HULL 82- CATALAN/WIDNES NIL
Two ‘nillings’ on the trot, 82 points scored, a top 4 place secured 4 games before the end of the season AND the Diary out on a Friday; it’s all happening isn’t it???
What more could you ask for just 9 days before Wembley eh? Of course in any sport you can only play what’s in front of you and if the opposition are off their game or a bit depleted, then it’s all about being ruthless in how you dispatch them. Smart attacking play and ferocious tackling is one thing, but the ability to treat both the under performers and the teams on their game just the same, is a real indication of just how much character and fortitude a team has. So often you see the ‘big time Charlies’ like Wigan and Warrington slip down to an inferior opposition’s level; as of course we have seen Hull FC do so many times over the years. However that display was so focussed and so intense throughout that as a fan you can ask no more really.
I won’t be playing anything down about our performance either because in our current physical and mental circumstances it was without doubt a great showing and as clinical as I have seen at the KC in a long time. Usually, whoever you are playing, games ebb and flow, but with the exception of about 10 minutes in the second half when they tried (unsuccessfully) to batter us, this one just flowed in our direction!! The defensive effort in the last quarter when the game was won (and when you could have forgiven the players for worrying a bit about being injured and for having Wembley on their minds), animates totally for me the spirit that there is in the camp. Catalan were going to be nilled; end of story!
So it’s two more points, top four guaranteed, just one win away from Old Trafford and now…….Wembley here we come!!!!!!!!
Welcome to what is undoubtedly the shortest and most hurried Diary for some time as I have a quick look at the game on Thursday and include a bit of news that I have gleaned from the Club this week. The reason for a truncated edition with no Codgers spot, is because on Monday there will be an extra Diary (Number 506) that will be a ‘Wembley Special’ full of pictures of past finals, stories and a very special Codgers Corner, which I’ve never ever published anywhere before.
You know by now that this silly old bugger will be milking the occasion and loving every minute of the build up, so there’ll be loads of hope, expectation, fear, apprehension and perhaps even a bit of humour as I try to animate the emotional journey that is next week. I’m checking the tickets every day to make sure they haven’t somehow miraculously melted away in the draw and no doubt I’ll ring the hotel a time or two to make sure they haven’t gone into receivership since I booked, just as I say, to ‘be on the safe side’. I’m seriously going to have to give this up soon, as I get older it all seems to just get worse!! However enough of me and first up it’s the week gone by and that game last night.
I’d worried about the Catalan match all week. So often in the past have we let an upcoming ‘big game’ get into our heads in these circumstances and as I drove to the match and heard that we were to rest Ellis, Watts and Manu I was even more concerned. I just wanted to put the top four play-offs to bed before the final, because I felt it would make the rest of the RL world sit up and take notice, as well as providing a massive psychological boost for everyone on and off the field, as we approached ‘that game’ at the national stadium. In addition, a little like when we played Huddersfield away after the quarter final and Cas at home after the semi, I feel that win or lose next week, it could well have an effect on the Super 8 games that follow Wembley!
I spoke to both Liam Watts and Seke Manu before the match and they told me that they weren’t injured, however they related how before the ‘Captains Run’ on Wednesday Lee had told them that along with Gareth Ellis they were to be rested so that the Coach could run the rule over the four candidates that were vying for that last place at Wembley. Mr Radford then identified the four players that could still make the Cup Final team and indicated that they would be playing against Catalan to prove they were good enough to get into the Wembley squad. I expect those players were Hadley, Thompson, Bowden and perhaps Green all of whom showed up well in their own ways last night! It was an interesting insight into the workings of the team behind the scenes and also good to see the players willing to talk about it.
Believe it or not, a couple of fans said to me after the game that Catalan were rubbish and it was a poor match? Where they there at all? I can understand a neutral sitting at home watching on the TV being disappointed by Catalan at times, but two years ago that scenario would have seen us get a lead, bugger about, lose it and play nip and tuck as both sides got incrementally worse and worse; before in the end the result would have been a lottery. How many times against the Wakefield’s, London’s, Salford’s and the hapless Dobbins of this world have we seen us do that? And how many times have we seen the opposition capitalise on it and scrape a win!
However this lot are a different animal all together and we never took the foot off the Frenchmen’s throats as we simply battered them to submission. Yes, Catalan had issues with injuries in the backs but up front they were strong and fielded a big pack, but even after resting three players out of our ‘starting’ six we still smashed ‘em. They struggled to handle our intensity in defence and it’s hard to remember a game in which a side has spent so much time dropping the ball because they were preoccupied with worrying about the oncoming impact from the tackler. Last night our defence was again absolutely brutal!
The Club have made a really conscious effort to play down Wembley and the hype surrounding the final and have refused to talk about the game, the player ‘send off’, detailed arrangements etc. etc. until after the Catalan match. This was a planned move by our coach to try and take things one game at a time and I think that it was a wise strategy too, highlighting, as it did, the importance of Thursday game in the bigger scheme of things.
In any sport you can only beat what is in front of you and when they, the opposition, fail to turn up as they have for the last two weeks, then you have to beat the hell out of them and nil them if you can. That’s what good teams do!!! And what’s more that’s what we have done now two weeks running. If you aspire to be genuinely great then you have to be brutally decisive in how you dispatch the opposition and get the two points. You have to be ruthless and in these situations you have to keep focused and keep battling away and for that alone I just loved that performance last night.
Everyone out there played their part but Mark Sneyd was at times sensational. Kicking two 40/20’s and instigating most of our best stuff, Mrs R turned to me in the second half and came out with one of her understated classics, as she said, “Sneyd’s absolutely on fire” and I couldn’t argue with that one at all.
The whole team turned up on the night and with Talanoa and Michaels flying on the wings and Fornua absolutely devastating in the centre, our three quarters looked well balanced and pretty lethal. Yeamo again ran well and had a great game. Carlos did well I thought but if I’m honest, no better than Abdull last week, while upfront Taylor was absolutely massive. He ran himself to a standstill and was a tower of strength when the Frenchmen tried to mix it. I was also really impressed with Mini in the second row who also ran himself ragged. Of the rest well sufficient to say there were no shirkers in the pack and Bowden, Hadley, Thompson and Washy all did themselves no harm at all, Frank the Tank had a much better showing I thought and well done to Chris Green who had a big game on his 100th appearance for the Club.
So a massive win and a great morale boost for us all on and off the field; but bigger battles and bigger games lie ahead!!
Everyone did their bit!
So onto the week past and how good it was to read an interview with Chris Green in the Mail on Thursday! He has been of late a real revelation and has now perhaps cemented his place in the Wembley team, however it was some of the stats included that interested me. It’s often said that rugby league is a team game and that ‘individuals make the headlines but teams make the finals’. That approach at Hull FC this season was borne out by the fact that no one player has dominated the weekly stats from the club in key departments.
The article outlined the importance of squad players like Green, Hadley, Bowden Pryce and Naughton and stated that Hull’s top try scorer and leader in try-assists both have 17 less than the league leaders in the respective categories, while none of the club’s players feature in the top ten for metres made either. This, the Mail stated, suggests that Hull FC are genuinely a team, which relies on the collective efforts of the ‘whole’ and not one based on individuals taking the limelight. For me, that indicates that if you’re not dependant on one or two big stars, then if someone is having an off day that shortfall is absorbed by the efforts of the rest. As fans I guess we feel we have our stars, but the continuing efforts of ‘evergreen performers’ like Danny Houghton have this season been bolstered by many other players going the extra mile that Danny has always taken in past years. That all stands us in good stead for the final 6 or 7 games of the season and is possibly, along with our signings, preparation and conditioning, the main reason for our success thus far.
I was hearing at the game that 19 year old Hull born half back Jack Wray is training with the Club and might have already signed up for us! He is a stand-off who got rave reviews at Leeds Academy (who wanted to keep him), but rather like Scott Taylor he comes from a massive black and white family and so he’s coming back to Hull FC. I was told by a player before the Catalan game that he is really impressing already and his capture could soften the blow of us losing Harry Tyson-Wilson and Reece Dean. With our signings for next season now in place, whiffs are few and far between but at least this week rumours were confirmed on two fronts. Firstly it was announced that the same Reece Dean is to leave the club and join the new rugby league venture the Toronto Wolfpack in time to play in their debut season in League One next year.
Many FC fans wanted him to stay, after he has had some great reviews for his performances for the City of Hull Academy and FC’s under-19s and lately some strong showings for our fledgling under-23 side as well. However I know that our coaching staff had reservations with regard to his potential to make it to the top and perhaps believe that there are facets of his game and his character that leave big question marks as to what his future with Hull FC would have been.
You can’t keep everyone and the Club will always have to let players go, but no one can ever doubt that had he been as good as some would have us believe, then we would have snapped him up. As I have said before he was, I think, given a deal by our previous Football Manger that was disproportionate to his position within the youth structure at the Club, so to bring him in line with the Clubs now very effective wage banding system, he would have to take a pay cut this time around. Then, no doubt in an attempt to prove us wrong in came the Dobbins to try and grab him and get his signature for next season. However now Reece has decided to take the plunge in Canada and for a 19 year old it’s a great, great opportunity and good luck to him.
The second bit of news that was confirmed by the most reliable of on line sources ‘RLW Mole’ was about stand-off Leon Pryce who, as we have said in here for so long now, is destined to join Bradford Bulls for next season. I had heard that his demands were now just too high; well they were for a Club that had missed out on the middle eight’s, was struggling to pay its wage bill and was considering going part time. However it seems now that the issues have been sorted and he will be going back there as Club captain next season.
Leon has done a good job for us and although a bit of a loner in camp he did a great service in befriending the new southern hemisphere signings and has played some great games for us. Lee Radford obviously feels that he is past his sell by date for the FC and chose to draft in Jordan Abdull last week at Widnes. However, waiting in the wings, I still think that Leon could yet play an important part in the final run in at the end of the season. He’s a very professional player, who has ‘been there and done that’ and showed in his last game when he came on at Castleford (when he made the winning try and held us together as we did everything we could to lose the game), that he can do a great job for the Bulls. However at present for us his availability in case of injury is invaluable. The Club will no doubt announce his leaving in good time, but ‘Moley’ is usually spot-on with these things and so for now we’ll just have to await developments.
Word got out this week that the RL are closing on an appointment to the role of Super League General Manager after the departure of the excellent Blake Solly who suited the Clubs and did a good job, but did not endear himself at all to the governing body. However, surprise, surprise the shortlist of two contains a couple of very familiar names; Mark Foster and Ralph Rimmer. Those two certainly won’t surprise many, with Foster the marketing director and interim General manager of Super League since Blake Solly left and Rimmer whose already Chief Operating Officer of the RFL.
I am also hearing though, that this short list of two has upset at least 5 Super League Clubs including I believe Hull FC and Rovers, who I’m told aren’t pleased at all that the ‘net’ for candidates has not being cast much wider and outside the game, to try and bring in new blood. Some Clubs think that the RL fear an independent Super League and want to be in control and ‘the power behind the throne’ at all times, which doesn’t surprise me at all really. These clubs see Foster or Rimmer as a safe, in-house appointment that ensures the RFL and the country’s premier club competition are as one, but for me, and apparently several clubs, that’s not the ideal scenario for an advancing British game. I’ll watch that one with interest!
So that’s it for this shortened version of the Diary but don’t forget that the Wembley Special edition will be out on Monday. I get very excited/apprehensive at these times and so I hope that it resonates with you and reflects the position we as fans finds ourselves in as we stand just five days away from Wembley and on the threshold of the impossible dream!
Thanks as always for your support, for everyone who came to chat during the Catalan game and for sticking with another Diary which I hope you managed to find in its earlier time slot! As always Joe Bennett at blackandwhites has been brilliant in helping me make this rubbish possible and the next Diary will be with you on Monday!!
I’m off to watch the Catalan game again (and to check the tickets are still there)