In a week when the Dobbins have signed a couple of ‘interesting characters’ as their new half back combination, at least there’s a bit to talk about and at last, some banter being exchanged again.
The fixtures as they fall, give us a really tough start but a fighting chance at the finish and after literally dozens of calls, texts and E mails to yours truly asking the question of the week (“When is the Catalan away game”) the fixtures are at last out, France is at an ideal time, our pre season schedule is confirmed and everyone can make their Super League travel plans; even if they initially feature Doncaster or York in January and how to get to Huddersfield in the snow! There’s also a fans forum to look forward to and around 6 weeks left to the Season ticket discount deadline. Plus the lads are back in training again from a week of Friday, so things are on the up!
Come on…….this week at least, I’m doing my best to sound upbeat!
The fixtures are usually out ‘unofficially’ by mid week and well before the RFL embargoed weekend, but Redhall did well to keep the lid on them this week and little was known by anyone until details started to trickle out on Sunday morning. Mind you one Club did leak them early to some fans and got an immediate fine from the RL, so everyone was being a bit careful at the FC. In the end, I got them from my usual source in Lancashire on Sunday morning, but everyone kept the lid on it all very well, although the odd leak is almost impossible isn’t it?
The advent of the Fixtures is the first taste of what is to come and with our pre season Friendlies starting in mid January things are at last starting to take shape and we know what we have to do and when we have to do it! A start at Huddersfield could have been worse I guess, but it begins a run of really tough games, in a season when success will be much easier with a good start. Easters a hard one too and with Rovers on Thursday, then Saints away on Monday….it’s a piece of cake!!
Then, after a June when we are away every week (because they need to do work on the KC pitch) if we need to get some wins in the run in to stay in the 8, things start to look up and we have all our last 4 games in Hull, 3 at home and one at the Light sabre stadium. If we’re in trouble, real trouble, we should have a chance at home, with the crowd behind the lads and so that run does give us an opportunity to ‘come up on the rails’ should we need to. However from mid April to mid May is a critical period with a string of winnable games when we need some points in the bag.
I guess for me looking at the fixtures my overall feeling is that with the Bulls and the Bronco’s gone, there are no easy games anymore and with the RL quest to make them all count, the pressure is really going to be on. However as notoriously slow starters anyway, for Hull FC a winning finish look eminently more deliverable than a flying start!
It’s all subjective I know, but with little between a lot of the teams and 4 of 12 having to finish in the group of death, it’ll be bloody tough! Still we know what we are doing and when we have to do it, and if I were to hazard a guess I expect that it will be around Easter and Round 8 when our owner will be weighing up his options and considering how we are going with all the ramifications that brings, if we ain’t performing.
So to the friendlies and there was certainly a surprise in store when the pre-season fixtures were announced wasn’t there? I hinted to you last week that we would be playing at Wakey in the Gareth Ellis Testimonial game and that should be quite an occasion, but the idea of the two ‘week one’ games being played on the same day at the same time, was certainly a surprise. It’s without doubt a strange one though and something I don’t think I can remember ever happening before. The proximity of the two Stadiums in Doncaster and York (40 miles apart and about 58 minutes in the car according to the AA) meant I guess that one game could have kicked off at 12-00 and the other at say 4-00 and we could all have got to both. In addition both Clubs would have got a better away support and our Coach and the fans would have seen everyone in our squad play their first game.
Still at least you can see the thinking behind giving everyone in the squad who is fit a run out on the first weekend, can’t you? Furthermore, it will of course have been down to the home clubs to call and there are all the issues of travel, floodlights etc. to consider too. For me? Well it might well be a trip to Doncaster, although I think I’ll wait to see who plays where before making a final choice. I guess many of you will do the same, if there is a chance of seeing Sneyd and Pryce playing together that’ll probably sway me I think! The Club believe that at this early stage the Donny game will see the stronger team fielded.
With all the rebuilding going on at their current home, will the York game be played at Bootham Crescent?
The Fans Forum announced last Friday should be a great night, as well as being a bit of a step into the unknown, being staged, as it is, in a new venue for these popular events. Fans group FC Voices try to ensure that there are two such gatherings each year where the fans can quiz the Club face to face and it has to be said that the Club always co-operate fully to that end (a lot more in fact than they ever did in the reign of the last regime under Auntie Kath!) The Walton Club holds around 400 and it was chosen because of the fans group’s requirement to keep the cost of these ‘gatherings’ down to a minimum and therefore accessible to everyone.
There is little doubt that the Stadium is the ideal place for these events, however the escalating cost of hiring the room at the KC (which was originally donated free of charge as part of the Clubs user agreement, but now has to be paid for) when added to PA, streaming and filming costs etc meant that the last forum was promoted at a loss. That situation couldn’t go on and in an effort to make sure the event happened, FC Voices looked at several venues. However the management of the Walton Club have been brilliantly supportive and with Clarky in the Chair and a panel including Mark Minnichiello and Gareth Ellis to augment the Coach and owner, it should be a great night. This morning (Monday) there were still some tickets left at the Club shops and at £3 it’s still pretty good value! It should be a great night with pie and peas available at £2, from 6-00pm and proceedings starting at 7-00. If you can’t get there in person it should be streamed as a radio broadcast on the Club site and filmed and re shown next day and of course you’ll get the inside track of everything in the following Diary. Get there if you can.
I mentioned Gareth Ellis’s Testimonial last week and last Monday he talked about the pitfalls of such celebrations and the effect they can have on a player’s performance. Aware of the amount of time testimonials can take up and having seen some players struggle with their form across the game while taking on the extra responsibility of a testimonial, Ellis told the Mail that won’t be the case for him. He said, “I’ve told my committee, it is of the utmost importance that I do well for Hull FC and if ever anything threatens to be a distraction then it will have to be put to one side. I’ve made it clear it won’t get in the way because playing at my very best for Hull is my only priority.” That’s very commendable and shows some foresight, but once he’s in the enhanced media spotlight that a Testimonial brings, perhaps that will be harder than it seems, because for me looking back over the years, it has an effect on most players who go through it.
I have been involved with both Yeamo’s benefit year and that of Rich Whiting and I think, despite players being aware of it, there’s little they can do, as both those two probably fell short of their customary level of performance during their special years. In fact Horney didn’t fair too well either during his Testimonial Year and you have to look back to Paul King to find a player who it didn’t seem to affect much. But, then again, nothing much seemed to bother Kingy did it? Whether it is the act of being constantly in the spotlight, or a feeling that they have to do extra well to reward the fans who have supported them or perhaps just the distraction of it all, I don’t know, but it certainly makes a difference! We’ll see how Gareth gets on, but he has been in tremendous form of late and we need him to continue that next year. However he is conscious of what it can do to a player and perhaps, at this stage, that’s a start! At least he won’t have to fret too much about promoting his big ‘Captains Table’ dinner next March as that has sold out already.
The other night in the Drum and Monkey we got round to discussing a thread that was included on the ‘secret’ Rovers message board that was entitled ‘If Only’ and continued ….we could get into a major final!’ It seemed that in the wake of the grand Final some Rovers fans were getting desperate for some glory and after all these years, who can blame them? There is always a lot of debate in the City anyway about who is top dog and that usually comes round to whether Hull FC is a ‘Big Club’ and what actually constitutes that ‘accolade’. Is it Gates? Financial backing? League position? Attendances? Stadia? training facilities?; to do justice to that discussion would take more than just one Diary, but at least, if success actually does come down to that other ‘performance indicator, Final appearances, then we must be a strong candidate for the Big Club status. I say that because of a very informative thread (a rarity indeed) on RL fans last week, which listed the major final appearances for current Super League Clubs since the competition began and we ranked in fifth place. It read as follows:-
St Helens 10
As we didn’t actually come into the Super League until 1998 you do tend to forget the amount of success we have had and although we don’t win finals that often, it’s certainly a lot better than Wakey, London, Salford and indeed the Dobbins who haven’t even played in one! The thing is of course fans always want more and the last few years certainly points to us slipping backwards in the ‘glory game’ stakes. However they are great, great, occasions and although it’s only won one, lost three, I have some smashing memories of all those finals even the last one against Wigan, which was in hindsight a disaster. At least we had the build up and the day itself which is so much more than many at other Clubs have experienced at all and that one win at Cardiff was so, so, sweet wasn’t it? Here’s a quick reminder!
As I have said in here lots of times before, hardly a week goes by these days without having to report the sad death of either a fan or an ex player from the great family of Hull FC. This week was no different and the turn of one of my old Dads favourites from the 50’s, Frank Broadhurst, whose funeral took place in Beverley on Friday.
Frank died peacefully at Molescroft Park Residential Home, on Tuesday 7th October aged 81 years. He made his FC debut on 31st August 1957 at the Boulevard against Hunslet and went on to score 32 tries in 121 appearances. Playing at both 6 and at times 7, I remember Frank as a fast and tricky half who featured in some famous games towards the end of the great 50’s era of the Club. Those matches included his ‘day in the sunshine’ playing scrum half (with Matthews at off half) in the 1960 Wembley Final against Wakefield. However, perhaps his finest moment was in 1958 when he played at Odsal in the victorious Championship winning team as we beat Workington in the Final game of the year.
Then, in 1959 he starred in the Cup semi final victory against Featherstone again at Odsal but this time in front of over 52,000 people. In that game Roy Francis was famously quoted as having told Frank and Tommy Finn (his half back partner) to “Follow the Featherstone half backs Millaney and Marchant everywhere, even if they leave the field!”, they did follow them, Hull won and went on to Wembley! So, sadly another great servant leaves to join the ever increasing ranks of lost FC heroes. RIP Frank Broadhurst.
No one, whoever he plays for, ever deserves to get what Lance Hohaia got while laying stunned on the floor last week at Old Trafford, Ben Flower certainly got what he deserved too from the disciplinary hearing and hopefully we and the game moves on. However the social media went into melt-down and how about this tweet as my quote of the week, “@bennyflower; keep your head up Benny lad he deserved it :)))) He picked on the wrong person” who was that from? Well, yep you guessed it, Gareth Hock no less!!! What a Dick eh? No wonder he’s back at Salford; no one else wants him!
In the whiffs department there is little about at all, so fans are making it up themselves (where it ever so?) The hot topic last week with many was the shirts for our 150th Celebration year with the Keyboard Warriors on message boards who are ‘in the know’ telling us all what they are like, some of which speculation was way off the mark. The only clue around is that Adam Pearson hinted a while ago that the home shirt would be very traditional, and it is! I expect it around the star of November! The away shirt is another closely guarded secret too at present, but should be available for Christmas and it promises to be a shirt with a really unique selling point.
Well there’s a lot being said about Rovers new recruits so here’s what the Aussie press had to say about their new half back combination of Kelly and Blair. Firstly from last April, “Gold Coast Titans’ injury-prone halfback Albert Kelly faces a battle to return to NRL this season” plus, last January “Gold Coast NRL recruit Maurice Blair will hand himself in to police on Tuesday afternoon after a warrant was issued for his arrest, his lawyer says. Blair, 29, was due to face court in Maryborough on Tuesday, having been arrested on New Year’s Eve and charged with drinking liquor in a public place and obstructing police”.
Then on 23rd August, “The Gold Coast Titans have offered counselling to devastated players (Luke Douglas and) Albert Kelly after their seasons were ended by suspensions from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority” So, if Rovers are looking for players to raise their profile in the media and make the headlines, they have certainly done well there!! Blair apparently had a poor season and at one point he was dropped after being blamed for the Titans biggest defeat, when their coach blamed the right side defence and Blair in particular for being weak. While young Albert is certainly talented but was very reluctant to leave the Titans, experienced a bad season of injuries and didn’t play a lot of rugby. Interestingly enough I can find no evidence that any other Clubs in the NRL showed any interest in signing either of them, so I guess, perhaps it’s a case of don’t believe the hype and ‘only time will tell’.
It seems to be all dinners and celebrations at this time of the year doesn’t it and I was contacted this week by the ex players association and asked if I would let you know about another taking place at 7.30 p.m. on Saturday 1st November 2014 at the Mercure Grange Park Hotel in Willerby, Mike Lodge the renowned local compare and comic has helped the ex players out a lot over the years, but he is now about to retire from the local entertainments scene and this event is to mark his retirement. In fact Mike will be making one of his final appearances at this event. There’s a three course meal and Johnny Pat and the Aces will also be on the bill. The cost per head is £35 (if you can eat a full head that is, and you can find out further details by contacting Barry Edwards on 07947 586686
So the dust has settled and the season is finally over. That punch on the floor in the final is unfortunately, for many, the lasting memory and has been covered from every possible angle, but time moves on, Saint won the Grand Final, Lance Hohaia has got his marbles back and Flowers his comeuppance; all that, as we are left to muse on the season past through our own personal memories of a dreary campaign. However exactly what memories do we have. I got to thinking that perhaps our abject showing at times didn’t help my own viewpoint, as too often us FC fans were reduced to watching from the sidelines as the major ‘excitement and tension’ came from fretting and stressing over Bradford’s quest to get their points back and them staying far enough back behind us in the table!!
Thankfully three good home performances at the death saved our bacon a bit and sent everyone away with a bit of a smile on their faces, but when I talk to fans of other Clubs, with the exception of perhaps Castleford, everyone seems to have be pretty underwhelmed by the 2014 season. Gates are down because people have obviously walked, but like our own season at the KC, the Super League campaign has simply failed to impress. It certainly had a dramatic ending, by which time for the FC it was too little too late, but in my eyes 2014 was almost the season that time forgot.
I guess much of that has to be down to the fact that it was a campaign caught between two major happenings which transpired for different reasons to squeeze the very soul out of the 2014 season. I looked on in despair at the crowd at the Grand Final who instead of waving cards in the air that said ‘Wigan’ or ‘Saints’ or ‘Try’ or ‘No try’ were instead supplied with ones that indicated the bold and eye-catching image of ‘#RLNewEra’. This is the RFL’s hashtag for 2015 which promises to be ‘the most exciting campaign in living memory’ as the competition contemplates a brave new dawn delivered through that complicated structure which I have literally done to death in here already. However for me that’s all very fine for next year, but 2014 was largely a non-event and perhaps in hindsight a massive opportunity lost.
In the Diary last year at this time I was wringing my hands and looking on with some trepidation as the game launched itself into the World Cup, which was then just a week away. Boy, I got that so wrong didn’t I, and it was ‘large slices of Humble Pie’ time in here, come late November.
The thing was as 2013 progressed I had a nagging feeling that the tournament could be a calamity and simply wouldn’t cut it both in terms of the fare on the field and the ability to capture the interest of the nation. I’m a bit of a Jonah, you all know that, but I certainly wasn’t on my own as others across the game wondered about it all a bit too. Yet the competition, thanks to the hard work of the organisers, proved us all so wrong and delivered a tournament that not only engage us lot, but also the new fans in places such as Bristol where more than 7,000 people watched on fascinated as ‘The Yanks’ produced an enthralling win over the Cook Islanders. That success sent the USA off on an unlikely journey which would eventually see them and Rugby League gain some coveted column inches in The New York Times as they made their way to the quarter-finals.
There were sell out crowds here in Hull and in Halifax, Warrington and Avignon while places like Rochdale and Workington got their best ever Stadium attendances. The rugby was good too and the BBC got some great viewing figures as England actually looked to have a chance of success. I said afterwards here in the Diary that I’d got it totally wrong and that for me, it could well herald a new beginning, because it was the first time for ages that I actually believed the game felt good about itself; records tumbled and Rugby League could rightly enjoy its moment of glory in the national spotlight. It almost felt that at last it was onwards and upwards time for our great game.
But now, looking back, I guess we never really grasped that momentum did we? I mean to say we let the organiser who for me did a brilliant job, leave to another sport and we haven’t seen an international match since have we? There has been little put in place in Bristol, Wales and Ireland for those new converts to the game to get involved, with as all the emphasis on what will come next year and that new fangled structure. It seems to me that the 2014 season has been one of stagnation and disappointment. The attendances at play-off games and the effort put in by the RL to market them, has smacked of neglect and of this season being a bit of an awkward distraction between the twin peaks of 2013 and 2015.
On the field too, for all the competition has been a lot tighter, the quality of football has not necessarily improved. There were only three points separating the top five sides I know, but eventual League Leaders and subsequent Champions St Helens, lost a total of eight games. Not since the same club in 2007, has a team that finished top suffered so many defeats and it is still the joint highest total of losses in the competition’s history. I also think that most fans will agree that the salary cap and the subsequent defections to Australia of our top talent has seen the standards of Super League flat-lining and if it hadn’t been for the exploits of ‘daring do’ that we saw from Castleford, the undisputed team of the season, (never mind Widnes!) then it would have been a bleak old season indeed. For all Saints went marching in last weekend, it has undoubtedly been the ‘Year of the Tiger’ and little else really.
After the World Cup everything seemed to be going swimmingly as the RL were praised for that lucrative television deal they negotiated in January, a contract that could in the fullness of time actually safeguard the future of the sport. However since then they have made some real blunders like the current one which concerns none registered players, a potential vote of no confidence from Keighley and the parlous state of the Duel Registration scheme. That followed on from the mysterious circumstances surrounding Bradford and their point’s deduction, the inconsistency in the disciplinary process, the scandal of Zak Hardaker and the continued soap opera that is the shocking state of our refereeing.
So finally 2014 came down to Old Trafford, a good gate and a bit of atmosphere too. It was of course overshadowed as a spectacle by that thuggery in the second minute, but it was still a good occasion particularly if you were there and didn’t have to listen to the Sky commentary team! However now it’s into the unknown again as the powers that be ram the ‘brilliant new format’ down our throats at every opportunity ensuring that by Christmas we are all left spiritlessly chanting ‘every minute counts…every minute counts…every..’like some wide eyed and demented follower of Hari Krishna. We’ve come a long way since the World Cup but I just wonder if our journey has been in the right direction, still only time will tell and let’s face it, most of us lot caring though we are for the game, are not that bothered at all really because we would still watch Hull FC if they were playing in the Amateur League wouldn’t we?
Over the years in Codgers Corner I have often featured my hero Keith Hepworth, and after a dip in the old scrap book this week it’s no different as I return to the days back in March 1980 when we were building that great team under Coach Arthur Bunting. I remember the period well, we just completing a hectic ten day spell brought on by the bad winter weather, in which we had played four games, including away at Saints and Bradford and from which we were to reap a reward of 8 points. On 23rd March that year the visitors to the Boulevard were a Workington Town team who were fighting desperately against relegation and who were famous for their dominant pack. We made seven changes and had several players like Knocker Norton, Charlie Stone, Paul Woods, John Newlove and Ronnie Wileman either rested or suffering from injuries sustained in the hectic programme that had gone before, it was our second game in three days and several ‘A’ teamer’s were drafted in by Bunting to fill the breach including the evergreen Keith Hepworth, who was to be our organiser and play maker that night.
Coming up the following Saturday, in the run up to ‘that Final’ we had that great semi Final against Widnes at Swinton, and the physio staff were busy behind the scenes patching up players ready for what was to be a game with historical implications for our club. Workington still had to be played and since some mid season internal problems which had come to a head with a player’s strike over pay, the Cumbrians had played well, winning three of their last five games.
From the off it was clear that the visitors had come to the Boulevard to slug it out with their massive Props, Beverley and Hurst featuring heavily in the first few sets. Billy and Bobby the Pattison brothers, who made up the visitors second row, combined well in the seventh minute, and George Robinson (at full back for the first time for months) pulled off a great tackle to just hold Billy short of the line. However Lazenby, was then penalized at a play the ball, and using the wind to his advantage, Lyn Hopkins put the Cumbrians ahead, 2-0.
From the re-start, the big visiting forwards made good progress down field before we got the ball back and great play on the left from Walters saw him take three defenders out before the centre popped the ball out for Graham Bray to scoot in for our opening try. In fact after 14 minutes the winger almost repeated the score after some fine work from Captain Vince Farrar had sent him off on a forty yard run to the line, only to be brought back for a forward pass. At 3-2 up however we were going well, with much of our good work down to the excellent service our backs were getting from Keith Hepworth. Heppy was everywhere, belying his years by first taking the ball left and then right, and mixing scoots with both short and long passes from acting half. He was a master of the short kick in the muddy conditions, and at times the Workington half back pairing of O’Loughlin and Lauder simply couldn’t handle him at all.
The visitors decided to solve the problem ‘scientifically’ and in a standing tackle Harry Beverley swung a massive punch towards our pivot which Heppy ducked away from just in time, as Towns Hurst collapsed to the ground like a sack of potatoes as his team mates fist connected instead with his jaw; The Threepennies loved that.
After 25 minutes we went further ahead as Alan Varty was penalized for jumping on Keith Tindall’s arm whilst he was on the floor. From the penalty we resumed play around 40 yards out from the visitor’s line, and great hands from Lazenby, Boxall and Dennison saw the latter, our GB colts international, held up just short. From the play the ball Heppy again wove his magic sending out a dummy one way then the other before going himself before feeding loose forward Charlie Birdsall who crashed over near the post sending referee Wall stumbling to the floor in the process. Dennison converted to make it 8-2.
Workington pressed in the last few minutes of the half and for the first time seemed to gain some advantage from the strong wind that was at their backs, but all they got for their trouble was a converted penalty by Hopkins for a high tackle by Evans and at half time it was 8-4.
Kicking off with the wind behind us we took the game straight into the Workington 25 and some great work from Hepworth saw the veteran involved 9 times in the first two sets. In the pack, stand in hooker Crowther was shoveling the ball out against the head, this after Workington’s number 9 Banks had left the field with a suspected broken arm, and the pressure of possession soon told as we were awarded a penalty this time for off side which Dennison dispatched to make it 10-4.
It was all Hull as Heppy pulled the strings and Dennison came more and more into the game as a foil. As the rain started to pour down and many of the 10,000 plus gate ran for cover we pressed the line as Bray evaded two tackles and was just caught inches short by full back and Workington Man of the Match, Charlton. Bray got to his feet played the ball to Boxhall who turned a full 360 degrees before selecting Tindall who crashed in for our third and decisive try. With the wind now at his back Dennison landed a great touch line conversion and with the score board showing 15-4, and the rain continuing to make conditions difficult, it was all but over. Two more Dennison Penalties brought 4 more points as we took total control.
Hepworth continued to taunt the Cumbrians and seconds after he had been named man of the match, he finished them off. A scrum near the Workington 25 was heeled against the head again by Crowther and taking it from a short pass Heppy, (as George Robinson made a dummy run on the open side), shot round the blind side and strolled in at the corner. Despite the visitors claims for a forward pass Referee Stan Wall awarded the try, and that was that. Well almost! Stand in Cumbrian Hooker Varty had by this time had enough of the abuse he was getting from a section of the crowd at the Gordon Street end of the Threepennies rore off his scrum cap and threw it at the crowd, to tremendous acclaim from the fans, but the game was up, it was another win and another cracking conversion from the touch line from Steve Dennison left the final score 24-4.
We all cheered the lads off the field, although the nerves were starting to build ahead of Widnes at Station Road the following Saturday. In fact a fantastic performance by stand in George Robinson at full back was to see him receive a late call up to play in that game in 6 days time too, but that’s another story!
So back in those days, as now, it was hard going at times and perhaps it’s hard to believe in the modern game that you could play 4 games in ten days but with winter rugby it was often the case that you just had to. The old man Keith ‘Heppy’ Hepworth had got us through that afternoon and played a blinder, proving that sometimes the shrewd signing of an ageing old head of a scrum half can pay dividends, well it could back then anyway.
There I was, Monday afternoon, pouring with rain, Mrs R shopping, me bored in the middle of Matalan, when I spotted this! Talk about a rip off I text James Clark with a copy of this photo and asked about copy-write infringement, he didn’t reply; probably racing to get one before they sold out!
So that’s it for another week thanks again for all your contact, E mails and texts and it was particularly great to have a coffee with avid reader Dave last Friday in Hull. Thanks to my pal Alan too for his excellent and informed knowledge of crap Rovers signings! I also had a great night at the Drum and Monkey on Friday and with the fixtures out we are at last starting to get some idea about next year! Let’s see what this week brings!
AND FINALLY Don’t FORGET