A week without a game and for most fans, a blessed relief from the roller coaster of supporting a team that is consistently inconsistent!
Well, perhaps that’s not that fair, because in the last two games we have show some spirit and played quite well at times and we have at least controlled large chunks of the game, whilst grabbing 3 points from two of the top 4 teams. If we win at Bradford we have turned a corner if we don’t, I guess that it’s as you where and same old same old….again!!
However there will be few reading this who’s thoughts over the these last few days won’t, at one time or another, have gone back to the semi final weekend last season and that brilliant victory over Warrington. What a day that was and what a difference a year makes eh?
Still the two semi finals on TV at least offered us the chance to watch some serious sudden death rugby without the fear that it was Hull FC that was likely to be subject to the death bit and with a blank week in the league I’ve managed again to cobble together my thoughts and observations about the FC, the game and life in general, in this the latest edition of my weekly ramblings. This rubbish is as always just my musings which I share with you each week and I hope you at least find something of interest that you can associate with and enjoy. That, before we plunge again into the tumble drier that is supporting our team and travel to Odsal next weekend for a really tough fixture and yet one that probably offers very little to play for but pride.
Well, it was a situation that seemed a bit confused when the last Diary went to press, because some sources were telling us that Richard Horne was retiring, whilst personally he was obviously still undecided on his future and of course, as happens with everyone at Hull FC from our star player to the office cleaner, any such posturing immediately linked Horney with a move ‘to join his brother’ at Rovers. I had a procession of folks approaching me with stories of how Rich had told someone, who told someone, who was his best friend, his wife’s hairdressers, or his milkman (delete as appropriate), that he was leaving for the Dobbins; at Hull FC were it not ever so?
However he wasn’t and it was back in early July (diary 403) when I said in here, “I heard this week that Richard Horne is mulling over his future at the Club and thinking a bit about whether this will be his last season at Hull as a player. The Club have told him to take his time with his deliberations but it is almost certain that should he decide to call it a day then he will be given a role coaching perhaps the Under 19’s”. On Wednesday however the Club confirmed the media stories that our half back of 16 years would indeed not be getting a new playing contract but would be taking up the role of head coach of our under 16’s. It’s a pity, as my friend ‘Kirky’ said the other day, that the Club couldn’t just let him retire gracefully without letting the media get into a position where they ‘blurted out’ that he was no longer required.
So, if now its official I make no excuses for spending a bit of talking talking about a player who I have appreciated for many years. As I said last week and indeed have said for months, I certainly think it’s the right decision. Rich has been a phenomenal talent, he’s a model pro and has also been a great servant to our Club and it won’t seem the same without him ‘waiting in the wings’ to come to our aid when we’re stuck. An action that has often been followed by him pulling off a performance that wins us a game, as indeed he did last week. If I’m really honest, (putting all sentiment aside) then I have to say that unfortunately injury and age have dictated that he has for me played a decreasing role on the field and as time has worn on he’s no longer a gimme even if he’s fit, but rather he’s someone who we can rely on to ‘Fill the breach’. That’s the sort of luxury in the modern game, with its salary cap restrictions and need to bring youngsters through, that a Super league Club simply can’t afford.
That performance by Richard against Saints rolled back the years and made me and everyone else think a bit, especially when we considered that we are replacing Richard Horne, aged 32, life-long club man and a player who I have ‘loved’ for so long, by spending big on Leon Pryce, also aged 32, friend of Lee Radford and journeyman half-back. But of course we all know that players ‘age’ differently, some retire at 29 others play on to 36 and you just have to hope that (obvious past health worries aside) Richard’s reoccurring and niggling injuries are something that Leon hasn’t experienced just yet!!!
Quite frankly, in my mind it’s virtually impossible to clarify the Pryce/Horne argument, because we simply don’t know how Leon will go, although if we’re honest we all have a pretty good idea how Horney would have gone next year, don’t we?
Rich has missed a load of games over the last few seasons through injury, while Leon’s fitness record is first class for a player of his age. He has featured in 24 games this year, played 28 last and 26 the year before and add to that the fact that he has had a lot of very good games this season and is in good form, then he really does look OK. In fact the record shows that he is at present one of the best players in SL, sitting as he does at 3rd in the Albert Goldthorpe medal table with, incidentally, his new partner Sneyd at 6th.
Of course losing a life-long servant of the Club is sad in many ways because Rich has been a real icon and roll model whilst in the ranks of our playing staff and has never once even whispered a wish to move away. His battle against Diabetes and the way he came through it offers a great example to any youngster or indeed adult who suffers the same issues and is the stuff that in years to come we will all look back on and admire. So too is the way that he’s never ever been in trouble with the Club and although just about every FC youngster that has made the grade has at one time or another in his subsequent career, been linked in rumours with Rovers, that has never happened with Horney. I think that’s because over the years his absolute loyalty has made him ‘above suspicion’. Until that is, ironically, we didn’t offer him a contract!!
However there is no room for sentiment in sport, or so we are told, but it’s great to see Richard Horne staying on in some capacity because he is Hull FC through and through. I hope he does have the qualities needed to make him a top Coach and that it’s the right move for everyone. Adam was quick to move to sort things out and I’m sure he did it for the good of the Club; owners who follow their heart rather than their head are anyway on the road to ruin. Although somehow I don’t see Pearson in that mould, do you?
There is in fact little doubt that turning to coaching is a pretty safe bet for Rich because everyone inside and outside the Club admire him as a real talent on the training field, and who knows one day he might just be Head Coach. That’s years away however and for now it’s great that Rich is good enough to be kept on and that he has decided to quit while he is ahead and while we all still have great memories of him. It would, for this fan, have been tragic had he decided to play on at say Donny, Featherstone, Batley or Hunslet, then been battered and injured, before disappeared into virtual obscurity. Instead, thankfully, he is leaving on a high at the top of his game (when he’s fit) and as a real hero at his home town Club. Remember his first game back from injury, in the final at Wembley against St Helens? The silence after that first crunching tackle when he’d just come on, guaranteed that anyone who was there will never forget that moment!
So in the end I think that it’s a good outcome all round, but as far as Leon is concerned, well, at a great Club which has spawned many great servants, you might be coming in on a high, but the pressure will be on and you’ll have some big boots to fill mate! (While for Sneyd the pressure should well and truly be off, because quite frankly he has no bots to fill at all!) Still, I’m sure the ‘Player of the Year’ awards evening this time around will feature a lot about Rich Horne; top bloke, International player, great servant, talented footballer and loyalty personified!! Thanks for everything Rich!
How great it was to see our new first team recruit, 17 year old Jason Abdull, playing a starring role for the Under 19’s last Thursday at YPI against Leeds. He scored a hat trick and led the team around the field in exemplary manner which is quite something in many ways. He showed no sign of reaction to being ‘dropped down’ in fact he left Radford with much to think about especially with the return to fitness of Jordan Rankin for this weekend’s clash at Odsal. He showed that he is willing even at such a tender age to dig in and work. He excelled in attack and defence and there were certainly no signs of an attitude where he is ‘refusing an ice bath because his fake tan will come off’ or, ‘a photo with a fan because he hasn’t combed his hair’, as have reportedly been heard from another young protégé of ours of late! Good for Abdull, I expect an elongated and well deserved contract coming his way very soon indeed.
Over the weeks and months I have alluded through veiled hints that Liam Watt’s erratic and disappointing form could be down to other issues, but it’s not the sort of thing that you want to talk about behind anyone’s back and it was obviously a very sensitive and personal situation. But he has dug in of late and secured a well deserve new contract and it was good to see him featured this week in the Daily Mail where James Smailes said, “With his concentration rightly elsewhere at times as his new-born son was in and out of hospital, Watts came through a difficult spell to find the type of form that has helped Hull to two good displays”. Wattsy added “I had a little boy in January and he’s not been too well, he’s been in and out of hospital and that has been an obvious distraction. He’s been one of the main reasons I’ve been playing well because I know I have to play well for him”. Whatever Liam’s motivations it has certainly worked on the pitch and I’m sure we all wish him and his family all the best as he looks to cement his place in the senior playing group in the next three years. His improved form has certainly led to Radford’s faith in his future prospects and perhaps helped Adam decide on another conundrum up front; the one featuring Scott Taylor which could have forced our owner into coughing up big style again.
Back in edition 405 I told you that…….. ‘Scott Taylor’s capture will be announced soon, but it will be for 2016 as Wigan won’t release him for next season’ and sure enough the Hull Daily Mail ‘caught up’ last Wednesday with their headline of ‘Hull FC will miss out on long-term target Scott Taylor – for now’.
Taylor is just desperate to come to Hull FC right now, just ask any of his family, but having already laid out well over £100,000 for Sneyd and with two or even maybe 3 more acquisition’s to come in, Pearson is reluctant to lay a similar figure out for a player who will join us for definite in 2016 anyway, providing of course, we are still in Super League (you have to add that caveat, these days). It’s a shame because he could be a big hit, but when you look at the front rowers we have under contract that are obviously going nowhere, coupled with the improved form and new contract for Watts, it’s easy to see where our owner is coming from isn’t it? However for me it’s certainly a bit of a disappointment because he’s a player I really rate but we’ll just have to be patient I guess, although that’s something as Hull fans we ain’t too good at!
Quite a few readers have commented about how quiet the Whiffs department has been of late and there is little doubt that although as a Club we are chasing 3 more Aussies our administration is certainly playing their cards extremely close to their chests. However I do expect a signing announcement this week and also some indication of a couple of players getting new contracts, whilst I’m told that the possibility of an extension for Gareth Ellis is close too. Of course when there is little news about, people start speculating and that isn’t just restricted to the keyboard warriors on message boards etc. It certainly made me laugh when the Aussie press got it wrong last week and indicated that we were after signing Mantellato from Newcastle Knights. Having looked at his record, I would have hoped that we have more ambition than that, however the Rovers fans had a right laugh at us all, until that is, we found out that he was very likely coming to the City of Hull but not to us! Therefore unless he’s off to West Hull, then we can only presume that he’s likely to be ‘vomitarium’ bound can’t we?
How great it was this week to see the third member of the Tyson Wilson Clan, George, coming on board at Hull FC along with 14 other West Hull youngsters. Here he is with the other guys and our Chief Scout Mel Harman signing up! How good is that!!
I bumped into Diary reader and top bloke Ian Firth the other day at the game at Bishop Burton and he told me that he had been interested in my piece two weeks ago about the players who never made it, that we signed during the ‘reign’ of Shaun McCrae’ He pointed out that in 2012 we had Wade McKinnon, Jamie Ellis, Eamon O’Carroll and Brett Seymour all of whom were released. IN 2013 the departures continued with Daniel Holdsworth and Paul Johnson released and Joe Arundel, Jason Crookes and Jay Pitts signed that season now out on permanent loan. In addition he points to Liam Kent who was signed up two years ago and never played a game (and is now at Featherstone) and Jacob Miller who is again now out on permanent loan. Just imagine how much they all cost us, or if all or even most of them had been signings good enough in either skill or attitude to play for our first team on a permanent basis. We have certainly made some duff appointments over the last few years haven’t we? Food for thought there from Ian!
Incidentally I have referred to the Hull Daily Mail a few times this week and it’s great to have James Smailes back after he raced home from his holidays to be at the Saints game; I bet that was worth the rush Smailsey!!!! You all know I’m very critical of the media if they stray into the realms of making the news instead of reporting it but I rate JS as a sports journalist, for me he reports fairly and with good sense on my team and I’d certainly be telling him if he didn’t, but the fact he is a fan too and went to games as a lad with his dad is great. That can only be good for my Club and its exposure in the local media. The recent Watts and Taylor articles are just two examples of his ‘nose’ for a story and just occasionally we get a really off focus look at stuff which is always really revealing.
In fact, I doubt the Horne stuff where Richard was put on the spot by the paper, (thus over sensationalising the situation and in effect forcing him into admitting there was no contract for him next year) would have been handled the way it was, had Smailes been around. While he feels the owner and the Staff are doing their best and have the Club and fans at heart, he goes with the flow, but he also prints some thought provoking stuff too, which is often full of hints as to what is actually going on at our club. He can tough it out as well and he showed with the last administration that at times he was well able to administer the rough side of the media’s ‘Tongue’ when he had to!! So for me the Mail does OK and that’s mainly down to the reporter himself, but as for the rest of the local media….don’t get me on that one!!
It’s amazing really that a bloke who hobbles off and needs a knee operation can, because of modern surgical and rehab techniques, be back in three weeks, but that’s the situation with Jordan Rankin. Back in the old days that would have been his season over or even worse he would have soldiered on and like many before him, been on sticks by he was 60. Modern sports science never fails to amaze me really.
The arguments and discussions about the restructured league format for next season rumble on, and this week I pondered on how difficult financially it would be for a Club from the Championship to eventually be promoted to Super league at the end of 2015. It’s certainly a possibility, but is it as easy as a Club simply getting promoted in a straight one up one down scenario? Well of course it ain’t and thereby hangs the issue that probably contains the ‘buggerment’ factor for Championship One Clubs with Super League ambitions. The fact is that it’s going to take a mighty effort on the field never mind off it, to make that dreams a reality. Of course the 4th v 5th play-off at the end of the ‘League of Death’ games does at least mean one Championship Club has 80 minutes to get promoted, but whether, with their obviously depleted resources, they will be a spent force after their previous 30 games, remains to be seen.
Financially, when the split happens it will be a very tough ask for any championship club to gain promotion, let’s look at an example that illustrates just that. For the benefit of this model, let’s presume that next season at this time Bradford and London are in the top 4 of the Championship after 23 games and the top two Championship teams from this season also finish in that top 4. The two teams relegated this season (the Bulls and Bronco’s) will have receive £780,000 funding as a parachute payment, the four Super League teams who drop down into the middle 8 after 23 Super League games will have benefited from £1.85m funding and the two current championship sides ( one and two this season) who make up the eight, will receive £500,000 and £450,000 respectively. As I say a tough ask and a pretty unbalanced scenario. In fact some of the Championship Clubs who are dancing in the Streets about the new scheme and their increased funding would have been better off and had more chance of promotion if they had opted for one up one down.
I went down and had a look at the new shop at Bransholme last Monday and the place was heaving in fact the only person that wasn’t there was Councillor Phil Webster but that’s hardly surprising as our readers have informed me that the man who thinks Bransholme is populated by Dobbins, spends most match days in the Rovers boardroom. His comments last week about Bransholme being a Rovers area certainly rattled a few cages from the readers of the Diary as I received several comments from fans, some of which proffered some suggestions and information that I decided are better left unsaid!! Jamie Shaul and Dean Hadley were down there for the opening, meeting all the kids and business was brisk. Of course it will be at first, but I hope it’s a success and I found the journey across from Beverley really easy too, so I’ll be going again! ‘Heart of Rovers territory’ my arse!!
Now an appeal for some help! The work towards a new memorial at the Boulevard to commemorate the site of the famous old ground is progressing well with the City Council being the main sponsors and all the Clubs supporters groups chipping in. It looks like we are on track for an unveiling in September 2015 on a date as near as possible to the first ever game there. The memorial will be positioned in the grounds of the Boulevard Academy and will be in the form of a small engraved memorial stone. It is hoped that an image of the Stadium can be incorporated on the face of the stone but FC Voices are finding it hard to locate a picture of the old Threepenny Stand, taken from the Airlie Street end terracing. If anyone reading this has an old photograph or newspaper image from that angle or knows where there is one please, let FC Voices know by contacting Alan James on 07947 627557. I’ll keep you informed of the progress as time goes by towards the big unveiling.
Well the cutting was a short piece called ‘Sportrait No 27 Wilf Rosenberg’ from the Green Sports Mail of 9th December 1962 and it went on to say,
“Wilf Rosenberg, the South African winger transferred from Leeds to To Hull this week for £5,750 is 26 years old weighs 11st 7lbs and recently won the Mildenhall sprint competition for rugby players. A former Springbok- he made his debut for Leeds against Barrow at Headingley, on 28th February 1959 and scored a hat trick. Since then he has scores 74 tries for Leeds in two seasons including 44 last season a post war record for Leeds. Son of a Rabbi, who recently moved from South Africa to take up a High religious position in Birmingham, Rosenberg is a Dental Student and received a £4000 signing on fee when he joined Leeds. He won a Championship medal last season when, for the first time in their history, Leeds won the title”
I have covered Wilf’s first game on 9th December 1961 in here before and also in the book, but he went on to be a prolific try scorer for us touching down 42 times in 87 games, scoring two on his debut and a hat trick the following week. What a hero eh?
As we are on that era, this week in Codgers Corner I want to honour one of the greatest players I have ever seen on a rugby field who celebrated his 80th birthday last week.
So here is a game I remember so well from a time when I was just 12 years old and attending Kelvin Hall School, Hull FC were in serious decline and William Boston Esq. was terrorising defences and Wilf was doing the same with a slightly less physical style. Oh and when Billy’s team Wigan were just about unbeatable. The game featured my two big boyhood wing heroes and took place on Thursday 7th March just after the big freeze of 1963; Thursday rugby eh? There’s nothing new is there?
“……we were all totally starved of live rugby when finally the Wigan game was scheduled for Thursday 7th March with a 2-30 kick off. Thursday was early closing day in Hull, and with no floodlights it must have seemed a good afternoon to stage the fixture. That, of course, suited my Dad, (the Butcher) down to the ground, it was his afternoon off but no one it would appear told Bill Pattison our head master at Kelvin Hall about early closing day!!! As the hay was spread on the Boulevard in the week preceding the game, Steve and I, plotted just how we were going to ‘twag off’ school to see the match without our school or parents knowing about it.
That Thursday we left school after afternoon registration and walked all the way from Bricknell Avenue to the Boulevard arriving at about 2-15. We thought things would be relatively quiet, but the queues were amazing, snaking across the car park and out onto Airlie Street. It seemed everyone was starved of the game we all loved, and it was no surprise when the final attendance was announced as 10,329 (paying £1,355).
The kick off was actually delayed by five minutes so that everyone could get in through the turnstiles and when we finally got a position on the terracing at the Airlie Street end the teams were already out on the field. The remnants of the straw, that had been cleared to form massive piles around the touch line, were strewn all over the pitch, but who cared? We were about to witness our first game of rugby for months. Sadly our mercurial winger Clive Sullivan could not again get time off from the Army and Bill Drake our captain who had pulled up at training on the beach at Bridlington the previous Tuesday, was out too with an injured knee. Otherwise we were at full strength against a Wigan side that read like a ‘who’s who’ of rugby league.
Referee Lawrenson blew the whistle and we attacked the Gordon Street end furthest away from our vantage point. A quick check of a programme, over the shoulder of a short guy in front of me, indicated that Wilf Rosenberg was playing, so that was really all that mattered to me. I was really up for this one and so I was pretty despondent when Arthur Keegan who was usually so dependable with the boot, missed three penalties in the first ten minutes. The first half though was all Hull as we mounted attack after attack in their twenty five yard area. Both Matthews and Jim Macklin fell to desperate last ditch tackles by the Wigan full back Bolton as we pressed their line. Then Dick Gemmell got the ball and quickly side stepped Davies to send out a peach of a pass to Rosenberg who shot down the wing towards the advancing full back. As he approached Bolton, Wilf kicked ahead and it was ‘try on’ as the ball stuck in the mud over the try line where the tractors that had cleared the pitch had been turning, but he was blatantly obstructed by the Wiganer, who stuck out a leg in his direction and brought him crashing down. The resultant penalty was again missed by Keegan.
Scrum half Tommy Finn and young Terry Devonshire on the wing then linked on the other side with only an ankle tap on the youngster by Billy Boston saving the day for the visitors. Pitchford, McTigue and Collier in the Wigan pack were really ‘fired up’ and charged into our lads but they were well matched by Mick Scott, Hockley and Sykes in the Hull engine room. At half time Wigan led by a solitary Ashton goal which he added to straight after the break following a foul by Walters on Wigan’s Pitchford. But at 4-nil we were still in it and without doubt the best team and with Ralph Walters at hooker winning the scrums 16-11 there was plenty of ball for our backs to play with. Two great breaks by Finn and Matthews just lacked the necessary backing up and after a great ball from Booth, Rosenberg was just tackled into touch in front of the Threepennies, as he was about to launch his famous dive for the line.
With just ten minutes to go it looked like we had scored. Keegan joined the attack and shot towards the line, he beat their full back and was about to cross the whitewash when from nowhere winger Carlton hammered him to the ground and uncharacteristically he dropped the ball. With two minutes to go and the game evenly poised all the accolades were going to the brilliant Hull defence when the inevitable happened. After all the Hull pressure and valiant defending Wigan got the final try, as a break by Lyon saw his wayward pass fall into the arms of that man Billy Boston who charged down the touchline and right over Devonshire and Keegan to score in the corner, Ashton missed the goal, but shortly afterwards the whistle went and we were out of the Cup.
In the end, the much fancied Wigan outfit, in keeping with their ‘Favourites’ tag, had scraped home 7-0, but we had really put up a great fight! The whole day was an adventure which not only included a great match, and the first I had seen on a Thursday, but also the first and only time I twagged off school. My day however came to something of an ignominious end when on the way out of those big Airlie Street gates, I bumped into Dad, who was not too impressed at all with ‘bunking’ off school idea, something that I seem to remember resulted in a few nights grounded at home! Still what a memorable occasion it was and if you’re going to skip school there is hardly likely to ever be a better reason to do it!
Billy Boston Eh our game would be a much less interesting one without icons like him and of course Wilf Rosenberg and long may they continue!
I got a great E mail the other week from Sandy C (I use a pseudonym for reasons that will become apparent shortly) who told a great yarn about his recent marriage which was arranged before the 2014 fixture list came out and was subsequently, he found out to his dismay, to be the same day as we played Bradford at the KC. He got married that Friday and flew straight out to Alicante after the ceremony to arrive at his hotel at around 7-00pm. Afterwards his wife told a great tale about when she got home and her mates asked about the wedding night. She told them, “There I lay on the bed in my brand new black negligee, while he sat on the balcony with his laptop with his headphones on, listening to the rugby on blood Humberside! By the time it had finished, the magic had well passed I can tell you!!”. Her friends asked, ‘Didn’t he try talking dirty” to which she replied, “Well, while he was out there he did say, F*ckin Gwilym Lloyd, a time or two!!” Priceless and absolutely true, or so I’m led to believe!
Well I hope you found something of interest to keep you going in a quiet week with no game, something we will have to get used to in a few weeks anyway as the winter break beckons. This week it’s been like writing in the closed season anyway! Thanks to everyone for their contact and correspondence, I can’t have been very controversial of late because I didn’t get any bollockings this week!! ‘Must try harder’ I guess! Thanks for your support, were all off to the ‘Fridge of the North’ next Sunday, so let’s get a win at Bradford, or at the very least continue the pride and passion we have shown of late, see you there, it’ll good to be on the road again!
And finally, the best laid plans eh? Here is a promotion for next weekend’s game at the Bulls that seems to have gone sadly wrong!! He’s got the bull by the horns or rather it appears he hasn’t!!!! …Horny Horney Horney!