lot totally frustrating, yet without Pearson we are sunk.
However, at present it appears I don’t have to worry too much on that score, as he reassured us all in the Yorkshire Post by adding, “But the fans support has been just incredible. They have not complained about anything. They have kept buying their season tickets, they have kept buying their (hospitality) boxes and we haven’t lost one advertiser or sponsor; not one. It is just fantastic.” James Clarke echoed those sentiments when he said, “The club feels rejuvenated, there is a real spirit and sense of pride and unity around the entire club and we want the fans to be able to share in that again with us, they play a big role in that”.
Asked if the fans’ response had reignited his belief in investing in Rugby League, Pearson added: “It has left me highly-motivated and if I see the players playing with the desire and intensity that they showed against Wigan, then yes, they are going to get all the backing they need, whether it’s a new training ground or whatever. We’re working on all sorts at the moment”.
A new training ground eh? That’s a new one, but then again, you do know who we rent the current one from don’t you? Nuff said there then!! These are tough times off the field for Hull FC and whatever goes on out on the pitch in the coming weeks, off it we have to support our owner in any way we can, for we may soon be needing to mobilise the troops and if we do, then the Allam’s could well look back at their ‘City Till I Die’ issues, as a walk in the park!!
So, to other things and it’s almost that point of the season when we all have an idea how things are panning out. I didn’t do one last season, as the sacking of Radford and the pandemic did it for me, but it’s around now that I usually give my ‘State of the Nation’ appraisal of where we are as a team. Usually by now we not only know where we are going, but also who we are likely to retain and where the weak links are that we could do to be addressing in the transfer market. It strikes me, looking back on his signings, that Radford was pretty good at identifying quality players and getting them to the club, but there is little doubt that if he was good at that, then Hodgson is so much better at getting the best out of them; particularly when you consider that all but one of them aren’t Brett’s signings.
Just look how Swift, Connor, Satae, Sao, Savelio and Cator have come on this season! Despite Monday’s loss, I’m loving the way we have gone and the fact that we are already in a semi-final, but as I hinted last week, one thing that is really worrying me is the fact that we don’t really know officially where we are at retaining our players for coming seasons. The fans are coming to love this team and desperately want the bulk of it to stay together, yet unlike times past, when there has been a modicum of transparency, we find out very little from the club as to how negotiations are going and what’s more worryingly, we hear from some players that as yet they haven’t had any talks.
After the year we have had I know economics come into this, of course they do, but the issue is as we found out at the end of last season and indeed, as every promoted team finds out every year, there are just not enough quality players to go around and clubs are after enticing the good out of contract players away from their current teams. Other clubs are buzzing around in the market place already, yet we hear nothing. As for retention of our greatest assets, well let’s take Swift for instance. He has openly said he wants to stay, but hasn’t spoken to the club yet, which for me does send alarm bells ringing a bit.
We need a little re-assurance on these things, because when Radford brought them to the Club, Savelio was certainly a risk injury wise, Swift was down the pecking order at Saints, Cator was an unknown quantity and Sao and Satae were pretty much anonymous as far as most fans were concerned. Their potential was certainly brilliantly identified by Radford, they were ‘on the journey’ with Andy Last, but Brett has made them all better players who are now big fans favourites and we all want to see as many as possible of them stay at the Club. Hearing from the Mail that deals are done is great and I thank them for doing it, but you want to hear officially, simply because over the decades we have wintered and summered press predictions and ‘nailed on stories’ that have come apart at the seams in the weeks that followed their release, haven’t we?
In the past Radford would always hint at who we had secured or who we wanted to keep, before it was totally ‘official’ which was good and James Clark obviously has his way of doing things. That’s fine, providing he is doing them and we are moving heaven and earth to come to agreement with these players, but we have no indication at all that we are from the club. They all seem happy at the FC and they are by their actions loving playing under Brett, but, none the less, a bit of assurance wouldn’t go amiss would it?
Hero of the quarter final Chris Satae certainly seems as if he wants to stay, although he says that he is enjoying stuff so much at present he admits his future isn’t on his mind, he has loved his time with the Black and Whites so far and he doesn’t want it to end. Last week in the Mail he commented that, “I’ve left everything to my management, I care, but I’ve left it to them to sort everything out” But as a player we have to retain if we can, he added encouragingly, “I’m really enjoying myself over here, everything is opening up, the sun’s coming out, I’m loving it here in Hull and I can’t imagine going anywhere else. Like I say, I’ll leave it to my manager and they’ll sort it out.” There is little doubt that as with a few other of the out of contract guys Chris is being heavily influenced by Brett Hodgson’s ethos, in the way he works and the effect our new Coach is having on these guys is great to see. I just want to hear a bit more from the Club on retaining them, that’s all!
Studying the methods of training in other sports has become commonplace for many top coaches across the sporting spectrum, indeed Brett Hodgson had spent time at several clubs learning his trade and watching what they do in Union and in football before he came to us. It was therefore good to see that England RU Coach Eddie Jones had attended the FC training ground for two days this week. After returning from Japan where he passed on many of his coaching tips to the All-Black Beauden Barrett, Eddie relocated to East Yorkshire to spend two days with Hull FC in what was described as an “advisory role”. Some within English Rugby Union weren’t as approving of his actions as we were though and wondered aloud if Jones’s time, given his well-remunerated contract with the Rugby Football Union, may have been better spent mentoring English Union coaches or monitoring potential squad players.
But for us, to change things around a bit, it’s just great to get new faces, with such a reputation and profile, into the camp and there is little doubt that Jones is one of the best Coaches in the world in either code. A committed fan of our game, Jones invited fellow Australian Brett Hodgson down to the England camp to study their training methods and that ‘family’ approach to managing a squad that Jones is famous for. Jones is renowned for the way he talks to and manages his players and he certainly rates Brett. Indeed, it is widely believed in Union circles, that Hodgson was considered as a potential replacement for England’s Australia-based skills coach Jason Ryles, who was unable to take up the role during the Six Nations because of logistical problems related to Covid travel.
Brett gets on with Jones well, as he joined in with a couple of our sessions and talked to the squad as they prepared for the game this week. It’s a great idea to vary stuff a bit and to get fresh ideas and new faces into camp and again it shows Brett’s enterprise and intent on leaving no stone unturned, as he attempts to develop the squad.
‘The Clowns at the RFL are at it again’, read a Twitter submission from a Castleford fan after she had been told the venue for the Challenge Cup semi-finals last Wednesday afternoon and let’s face it most people across the game agreed with her.
Many, many fans immediately questioned why the 12,000-capacity stadium has been chosen for the event ahead of a larger facility, or spreading the three games intended for that Saturday over two days, which would both have allowed more fans to attend.
The RFL were full of platitudes and excuses as usual and immediately released the following statement,”We are very grateful to Leigh Sports Village for hosting this event. Several stadiums were considered based on being a neutral venue for the four semi-finalists, being available on June 5, being able to host Rugby League, being geographically located somewhere accessible for the fans who would want to attend. Measured against this criteria Leigh Sports Village was the best stadium to host the event. A triple header at one stadium guaranteed BBC coverage of all three games with the opportunity to showcase Rugby League and the Betfred Challenge Cup to millions of people around the world.”
Somewhere accessible for all the fans? Well, Leigh is a great venue if you are a Warrington or Saints fan, I mean to say with there being no railway station, you could go on your bike! However quite how they can say it’s accessible when it is a 120-mile round trip for Castleford fans and a 212miles there and back from Hull. What an absolutely crass statement that is and it’s obvious that no one at the RFL studied geography or indeed credits the fans with any intelligence.
The RFL reckon that it was arranged when they thought it would be played behind closed doors, but now that it isn’t, then surely they could have moved it. I know football Clubs are having their grounds maintained and dug up at this time of the year, but no one would have really minded had it been at Wigan, if the circumstances were explained and a lot more fans could attend.
The fact is, they just don’t think at all and at a time that bridges should be being built, it just further alienates the fans from the governing body. Leigh’s is a lovely set up and a really smart ground, but even without the social distancing regulations if you could pack the place it would still be too small to get everyone in who wanted to attend from all 6 teams.
Let’s face it in 2017 we worried that the Keepmoat wouldn’t be big enough for one semi-final featuring Hull and Leeds. I love these games for they are the ones with which you milestone your life as a fan, particularly when you win and you end up at ‘the twin towers’. However, all that said, the way I feel at present, I probably won’t even be entering myself into the ballot for those 600 tickets, because I’d rather they went to a young family or some young fans who have a long FC supporting future ahead of them and haven’t seen the semi-finals I have.
Normally I would have been there like a shot, but it just seems so unfair after so many months of not being able to go to games, then as soon as we are, this happens. However, when the arrangement for tickets came out it just got worse and worse. The Clubs taking part announced that to maximise numbers within the Stadium seating will be in groups of six supporters. If you are applying as a group of less than six you may be allocated with another group of supporters to make a six. What I thought, was all that about, when with so many people who are still very wary of contact with others, six individuals could be thrown together from different bubbles to spend at least two hours sat side by side? Strange stuff indeed!
Mahe Fonua was talking this week about how things are going for him at the Club these days and he said of joining up with Brett, “It’s been good to reconnect again; we had a good relationship at Wests, but I think he’s bringing the best out in me. “I needed to find some form and I’m really enjoying my time with Brett again. I feel like it’s a bit easier to get yourself motivated for the big games, it’s the games where there’s less importance that I struggle with, but I’m always trying to be at my best regardless and I feel like Brett brings that out in me.” Well, we pretty much suspected that Mahe was previously having trouble getting up for certain games and it seems as if Brett has identified that and has highlighted it as something for Mahe to concentrate on, he certainly looked on it in that first half against Catalan didn’t he?
Sometimes in Rugby as in life its best to ‘Keep your Gob shut”. That old Hessle Road adage that I grew up with, was again illustrated to be right last week when Liam Watts (never one to be backwards at coming forwards) had a right rant about the one match ban he had got being unfair, which saw him appeal it and him subsequently end up with the ban doubling to two matches. Of course, the Independent Operational Rules Tribunaldidn’t cite what he had said as the reason for the increase, but more that the contesting of the sentence had been ‘Frivolous’, however, history dictates that Wattsy going off on one in the media didn’t help his case at all!
The warning signs were there for all to see with regard to such actions, when a week previously we appealed Connor’s and Fash’s bans and were turned down. However, the fact that although we felt both penalties unjust, we had kept quiet about it and about appealing, (as did both of the players) and instead the club put together a strong case, the panel deemed that it was a reasonable appeal and although the ban stood, they decided that no further action was needed.
I wasn’t surprised at Wattsy’s outburst at all, nor was I surprised that his sentence was doubled, in fact I predicted as much to Mrs R. after I read what he had said. I hate the inconsistency of the officials and the scatter gun effect of the judiciary when selecting players to ban and caution, but I think that I understand their stance on such cases as this and their actions I think speak louder than words so Wattsy would be better keeping it shut in future!
I see this week that Paul Cooke was predicting that Jamie Shaul could be Rovers bound when his contract is up at the end of the season. Man, if the FC through and through, Radford prodigy and the man who scored the winning try to break the ‘You’ll never win at Wembley’ hoodoo, moves to Caravan Park, there will have to be some large slices of humble pie to be eaten around East Hull won’t there? Jamie will have to think hard about it too, because some Hull fans will never forgive him and a lot of Rovers fans will never accept him!! Cooke himself should know that only too well!
Of course, in this game and this City, stranger things have happened, but I ain’t going to give this particular piece of ‘quiet week’ soothsaying any further credence. Let’s face it, if you’re looking for someone whose actions are designed to cause widespread upset amongst the FC fans and divisions amongst the Dobbins, then history dictates that anyone would have to go some to eclipse Mr Cooke wouldn’t they?
So, who watched Leeds beat Wakey in such controversial circumstances on Friday? It was a close and exciting game and had Wakey had a bit more composure, they would have won the game easily, for Leeds I thought were pretty poor. However, the way it ended just shows what a terrible rule the new ball steal one is. The deciding moment in the match came in extra-time when Wakefield forward Jay Pitts was penalised for a ball steal on King Vuniyayawa, with Rhyse Martin kicking the match-winning penalty for Leeds.
The new rule regarding the players peeling off in tackles is hard for referees to judge and at the same time, it is tough for players to read, what’s more I think it’s pretty crap all round really. In my opinion, it should be changed back and be a one-on-one ball steal only. As fans of the game, what we love to see is the ball being taken in hard and fast, but with the new ball steal rule it could promote the ‘safe’ option of tight carries rather than players looking to ‘promote’ the ball from within the tackle.
Well, there we are, so much expectation and so much disappointment. However, we were beaten by a better drilled team on the day and I guess we can’t complain about that at all. But it left me a bit worried as to what happens next, with so many away games to come.
We were level at the break and then started the second half brilliantly, but we lacked any sort of invention at all and we came up against a team who could tackle like we could and, in a war of attrition, we didn’t just have the nous or the guile to get into their 10 often enough to pressure them. We played a lot of backs to the wall rugby and made too many mistakes against a team that was ruthless in punishing those errors.
But, the bigger issue for me surrounds the situation at the KCom and the threat there is to our very existence as a Club as the Allam’s appear to be trying to squeeze us out. That’s been the massive elephant in the room for some time, but now it’s out in the open and something none of us can ignore any longer.
Thanks for reading another Diary, which for once hasn’t been easy to write. However try to Keep Believing and let’s hope for better times come Sunday at Headingley. The correspondence this week has been quite staggering and thanks for everyone who has been in touch. Take care, try to keep smiling, get a jab when your offered one and …..