The Dentist’s Diary – 628th

That old Cup Magic is Back again!!!!!

You’ve got to be in it to win it and we’re in the hat for the quarter finals, two games away from Wembley and what’s more, our passion and wanting is back (although what’s still pretty baffling now is how it went away altogether last week only to return in abundance 7 days later!)

In the end, it was the old scrapping, cup fighting FC that saw us unbeatable in the glorious 2016 and 2017 Cup campaigns that suddenly manifest itself once more on Friday. Despite blowing them away in the first quarter, it wasn’t our best ever performance, nor was it that cultured and at times it certainly wasn’t flowing, but that special, ‘all in it together’ fighting spirit was back and it was great for every FC fan to witness.

We came out energised and buzzing just as we have against so many teams in the cup in the past. Our forwards hit the ground like a steam train and rolled right over the much fancied Castleford pack. That saw the Tigers rocking and panicked into mistakes, which thankfully we capitalised on, just as we had done against Rovers. 

However, then, when the tries dried up, we found the strength the passion and a Plan B that we always seem to find in Cup games. That attitude, so different from last week, saw us keep our shape, defend like hell and tough it out. It wasn’t a good Castleford performance by any means, in fact you had to feel for their fans when at times in the first half they looked like us last week!!

However, we had a plan to unsettle them and it worked and what’s more, unlike last week, in the end we had the wanting and grit to both out smart and out muscled them.

Paea and Taylor targeted their big front row and rolled right over them, whilst they both bottled up Watts perfectly, Houghton then buzzed and goaded them around acting half, our wingers were so much stronger and tougher than theirs and in Sneyd we had the consummate game manager, as he led us around the field ably assisted by his generals, Albert Kelly and Jake Connor.

In the end it was so good to get a win, but after last week it’s even better to report on the return of the desire and passion that we so obviously missed against Catalan, how long it will stick around is anyone’s guess, but battered and bruised it was job done and we could look forward to 8 days off and the Quarter Finals!!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 627th

Words Fail Me!!!

I don’t really feel like writing this journal at all this week. I know a lot of you read it and some even enjoy it at times, but I feel guilty to even put my thoughts into words, because at present, I really can’t find anything at all positive to write about that game on Friday. I know all the excuses and the ‘reasons’, let’s face it we have heard them trotted out time and again, but that was disappointing to say the least.

Those who weren’t there will no doubt read what follows and say I’m over reacting and being too doom and gloom, I mean, “Let’s face it we did have 17 players out!” On the other hand, perhaps those who were there will have had time to digest some things and gloss over others in their minds and probably won’t agree with me after they have had a couple of sleeps to get over it. I love the Club and the players and everything to do with Hull FC but, right now I think myself that what I have just witnessed, was one of the most passionless performances we have seen from an FC team for a long while.

As a team we are so up and down, its just unbelievable really!

This week we were certainly down, so don’t read on if you want to be enthused and excited because no one who sat through any of that, will, right now, be feeling anything but the same dejection and frustration that I’m feel. Regular readers know that I write this from the heart, usually straight after the game and thus whilst I am still if you like a bit ‘raw’, so sometimes it is so far over the top its euphoric, whilst on other occasions, such as this, I am despondent and totally frustrated. That’s being a fan and buying into it, if we didn’t care so much and couldn’t take such doses of disappointment, we wouldn’t go would we?  But by the same rule we pay’s our money and as such have every right to speak our minds and this week I’ll be doing just that!!

I’ve got my lap top on my knee and a bottle of Bud on the table, its 10-30 pm, the game has only been over for an hour and I’ve seethed about a massive opportunity lost, all the way home!!!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 626th

Well another two points, a gritty performance, a great showing from Albo and some well worked tries …. And otherwise? Well it was hardly a classic, but it was job done!

In all honesty, it was scrappy, unconvincing and frustrating to watch at times, but we found a way to win and regular readers will know that at this point in the season, all ‘glass half empty’ old me looks for every year is that 20 or 22 points that you need to survive relegation. Once that’s attained and ‘we live to play another season’, I can look upwards and that win gets us well on our way!!

Wakey had injuries, but according to Lee Radford we were down to our last 18 fit players before we even started and soon we were managing with a two-man bench and therefore it was pretty much ‘even Steven’s’ on the adversity front. So, to get the points in a game which also featured the worst refereeing performance thus far this year (which was totally baffling at times for both teams) and saw one player sin binned and a few either leave the field or soldier on with knocks, was certainly satisfying.

Of Mr Moore the referee, my pal Kathy turned to me and said, “No doubt he was at that meeting about the play the ball this week, he looks like he’s remembered all that and forgotten the rest of the rules completely!”

But in fairness it was a game that never really rose above the run of the mill, but the points are ours and we move on to Friday and a real chance to consolidate our position of 3rd in the table. That bit seems pretty surreal really, because as a team we don’t seem to have got going at all this year, yet we’ve got 8 wins and with County Road resembling the A&E at Hull Royal, the only healthy thing about Hull FC at present is our league position. 

As for us lot on the terraces, well it wasn’t a performance that allowed anyone to settle until we were well in front and even then you didn’t quite know what would happen next. Still we prevailed and whatever the circumstances, it was good to see those precious two points in the bag.

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The Dentist’s (Demolition Derby) Diary – 625th

FRIDAY WAS MAGNIFICENT!!!!

“Hopefully we’re saving a special performance for this week”.

So said Craig Hall on Thursday and you have to give him some credit, for that absolute humbling of the old enemy was, as far as I’m concerned, certainly pretty special!!!!! 

What a game, what a victory and what a humiliation it was for the boys from ‘the Land that Time Forgot’!!!

I said last week that the next Diary would be after the Saints game, but I couldn’t resist this one and once I’d started I just wrote and wrote, for it was fabulous afternoon for everyone who has ever had the slightest leaning towards the FC.

Glorious Sunshine, over 20,000 through the Turnstiles, a record defeat in the history of local Derby’s, two 37-year-olds, one 18- year-old and a hat trick for a player who so richly deserved one,   all added up to the absolute humiliation of a shambolic Dobbins; if you’re an FC fan what more can you want really to make a really GOOD Friday. I’d have taken four points from our 4 Easter games before the trip to France and yet, by mid-afternoon on Friday, we already had them in the bag. Bigger battles lie ahead but for now that was simply phenomenal stuff!

The finger to the heavens in front of the Dobbins fans that just says it all!

Let’s all, as well, give great credit to Lee Radford for our game plan last Friday was close to perfection and our substitutions and bench interchanges inspiring. I have a go at him at times as you know, but I have to give credit where it is due and after  Friday, Lee deserves a big pat on the back.

The game plan was superb, as, thanks to Danny Houghton, the ruck speed when we had the ball was as fast as we have seen all year, yet we toned it all down with some clever defence and working hard in the wrestle, so that the game was much slower when KR had the ball. It all worked to perfection, simply because everyone carried it out to the letter.

In addition, the way Lee managed the bench and took Wynne off at half time, switched Connor to full-back and then brought Albo to half back, (where his introduction was electric), was inspiring; and was all done in the same spirit that Lee had switched it around in a different way last week in France.

You know, someone once said, “You should never underestimate the power of sport” and with Tiger Woods, Man. City v Tottenham, Hull and Catalan and then that mullering last Friday, who could ever really argue with that. Wherever I went today, (Saturday) Cottingham, Beverley, Morrison’s and Marks and Spencer’s, everyone was wearing their colours, stopping to chat and smiling from ear to ear. You know, The Housemartins once released an album called ‘The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death’ and that just about summed us lot up this weekend!

All that said, it’s hard to forget as well that the time leading up to the match was fraught with nervous anticipation and a deal of dread. You see, I still hate Derby’s! There is little doubt that there is no better atmosphere or occasion than a Hull Derby at the KCOM on a sunny Easter weekend; the pity is that you can’t fully enjoy it even when it is as conclusive as it was on Friday! You see, by the time you can sit back and try to enjoy it you’re totally wrung out and you feel like you’ve been through a liquidiser!!  Why??? Well I guess it’s the nagging prospect of always being wary of what could happen, even when your miles in front!!! That’s being an FC fan, always has been and always will be, but of late we have certainly seen some spirited and gutsy performances and on Friday, although that was to be repeated in spades, we were about to be thoroughly entertained as well.

Nevertheless, as usual, once kick-off had arrived, it was with great trepidation and a deal of hyper tension that I settled down to watch through my fingers, as the drama began to unfold in front of that massive Derby crowd.   

As the sun shone down I just wanted it to get started and if you like, get it over with. However, after a tough first set, a brilliant return from Connor Wynne up the middle certainly settled him and us lot down a bit, but we soon had to drop out. Rovers certainly looked lively as Tommy Lee thought he had scored (bless him) but a great slam tackle by Mini ensured it was a double movement and with the Rovers line open to their right, ‘Knock on Tommy’ had certainly missed a great chance to put KR in front. Then as we charged forward we lost possession because on a couple of occasions we appeared to over play things a bit. In fact, I guess at that point both sides looked nervy, making mistakes and giving away penalties, but Connor brilliantly dummied and a great show and go saw him over the line and we were on our way.  

Then, almost as we expected after an opening FC try, Wynne dropped the ball near our line and straight from the kick off, we were under the cosh as almost predictably Keinhurst rolled in wide out. At 6-6 mistakes were costing us dearly and although I declined to admit it at the time, they looked good as we gifted them field position. But an absolutely brilliant leap from Logan saw him get his first try of the season and we were back in front. Almost immediately some brilliant fast hands across the line through Connor, Wynne and Logan saw the winger in again from a pass that was far beyond the tender years of our young full-back, who read the situation and over-lap play brilliantly. What a start it had been in a game that must have been a white hot spectacle for the neutral, if still purgatory for us lot. True to type, the immaculate Sneyd missed an easy penalty (which was to be his only miss of the afternoon) that would have stretched it to three scores and that seemed to give the Dobbins some  heart again.  

Both teams looked good on each other’s lines and the trick was to keep the opposition away from your end, but with mistakes and penalties it was really nip and tuck, although our forwards were doing their best to batter the opposition down the middle. However, you felt that disaster was coming and a try late in the first half saw us go in just 6 points up. It was so tense I could hardly make any notes at all at this point and the start of the second half couldn’t come quickly enough if only to get it over with!!

It started poorly! Carlos immediately lost the ball but it was to prove a small set back that belied the excitement that was to come. Next up came an absolutely fantastic moment as we saw a massive break and run from Mark Minichiello, as he rolled back the years and strode through the Rovers cover as if it were 2016. The way he just kicked on away with the last chasing tackler just at the right time was vintage Mini and it was a fine game breaking touch down that had the FC fans dancing in their seats. He’s struggled a bit of late and I was so pleased to see him score, He was as well, as a grin as wide of the Humber spread across his face. What a try to start the half that was. With Kelly on for Wynne, we looked to be rolling plays out everywhere, there were dummy runners at both sides of the play the ball as Houghton scooted out of acting half and at times the Rovers defence looked incapable of catching up.

Sometimes we looked just too expansive moving from side to side as if we almost had too many play makers out there and we just had to steady it down. A fortuitous penalty when Mini was ‘robbed’ of the ball by a clutch of Rovers players saw Sneydy stretched the lead and Faraimo almost got in twice as at our end of sets, Marc was kicking them to death. Lunt dropped it near the line in a rare Rovers sorte into our ten-yard area as across the park one or two of the ‘more porky’ Dobbins, appeared to be either melting in the heat or ‘Blowing for a tug’.  

A brilliant ‘captains tackle’ from Danny Houghton stopped McGuire on the break-out and we were just playing it all too fast for the opposition, but perhaps at times too fast for ourselves as well. As three-quarter time loomed Minichiello, who belied his years with what was a classic performance, did one of those cross-field runs were he draws and beats tacklers, before he poked Westy through a gap and Joe crashed in off the post under the sticks.  Houghton was at his absolute best, snipping and running like a human dynamo from acting half, as the speed of our play the ball was just too much for the Dobbins to handle.  

Then we witnessed a bizarre score when Griffin was the victim of a ball strip and Kelly touch down the loose ball in front of the fans that once adored him and we were cruising. At last in a Derby we were able to sit back and enjoy it and yet there was more to come. Radford shuffled his cards again as Wynne returned for Connor who was rested for future battles.

The ironic despondency for the Dobbins fans continued as next up another old boy Mickey Paea crashed over in front of them under the sticks after more great work at acting half from Danny Houghton. However there then followed the try of the game to complete Logan’s hat trick, as he nut-megged Craig Hall wide out and ran 60 yards to the line after Kelly had made some great space as the extra man running around the tackler. Next followed what can only be called the icing on the cake as a massive take and bump off from Kelly straight from the kick-off, saw the now rampant Albo shoot down field fending off tacklers before there was Wynne to gallop in under the sticks. Back on as our eighth substitution to saver the last few minutes, the 18-year-old was in fairyland! Marc slotted over his 9th kick from 10 and that was it, a total annihilation was complete.

What a second half Albo had; step aside Craig I’m running right over you!

What a blooming victory it was as well, a record Derby score a record Good Friday gate and a great afternoon for everyone who was there. All that battling and bashing through the tension and pressure of that first half saw the damage done by our forwards, because in the new game of 8 substitutes, its who does the most in that period that reaps the benefits later on and we certainly did that on Friday.         

 It was just an unforgettable afternoon coming as it did hard on the heels on another totally memorable game in France last weekend. We all worried when we were so comprehensively beaten by Warrington yet here we were with three victories following on from it, two of which we will all recount and retell for a very long time.  

You, know there are two guys in the FC ranks who are classed by the rest of the players as true FC fans, supporters who have made the journey from the terraces to the pitch, Scott Taylor is one and Jack Logan is the other. So, how great it was to see that smile of Taylors at the end and to witness Logan scoring that hat trick. A particular well done goes to Jack, after all those months of injury, weeks at Toronto and all that suffering from lost form, I was so pleased for a guy who as a kid in early 2016 was keeping Yeamo out of the team. But, on Friday, there were so many heroes.

Six years ago we couldn’t buy a half back now we have three of the best in the game, two years ago we worried like hell when Shaul was injured because we didn’t have a decent replacement, now we have Connor to step in and a great 18-year-old prospect in Connor Wynne whose knocking on the door and in danger of keeping Jamie out.

As Talanoa retired we looked light-weight out wide, now we have Ratu, Logan and Fairamo, with Dawson Jones waiting in the wings. So it goes on and from a season that looked to be in tatters a few weeks ago when those unprecedented injuries struck, the resilience we have shown in bouncing back from the Wire debacle is just amazing. Returning afresh, Taylor, Paea and Matongo absolutely bashed them down the middle, Houghton was a dynamo and in Tumavive we had a centre that seemed to make yards every time he got the ball.

As I say, everyone was a hero, but credit to Marc Sneyd who managed the game on the field and Lee Radford who did the same stuff off it!! It was a fabulous afternoon to be an FC fan and great to see so many FC shirts out in the sunshine in Beverley on Saturday morning!!   

On another note wasn’t that gate magnificent eh? But does anyone else like me think that ditching the pre-season game and changing the structure of the Magic Weekend has made Derby’s a bit more of a rare occurrence, a little more anticipated and therefore a bit more special? Well, with a record aggregate across the games in the first part of the Easter weekend, I think that Rugby League might just be moving in the right direction again and that Elstone and Co. are making an impact.  Let’s hope so eh!

But, you know, after all that stress and worry, Derby’s always throw up some comical moments as well and watching it back afterwards my pal said at some point in the second half, “Why do they always manage to zoom in on half-wits when the TV cameras pick up on their crowd?”, to which the unanimous reply came, “Probably because they’re all half-wits in the first place”. Throwing bottles beer and flairs around indeed, what a disgrace a few of their lot are!

I had some fun too and I’m sure that regular readers will remember I related in here how, wearing my Hull shirt, I had been absolutely ragged by the Dobbins supporting guys on the greetings card stall in Beverley Market after Rovers finally managed to break that 7 game losing streak in Derby’s at the KCOM last July. Well, it actually went on for weeks afterwards but this Saturday I wasn’t wearing my colours and I think by now anyway they had forgotten me. So, in the spirit of friendship, I just walked up and politely asked, “Do you have any condolence cards for Rugby Teams” they certainly remembered me then!!!!!!

Oh the fun I’ve had, I could go on all day, but reluctantly again, I’d better have a bit of a look at what’s been happening in a busy week in the game and at Hull FC.

For starters, let’s look at the best news we have had for yonks. You all know that I went a bit over the top with my headline about it last week, but boy was I pleased to hear the news about Marc Sneyd’s new contract when it was announced on Tuesday. Of all our out of contract players this year, there are a couple I’d be sorry to see go and a lot that I would understand being released, but there was just one that had to be sorted out for the good of the future of our Club and thankfully now it’s done.

With Marc and Jake now on board for at least a couple more seasons the prospects for us all, on and off the field are so much brighter. Everyone likes to see open and exciting rugby and these two can, given the right platform, instigate it ‘all day’! The fact is that ‘game managers’ like Marc are few and far between, as are players with his kicking ability and his play making skills. Add all that together and we have at Hull FC, one of the most coveted players in the game.

The sarcastic shouts of ‘Sneyyyddddd!!!!’ from the opposing fans when he occasionally misses a goal kick and the way that so many fans on social media, from other clubs, played down his feats last weekend as ‘lucky’ or ‘a fluke’, shows how jealous many are of our half-back. On top of all that he is a prolifically accurate goal kicker and a natural number 7 and there ain’t many of those around these days either! But most of all he really is the ‘Ice Man’ when it comes to playing under pressure, making the big plays and converting the big kicks.

Marc seems to thrive when the opposition is trying to compress the play around first or second receiver and that is a skill that is admired by his peers and something that several players have pointed out to me over the years. You simply can’t teach or coach that, it’s something that comes natural. For me his signing is a big weight off my mind, because as I said to Mrs R last weekend before he signed, I couldn’t really ever contemplate seeing him run out against us for anyone else.

Great news!!

I was also pleased to see that Lee Radford has come out and said things about this crap that is going on around the play the ball particularly when the tackled player is getting up, stepping over the tackler playing the ball at him and getting a penalty for off side. I even thought that in the weekend games the referee tidied the ruck up a bit too. For me its cheating and it seems Lee agrees, when in mid-week he said, “I’ve spoken to the RFL about it and we need a coaches meeting for it to be sorted out. The NRL have sorted it and it’s working for them so we need to revert to what they’re doing over there. It could have cost us a game today which I don’t believe we deserved to lose. Ultimately, it is cheating.”

I looked at the law on playing the ball this week and it clearly says at clause 10(d), “The tackled player may not play the ball before the players effecting the tackle have had time to clear the ruck”. It seems pretty clear to me and all I can think was happening is that the officials were trying to keep the game going and allowing players latitude to do this. But, what about players stepping over the tackler to play the ball? Surely that is moving off the mark? I’m glad Lee said something because it’s spoiling the game and it needs sorting. For me it just doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the game at all! 

Talking of Lee, it was good to hear an extended interview with him on Humberside the other night but it was spoiled somewhat by a fan taking him to task. The supporter raised some great points, but I was interested to hear more about recruitment and future plans etc. but as usual all that got side-tracked as the Humberside guys lost the focus, although one interesting point did come out when Lee announced that he was only on a 6 monthly rolling contract. I though he was given a three year one after Wembley 2016 and it was up for renewal around now, but apparently that must have been split into 6 monthly review periods. It’s a strange one about which I have no answers at present, what’s more, I’ve asked some questions but no one seems to know what is happening?

When the Cup draw took place last Monday, we were certainly given a tough start on the road to another Wembley appearance, as we came out first and at home, but against Castleford. Before the draw I have to admit to thinking, “The way things are at present, I’ll take anyone ….. away!” Then when it came out, I did worry a bit about that Castleford team that beat us earlier in the season and wondered if we will be wearing that nice new Challenge Cup strip many more times this year.

However, it’s a tough one whichever way you look at it!  It’s been scheduled for Friday night and on Sky so it’s also a bit of a worry how many spectators we’ll get there too. Still it’s the sort of game you have to win if you’re to progress to a final again and so that should be our mindset as we approach the match. With the Challenge Cup, all most clubs long for is to come out of the hat first to secure a home draw, but with what has been happening at the KCOM this term, when compared with our form away from our home turf, It’s now an even tough prospect isn’t it.

Well we don’t hear much from Adam Pearson these days but last week in the League Express there was an interview with him that I think a journalist grabbed whilst he was in Catalan. Under the headline ‘Hull to Plunge into the Market’ it stated that we had the largest off contract list in the game with 15 players out of contract by the end of the year and commenting on this Adam said that we would be making some new signings in the coming months in preparation for 2020. Despite everything he has said on the subject he even indicated that one might be a Marquee signing as well.

When asked about the likelihood of Hull being able to afford such a signing he said, “Absolutely we can. Our wage bill this year had we not gone down the big squad route would have allowed two such signings this year. Our cap is £2.2 million so we could easily afford one but our coaches are ‘fixed’ on the problems that could cause. That is having a player on £300,000 sat next one on £50,000 and that second player giving better value. Lee fundamentally finds that a problem with such a small cap. However, I think we’ll be smaller next year even after bringing in 6 or 7 new players”.

On those signings he added, “We’ll be bringing five or six in from Australia at the end of the year and I’d be surprised if our ‘no marquee’ policy isn’t tested because the sort of players we want will have seen their price go up until perhaps they will become marquee signings”. He then said we will be reducing our squad next season, but keeping the reserves and topping that team up with academy players, trialists and first team players.

Now I know that Adam does at times tend to err a bit on the side of exaggeration in such matters, for we have seen it in the past, but it looks like we are in for a big clear out and some new faces arriving who’ll hopefully have the same effect as the 6 we brought in when last we went through such an exercise, pre 2016. However, it does seem that perhaps we are suffering from not having some long term vision moving forward because just months after being told big squads, lots of bodies, big reserve rosters and quantity rather than quality was the way to go, here we are apparently planning to now go the other way? Just at the time that the big squad seems to be working for us! It’s hard to fathom really but looking through the players that are free to talk to other clubs from 1st May, we certainly have some work to do on retaining or replacing our current assets.

Despite what he says about going around again I think that Mini will be returning home and Gareth Ellis will surely be retiring (again), Washy will probably go, as might Micky Paea too. I like to keep Faraimo who, although not quite as popular, actually has a slightly better strike rate that Fonua had and his 191 meters on Friday is case of point really. But then we get into uncharted waters. On top of those there’s Westerman, Green, Hadley, Manu, Litten, Sanderson, Scott and Logan. Westy is a great player on his day, but a bit injury prone and then for me the jury’s out on Green, Logan and Hadley, Manu is still a 100%er, but slowing up a bit, Litten is for me at present a must keep, Sanderson will probably go to Doncaster and Scott will be retained. Whilst it looks now like we will have to keep Logan.

Well that’s how I see it anyway, but the big one was Marc Sneyd, because we can do without any of the others at a pinch, but not Marc. Thank goodness, as I say, that he is signed up and sorted and as for the rest, well it should be an interesting few weeks watching what happens next!

When I was working on the Council one of my areas of responsibility was Tourism which in Hull was always a tough ask. However, what did become apparent is that the image of the City didn’t match the reality and once we had got folks into Hull they invariably spoke well of the array of cultural and heritage sites and even came back. So the challenge was to introduce the City to new people. One of our biggest coupe’s was a great two page article that we secured after months of work, in the New York Times. That was envied by other authorities across the country as it is placed in the most influential newspaper in the States. The response from American tourists coming to the city in the next two years was marked and although things have slipped a bit since, back then the City was doing well from the exposure it received.

All that waffle is by way of leading up to the fact that last week the same newspaper led with a long article about Rugby League following the British lower league clubs agreeing to the bids of both New York and Ottawa being considered for inclusion in 2020. It was a well-researched and informative article promoting the game big style to the US audience. If that is an example of the sort of exposure a team there could regularly generate, you can see why some feel that it is simply massive for the game.

Quite frankly, I’d much prefer to see the British game thriving, playing to packed houses at Oldham, Swinton and South Wales, having record TV viewing figures and gaining the ensuing revenue that all those scenarios would generate! But, let’s face it I’m old and a bit of a dreamer and such imaginings are perhaps pitched somewhere between far-fetched and totally ridiculous. Truth is, none of those utopian scenarios are ever likely to happen. So, perhaps the North American experiment using Toronto and these two new bidders should be given a go, but if we do that and want to capitalise on the opportunity, whilst ensuring that we keep the two new clubs interested and thriving, then I fear there will have to be a radical rethink of exactly how the whole game is structured.

Rugby League is only going to get one chance at this. So, do we really want the first glimpses of a New York Rugby League team to be them playing at, with all due respect, the Vestacare Stadium in Oldham or Moor Lane in Swinton? The main justification for this experiment is that it opens rugby league up to new markets and potentially lucrative sponsorship and broadcast deals, but those sorts of fixtures and venues are hardly going to have the blue chip companies and massive TV conglomerates in New York State falling over themselves to get involved is it?

That’s where the radical bit come in because perhaps if we are intent on this sort of exercise and there really is an opportunity to open the game up to millions of new supporters and sports hungry TV viewers, then we have to revisit the Franchise system again, because how long will these teams hang around trying to get into Super League, before their interest wanes. They need, I guess, to be seeing the games top player’s week in week out from the off, for it to really be a success. I hate the idea, but I’m trying to look at things from a common sense and perhaps business angle. 

I’ve always thought that a breakaway by Super League Clubs from the RFL was a possible scenario in years to come and perhaps if this is to work, an NRL sort of set up embracing 16 teams with two French, three North American and 11 British outfits fighting it out over 30 rounds would be the best structure.  

Before you stop reading this any further, I’m certainly not condoning that point of view and don’t particularly like the idea much at all, but in the end radical solutions may be needed to make this latest expansionist experiment (which potentially promises the possibility of millions of Dollars coming into the game) work. Most expansionist efforts in the past have failed because the game has seen them as an add on rather than embracing the opportunities they present. But this isn’t Kent Invictor, Gateshead Thunder, South Wales or the London Scholars, this is big time and an opportunity that will only ever come once. Perhaps as a game, we have to either decide it’s not for us, or embrace it totally.

Fact is that to get column inches in an influential publication like the NYT is massive and brilliant for the game and I guess just shows what could happen should a New York Team be welcoming Wigan, Saints and the mighty FC to the Big Apple. Franchises work really well in the NRL and in the North American NFL and like it or not perhaps the most successful and stable time we had in the British Super League, was when they were in operation here.

As I say I don’t like the idea, but, I also like to think that even at my age I’m open to a bit of lateral thinking now and again, I don’t think that promotion and relegation into a league of just 12 is working at all, because it doesn’t give a promoted team time to grow into the competition. It’s such a big leap from the Championship to the upper echelon which I think will just see teams yo-yoing back and forth. Then of course as with Widnes and Leigh there is the imploding of the relegated team to consider as well.

Issuing 4 or 5 year franchises with set criteria and that set review period would give teams a chance to grow into the competition and allow teams such as New York to welcome the best players in the world which would, in a sports mad country, immediately attract large scale media attention and blue chip sponsorships. Let’s face it the only team to be catapulted straight into Super League is the only expansionist Club to really succeed; The Catalan Dragons.

Had the lower division clubs turned down the New York and Ottawa application, I’m told on very good authority that it could have perhaps seen Super league act and even break away, but they didn’t and so at present at least due process continues.

There are strong arguments (as with these two new potential franchises) for a closed shop Super league and many as well for relegation and promotion but, you can’t have both. It’s all just conjecture on my part at present, I don’t like it one bit, but I do recognise that this Stateside development does offer a massive opportunity to boost the game beyond our wildest dreams, it might not work but perhaps, just perhaps, we have to give it a go. Do we have the bottle. balls or brains to pull it off and make it work? As always with our great game, the answer to that one is who knows?  

Many traditionalists like me, like the idea of promotion and relegation in a traditional format (as long as Hull FC ain’t involved J), and I know I’ll be criticised by some readers for even raising the issue of franchises again. The whole North American thing, as with the Franchise debate, sets the message boards on fire as soon as it is mentioned and it appears as with Brexit, that there is no middle ground. You’re either in one camp or the other. You can’t have reasoned debate with those who have decided you are the enemy before you begin.

It has been painted as, your either for expansion and the bids, and for progress and innovation, or against them and closed off/small-minded/stuck in your ways. Of course in reality most of us fall somewhere in between the two camps and just want to see what is best for the game. I’ll wait now and see what the next moves from New York and Ottawa are, but It’s all very interesting isn’t it?

Well, my listing of my favourite scrum halves and comparing them to Marc Sneyd last week seemed to gain much approval but many also quoted the fact that I had missed out one player who was a great servant to the Club over many years. He is an individual who was without doubt one of the greatest local hero’s that I have had the honour to watch in my 50 odd years of supporting Hull FC and perhaps I was remiss not to include him.  

In Beverley Market Place ta few months ago I happened to come across Chris Davidson, who although pretty skilful was without doubt one of the toughest half backs I have ever seen pull on a black and white shirt. We have been and are still blessed with some great half back some were more skilful, but none were harder and more tenacious than Chris! So here are a few random memories I have of a full on 100% player.

I remember well my dad going with me to see him in the Yorkshire Cup Final at Leeds in 1967, when he got the man of the match award despite us being narrowly defeated by the Dobbins 8-7. 

Chris was amazing that day, and I always remember my Dad said to me, “Just watch Davidson when he comes out of the tunnel”. The team ran out onto the pitch and Chris hung around waiting for the Rovers players to enter the fray! I swear, he then glared at each one of them in turn as the Dobbins ran out. From the first minute he was really fired up. Soon he had scored a great try with a dart from acting half and that before Rovers had even had possession and although we lost he was a hero for me from that moment.

Two years later he got his one and only winners medal when we played Featherstone in the same final as this time we ended up winners 12-9. Chris was only 20 then, but had an amazing game and with Joe Brown was instrumental in what was a great victory. However, over the years it was his dedication to the club that impressed me the most. He actually played from 1963 until 1979, clocking up 296 games, 87 tries and 157 goals. I remember his debut well, it was played against Wakefield at the Boulevard when the visitors included the flying winger and ex-British sprint Champion Berwyn Jones, and from then on he was a regular in the side.

Another great performance by Chris came in the Yorkshire Cup semi-final in 1967, which led to that defeat by Rovers in the final. We were particularly excited about the game, because it was on a Wednesday night and one of the first to be played under our new floodlights at the Boulevard. Firstly, Chris intercepted a Leeds pass from Bev Risman and sent Terry Devonshire away on a 70 yard run to the line and then he started another move that saw Stocks score in the corner. (Incidentally, does anyone remember Geoff Stocks, what a sight he was, he used to run like a chicken, with his legs almost appearing to touch his chin).

Leeds tried to come back in the second half, but then came an incident involving Davidson that sticks in my minds-eye and will probably do so forever. Chris got the ball from acting half and was immediately enveloped by four Leeds players. He lost the ball out of the front of the ruck but got his foot to it before it hit the ground. He then shrugged off three tacklers, and took the remaining one with him on his back as stumbling forward he chased the kick for ten yards to the line, and touch down. He got up and turned to the crowd with the opposition player still hanging on; it was just an amazing piece of rugby, which had the Threepenny’s dancing for joy.  

He scored again before the end and we beat the mighty Leeds by 31-6. Chris had a fantastic game and I was on the pitch at the end, as the 14,600 crowd (many of whom were initially attracted by the new floodlights) flowed onto the pitch and carried Chris shoulder high across the field. Had it not been for his loyalty to his hometown club, through difficult times, Davidson would have won many more honours, than his two Yorkshire caps. But he was a Hull lad through and through.

Chris suffered some bad injuries because he would literally run into brick walls for the club he loved and later in his career he switched to loose-forward. However right up to the end of his playing days, and I saw his last appearance which I think was against Saints in 1978, he continued to play the only way he knew how to, hard and tough! He was a great player and a great servant to our club! Over the years it is players like Chris on which our great club is built and I’m pleased here to mention him again.

So there we are and what a six days that has been with that almost dream like ending to the game in Catalan the like of which you’ll probably never ever see again in your lifetime and then that record win against the ‘Wizards Wonders’. As we walked home after the Warrington game no one, but no one could have predicted that! It was so great to hear from so many readers at the end of the game and to see how much that win meant to us all, for in tough times, it’s just what some of us  needed.

I was so proud of our efforts and the way that the lads finished the Dobbins off so clinically and what a crowd and what an atmosphere too. The game had everything, but now we look to Monday and the trip to Saints. Will we win? Well that’s debatable to say the least, but quite frankly, I don’t really care too much at this moment and because I felt so elated and wanted to share that with all of you likeminded individuals, I ditched the idea of covering that game in this edition and dedicated the full Diary to the total annihilation of the old enemy. I’m still buzzing and still so proud; wasn’t it great and doesn’t it make all the heartache pain and frustration so worthwhile!!!

Thanks for reading the Diary, enjoy next week at work and I’ll speak to you next time after the Wakey game.

Keep Believing and…..

COMEONYOULLLLLLAAAAARRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Faithfully Yours (still grinning)

Wilf 

The Dentist’s Diary – 624th

From Deflation to Elation!!

Here’s to

SNEYYYYYDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!….
and the one and only priority at the Club at present; getting him signed up!!!

What a game and what an ending that was! As the Rugby League world witnessed our 2,500th win as a Club in all competitions, it was the manner of the victory, crowned as it was with one of the truly great endings to a match, that sees it all still being replayed again and again in our minds. I can’t remember anything marginally like it at Hull FC since March 1988 at the Boulevard, when drawing with Wigan, the visitors had a 50-yard penalty attempt which they took after the hooter. It fell short before fast hands in a Gary Pearce inspired move swept play 95 yards down the field, for McCaffrey to score under the sticks at the other end.  

In the Super League era not since the Dobbins joyous capitulation against Salford at the end of that MiIlion-Pound game, have the fans of the sport seen anything like it and yet, compared with this one, both those two climaxes pale into insignificance, for in France there was so much more going on. We were down and out, we had a bit of luck, we had belief, there was poise, focus and a pre-conceived plan that everyone stuck to ….and then of course there was Marc Sneyd!

It takes Dynamo an age to produce one bit of magic, well, step aside buddy, because here comes Mr Sneyd, with 4 in a minute! A short restart with 4 seconds to go, that threw the Catalan player into indecision, a great 50-meter penalty under intense pressure, a superbly grubbered kick-off that found touch and that wonderful drop goal that spiralled high over the posts to send us all into raptures. Has there ever been a more spectacular finale to an FC game? How can you ever really believe it actually happened, however many times you watch it back again? What’s more, how can I ever really do justice to it in here?

Even now sat in the early hours of Sunday morning I’m at a loss to explain it all for it was just an amazing ending to a wonderful against all odds performance, that was littered throughout with heroic acts!!

Rugby League as a dramatic experience doesn’t get better than that finale, well it doesn’t if you win and thankfully again in Golden Point, it was the FC that prevailed.  

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The Dentist’s Diary – 623rd

Boy We All Needed That Didn’t We???

With 4 successes already, we actually look like the away win specialists at present don’t we??

As Lee Radford said before the game, “If we win, we’ll be sat fifth in the competition and things are looking up again”. We did win and we were all relieved, but for me it doesn’t excuse that debacle last week. It would have, had that game been a one off landslide defeat, but it wasn’t, was it? In fact, despite loads of injury crisis’ over the years it was the third such record breaking drubbing in just 10 months.

Our win at Salford wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t flashy! It wasn’t even good to watch at times, we made errors but we played with a real wanting and after a home game in which we showed no passion or spirit at all, we had loads of it yesterday. I loved the result particularly because in the end it was all the player’s passion deserved. However, what is still depressing, worrying and frustrating is why we didn’t we show an ounce of that fight last week at the KCOM?

Lee said after the game, “No one bothers how you play at this point in the season your only bothered about fight and spirit and to turn up with 11 missing it was a fair result”. So it was, but although it’s a big well done boys, I still believe that many of you reading this will join me in scratching your head and asking Lee, “Where was all that ‘fight and spirit last week?????”

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The Dentist’s Diary – 622nd

“It was an Ugly performance but a very important result!”

 So said Lee after the game and quite frankly when you step back from it all, two points is all we needed and two points is what we got, just…….

We did our best to lose it, but in what was a heart stopping finale against the self-titled ‘Come back Kids’, we made it more of a struggle than it actually needed to be. None the less at this point in the season, it’s all about getting some wins on the board and we did that down in London yesterday.

They just about took the first half, but we took the second despite that come back and scoring 6 tries to 4 we should have had it put to bed way before the end. I guess on reflection we made some stupid errors, particularly when giving away penalties, but our mental strength and a deal of tenacity saved us, as we almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. But, we actually deserved the win and the London Coach agreed with that assumption in his after match comments.

We needed it too after last week! You know, I have said a few times of late, since 2016 I’m a lot more resilient and accepting after defeats and so by last Tuesday I had got the Wakefield debacle (and when you watch it back that’s just about what it was) out of my system. None the less, I thought a trip to London was always a potential banana skin and so, as I always need something to worry about, that then became my ongoing concern.

That said, I guess I have to admit that a heartening display by Huddersfield on Friday night certainly bucked me up a bit!

Just the same and as I suspected it might be, it was a real cardiac arrest job yesterday and thank goodness we managed to get home with those two valuable points. I always said that if we could get to 15 games with around 15/16 points in the bag we could kick on in the second half of the season, but first and foremost, you need that sort of bedrock to build on. So despite some alarms and excursions we are, for now, just about on course.

However, as I say conceding daft penalties almost cost us yesterday and although some point to an off day by Sneyd with goal kicking as the issue, for me he will always have the occasional one of those and we have to cope with it. Somehow we got by at the Bronco’s, we battled, we prevailed, we brought the points home and after last week, what a bloody relief it was to do it!!! 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 621st

What a difference a week makes eh?

After an upbeat Diary that last week looked positively towards the future, this week’s offering is I’m afraid, a pretty downbeat affair. You see, quite frankly for me after last week, we went from a heartening showing to produce far and away our worst display of the season. It’s hard for me to write and I hate doing it, but I would challenge anyone who was there to find much that was positive from our showing, in what we will look back on as a scrappy and one dimensional performance.  

It might have been Comic Relief Night but for me there was little to smile about and our only relief came with the final hooter. In fact, it seemed a pretty universal point of view afterwards in the media and at the club, that we got exactly what we deserved!!!

The Wildcats were far too good for us on Friday. They were well drilled, their game plan was good and executed brilliantly by all 17 players, whilst their half backs were allowed to dictate the speed and the flow of the game, simply because their forwards just bested our lot up front all night. We simply never seemed to be able to change the pace of the game. For me,  we were totally out manoeuvred on a night when, once it became apparent that Chris Chester and Co. had rumbled us, no-one in black and white looked to have a plan B.   

It’s never easy to criticise the team you love, but, as Lee Radford observed afterwards, the lack of atmosphere was palpable, as we all sat there almost bored to distraction by what we were watching. It was only for a short period when Litten was on the field, that we looked anything like lively. For the most part we lacked any sort of fizz or urgency, as all the while the opposition completely dictated the momentum of the game.

As for the week’s other big news about the arrival of Andre Savelio, well I didn’t see that coming did you? The speed that the deal was done must have helped keep it under wraps, because after Andre was told by Brisbane Bronco’s that he would be released, it was only 48 hours before it was all done and dusted.

The media over in Lancashire announced that Wigan, Salford, Rovers and Huddersfield had also shown an interest in a player who played for England at both the under 16 and Under 18 levels. However, we had been in touch with his agent for months about getting first chance at a deal, should he want to return to this country. Lee in fact said that he was regularly discussed at the club’s monthly recruitment meetings and well done to them for getting him, for I think with a bit of luck he’ll be a great signing. Mind you, judging by Friday, it looks like we can do with all the help we can get. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 620th

That was some victory wasn’t it!! Can you believe it?

I’m still struggling to grasp it all!! I simply can’t remember so many tries being scored by the FC without the opposition putting a hand on the ball. And good tries at that!!! All worth the admission money alone as was the sight, with 15 minutes to go, of the Leeds fans all …..

“Marching out Together”

In that first half I wondered why I ever bothered buying a seat for all that money, because I was stood up for most of it!!!

If all the accolades are piled on that domineering and totally authoritative 30 minutes in the first half, then the second half defensive showing was equally impressive. I’ll grant you, we missed a lot of tackles, but our willingness to work for each other shone through and from being 10-0 up after only a few minutes the Rhino’s weren’t allowed to score a single point for the rest of the game, whilst we scored 34! 

Since last June, at so many games at the KCom, we have sat there in silence, downhearted at what we were witnessing. We were certainly all silenced again on Friday, but it was stunned disbelief this time around, for we all sat there pretty incredulous as to what we were seeing. I guess looking back, it was just too much to take in!

I can’t remember seeing a better 20 minutes of rugby from an FC side for years. It was simply imperious stuff and for once, writing this in the early hours of Saturday morning, I find it hard to do justice to just how good we were in that spell. Even watching it back its hard to appreciate the spring, verve and ruthlessness there was across the team in that period.

Leeds are a shadow of their former selves, we all know that, but they still held a hoodoo over us that has, even for the best FC teams, been difficult to overcome. Not this time though!

The purists will say that it was not as good a performance as I am about to make out, but who cares, after all those defeats at home on the trot, whichever way you look at it, for any FC fan that was a bloody wonderful victory!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 619th

Two on the trot …. Boy that feels much better!!!!!

It was in the end, great stuff again! Its almost two years since we registered back to back away wins and on a wet West Yorkshire Sunday, we were rugged and passionate and even a tad clinical at times. In addition to keep any Super League team to just one try on their own ground, is a fine effort as well.

The Giants ain’t the best team around, it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t totally convincing, but it was the win we needed and now with 2 from 4, things look a darn sight better than they did just three weeks ago. On what was a difficult playing surface in Huddersfield, we squandered possession and were at times ineffective in that first half. Line breaks for either side were at a premium, but Huddersfield looked like they really wanted it. That said, we were potent in the third quarter and clinical in the last one! It was an afternoon for heroes in the rain and there were none more heroic than Marc Sneyd. He should have gone off, but instead, with Jake off the field already, he hobbled along and masterminded the plays that in the end broke Huddersfield’s hearts.

It was altogether a better week to be an FC fan though wasn’t it? That victory at Wigan Warriors last week has worked wonders chests were expanded, shoulders weren’t slouched and heads were held that little bit higher and that was just us lot the fans!!! It was a long time since we had all felt like that, but soon of course the psyche dictates that all our thoughts turned to this Sunday and whether we could do it all again!

As the rain poured down and we fumbled our way through that first half you certainly wondered if Wigan was a flash in the pan, but you know, it was team spirit and another great will to win performance from everyone that finally got us home. You could see what it meant to them and the fans at the end, so well done to the boys!  

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