The Dentist Diary’s – 531st

What a blooming mess that was!

Did you expect that sort of reversal? Well, few did I guess, because it was not so much what was perhaps an anticipated defeat that was so hard to take, but more the magnitude of the reversal in a game in which for long periods our usually implacable goal line defence was left chasing shadows.

I guess I expected to lose, but not by that score and at times our defence was as bad as it has been in all the time Lee has been Coach. It was an ignominious way to end an unbeaten 5 game run, but in the end it was all we deserved. Furthermore, when I step back from the initial surprise of it all that performance has been coming for at least two games and in the week since that draw at Warrington I’d feared what would happen against a feisty, confident Salford side. I’d heard from training that players were struggling and niggling injuries were rife throughout the squad ….and I worried, apparently with good cause.

It was a bad night which will no doubt impact on future gates and quite ironically came as we as a Club set out on a Hull and Proud week that is stuffed with great events for the fans. Sadly however, there was little to be proud about last Friday. Of course a good win against Leeds in front of a big gate will take all the concerns away, but we’ve been spoilt, we expect too much at times as our team have flattered to deceive thus far this year and if you could stand back and be objectionable about it all, then one day a performance like we witnessed last Friday was inevitable. I think we should have known what was to happen and I feared all week that we might see some sort of negative reaction to the massive amount of ‘hang on for grim death’ type displays we have needed to produce over the past few weeks.

It was pretty embarrassing and pretty pathetic at times too and although there are mitigating circumstances, we only had 5 men out (critical though they all are to us) and we should at least have kept the score respectable. Salford were effective at times and pretty spectacular at others, but even with the team we fielded they were never 50 points better than us, well not on paper at least. Sadly, we don’t play on paper and it was for me a defeat that I want to forget as soon as possible, but whether our upcoming games will help me do that is matter for conjecture!

Somehow I never thought we’d win this one. Any of my pals will tell you that I’d been uneasy about the outcome all week. I’m a bit of a sceptic I know, but not these days such a real doom and gloom monger. I do however try to be a realist and thus fretted about the fact that we faced a team that was confident and playing some expansive rugby that was really effective and based on everyone playing for each other. They were buoyant and a team on the up, in fact Salford had, when I’d seen them, resembled the Hull FC team of last season. They had thus far played simple rugby with short snappy passes around the ruck complimented with long telling sweeps across the line to the flanks when the time was right. Time and again they have played wedge plays towards the full back before releasing a long cut out pass to the wing and we had to be on our guard, but of course we weren’t and so payed the price.

They were certainly tactics that were bound to test our strength in the middle, whilst also examining our fortitude on the edges. As the final hooter sounded at Warrington, we looked totally knackered and whether we could muster the energy to counteract the obvious Salford threat just 6 days later was the main concern for me and of course in the end we couldn’t.

On the other-hand for us, in our season thus far, there has been no shortage of endeavour and battling qualities, but we have struggled to retain the ball, we’ve looked down on energy at times and have suffered more injuries already than we did at any-time in the 2016 campaign. That growing injury list plus Ellis and Taylor being withdrawn late on left us with a really big ask before we even started and it all stacked up to a worrying night at the KCOM.

Just digressing for a moment (something regular readers will know is never a problem with me) you know, people like my pal Kathy are lucky indeed, because she is one of the rare breed that can approach every game expecting us to win, she’s upbeat and pretty philosophical and I wish I had such faith! Sadly, I too often examine the opposition and the state and demeanour of our team and then over compensate for my concerns and decide that we are doomed before we have even started! Rightly or wrongly I seem to have over the years developed an in born sense of detecting when something isn’t feeling quite right at the Club and this last week was one such occurrence.

Years ago in here I used to say a lot about how I probably adopted that mindset so that if we win I’m pleasantly surprised and if we lose, it’s a case of ‘I told you so’, which gives you a bit on consolation in your despair. Perhaps there’s still a little bit of that left in me as well, for even after what I saw last season and how it buoyed my confidence, following years of disappointment the veneer of my belief is always very thinly spread over the underlying worries inherent in a fan who has been disillusioned and disenchanted so many times before.

Then again, it’s also fair to say that these days I don’t worry as much as I used to, because since Wembley a lot has changed for me and I’m less stressed, more philosophical and I guess more forgiving. Last year was very special, how special, it will probably take a while for us all to fully appreciate, but in 2016 I suppose that I actually experienced how good it could be. But all that objectivity borne out of our success last year, doesn’t stop me recognising when disaster is knocking at the door and all last week I felt it was. Sadly, on this occasion, I was destined to be proved depressingly right.

But back to Friday and the word in camp beforehand was that a lot of players were beat up and struggling and unlike our position seven games in last year, when we were going well with injuries, this time around our inability to hang onto the ball has put undue pressure on our defence in the early games and has led to the one big issue at present; the fact that we appear to be knackered! We look knackered and act knackered and those gargantuan efforts in the second half of both the Wigan and Warrington games have increased the levels of fatigue across the squad. We’re out on our feet already, but the games just keep on coming and Easter will be a big test of our resilience and fortitude and, after that showing, I guess we’re all a bit worried about that one aren’t we?

On Friday night we started the first half well as we got on the front foot with a spring in our step and actually managed to catch the Red Devils cold. A quick eight-point lead indicated to some that we had this one sussed, but in fact Salford had never actually been into our 20 at that point and once they were there, they were virtually unstoppable. As soon as they found themselves deep in our territory they scored at will and soon our only chance of success was pinned on an ability to keep the opposition away from our line, by playing the game in their half, but instead we gifted them penalties and piggy backed them down field and they scored as they wanted to. The visitors enjoyed a brilliant spell after our heartening first few minutes, posting six tries in just 20 minutes as they reversed an eight-point deficit and turned it into a 26-point lead! That’s pretty unprecedented for any visiting team to the KCOM but most worrying of all was the fact that all of those scores were almost identical in their make-up.

Each one was from a play the ball in our 20 metre area, when rather than remaining firm on our own line, we capitulated in worrying style. That was because, unlike what we had done in so many games this term, we were pulled around in the early part of those sets, left out of position and in disarray and then put to the sword in the last couple of plays. We were as one pundit said afterwards pretty much left chasing shadows.

By half time it was all over and despite a spirited first ten minutes in the second half, when damage limitation was a vague possibility, we never really looked like doing anything but capitulating to a heavy defeat. Whatever else home games are at present, they are certainly not played out at ‘Fortress KCOM’ because we haven’t been convincing at our home ground at all so far.

For much of the game our right side looked OK, while our left hand flank was pretty poor throughout. It lacked ideas and leaked points. Oh, for a Kirk Yeaman out there at present!

I talked a bit last week in here about how we are missing Danny Houghton and about how much energy he saves for his team mates around him. if anyone doubted the fact that he is instrumental in our quest for any sort of success, then they should have no doubts at all after seeing how we have fared without him. I don’t think myself that the correlation between us looking tired and ineffective in defence and the absence of our vice-captain is down at all to coincidence, I guess in fact it shows that perhaps we have simply grown to depend on him too much. When you add to that the loss of two absolute ‘rocks’ in the tackling department, in Gareth Ellis and Scott Taylor, it serves to highlighted just how much we depend on those three when we are under the cosh.

I think that if I’m honest even with our full team out I would have worried having seen what Salford, rather like Castleford, have to offer at present, but I don’t think we would have suffered such a humiliating reversal as we did last Friday. For that’s what it was, humiliating!

Teams like Wigan soldier on with 9, 10 and even 11 players missing and although they don’t win them all, they at least keep things tight and even succeed in games more often than they fail and that must be put down to the quality of their youngsters and the depth of their squad. Perhaps as we only had five out we ain’t quite as good in the emerging talent department as we have been led to believe we are? The fact is of course those five probably contain our 4 best players. It’s not a crisis just yet but with such a tight league its worrying particularly with Leeds, Leigh, Cas and Warrington to come up next!

Gareth Hewer so brilliant in the way he refereed the final last year was poor for me. He has descended into the usual mire that engulfs everyone who has any initial ability at all with the whistle and all that final warning stuff was simply unbelievable to watch, get a grip referee! He was so inconsistent at times as well but at least he was the same for both sides.

Poor showing really.

We have to wonder where the hell Hadley is as well. He wouldn’t have won us the game but he would have at least shored the middle up because he is a great tackler. Conspiracy theories surrounding his extended stay at Wakefield abound, but in the end I can only put it down to the salary cap and perhaps at present we simply can’t afford to bring him back! Perhaps too that is why we have released another young player this weekend.

Still all that said there were a few crumbs of comfort to take from Fridays game, none more so than the way that we all just sat back in the East Stand and admired the enigma that is Mark Minichiello and the machine that is Seka Manu because both showed real class and leadership in what was largely a team of confused and ineffective players. Captain for the night, there is certainly no doubt that Mark led from the front and showed many of his younger counterparts how to attack and defend! Only passed fit an hour before the game he was suffering with a rolled ankle but still had a pretty amazing match and his energy for a 35-year-old makes him something of a freak really. If Mark showed great leadership, then Seka was by far the best forward on the field and made superb progress forward with ball in hand, despite usually having several Salford players draped around his legs and shoulders; he was also a giant that night for me!

I also think, perhaps a bit controversially, that in Jez Litten we have seen the future of the number 9 position at the FC. I’ve watched him a lot in the Under 23’s and now in what are still cameo roles for the raw 19-year-old who lacks a bit of stamina, he certainly looks electric around the ruck and has a real eye for the best option. He has a long way to go but the signs are definitely there for me. Brad Fash worked hard and didn’t miss one tackle, whilst Wattsy had a good game up front and never stopped trying, otherwise and as for the rest well the least said the better really!

It was in the end just a game of struggle and woe much of which stemmed from a team that simply looked down on energy. Adam and Lee have invested in hiring a cryo-chamber to aid recovery as we enter the Easter mayhem, but looking at what we witnessed this weekend, it will have to work a few minor miracles before Friday.

And unfortunately as I say, if nothing else then the experiences of the last three games has proved that without the ‘King of Hull’ (as some sat around me at the KCOM call Houghton), we could well struggle, because although we are thankfully not a one-man team, we certainly suffer when he’s missing!

We need him back as soon as he’s fit!

It was a bad night for Hull FC, a bad night for the majority of the players and a bad night for yours truly, so perhaps now I should just move on!

As for the rest of the week, well there was a lot made of what was in the end little more than a tinkering around with the margins of the current salary cap at the Super Leagues meeting last week with people like Mr Hudgell crying foul. Yet when you look at the length of time it has stayed the same its little more than a cost of living increase really. If we are to compete with Australia and retain our best players it will have to go up a lot more, but this will help and it’s a balancing act to try and do something to help the game compete with RU and the NRL but it’s still a very small stone thrown in a very big pool. Our owner had been decidedly cool on any such rise and had in fact previously warned against a significant rise in the cap, but now even Adam believes that the small increase was the best case scenario and commented that he thought that it was a necessary one for Hull to keep hold of their current squad in 2018; without us signing anyone else!

Adam said last Thursday “As club we reluctantly went along with it and now we’ve got the decision we’ll support it, but we went along with it because at the minute our squad for next season would be over the cap limit. We needed that help to make sure we can squeeze the squad into the cap and the rise allows us to do that, but that is the only reason we have backed this plan” I spoke to the Club last week and was told that the only way that we can secure the services of Albert Kelly and indeed keep those players that we currently have on our books with us next season is to ensure we embrace the increase on offer. The fact is that we can’t be giving new contracts to people like Liam Watts, Marc Minichiello etc to keep them at the Club long term without there being incremental wage increases year on year. Let’s face it, that’s all we would expect if we signed a new contract in those circumstance.

Such rises however do need funding and so finance has to be found and I guess the under lying message for all FC fans is that if we are to sign any new players for next season then someone will have to go out before we can!! At present without this rise in the cap we simply couldn’t even keep our current staffing levels and I think by the end of the season it will be a case of one in one out if we want to mix things up a bit. It’s pretty clear that although the Marquee rule has been increased to two players its very unlikely many clubs will take up the option. Of course Simon Moran could do it at Warrington but otherwise few including Hull FC have the wherewithal to take on a first, never mind a second Marquee signing. Of course the move has aggrieved some clubs, but mainly the smaller ones like Wakefield and Rovers, who fear any move that looks to increase the power of the bigger organisations in the game.

The issue is of course that the game isn’t raising enough revenue and that long term TV deal that we signed in haste two years ago is now looking to be a move that is tying our hands as a game with regard to the ability to increase our core income levels. On one hand the stability it offers is one thing, but the inability to be light on our feet as the landscape of Digital TV sport’s broadcasting and advertising changes is also tying too. Adam alluded to this when he went on to say last Thursday, “I feel we need to focus on attracting more commercial revenue to the game before we start thinking about a significant rise in the salary cap, but this small rise should be covered by internal revenues. We have done this for personal reasons only and we don’t want the cap to rise too much.” So for me it’s a good move and one that has been long overdue but it’s really only a scratch on the surface of what is a worrying issue for the game itself.

The next big issue is the structure of the League going forward. Stories are rife that the Super League is to increase to 14 teams next season, but the finance within the game at present hardly offers a chance of that happening and anyway I’m told the Clubs won’t even be meeting to discuss that matter until June, although I expect there will be plenty of discussions going on behind the scenes before then.

I see that on some over sensationalizing parts of social media the word was about on Saturday that Callum Lancaster was saying that he was leaving Hull FC and has been paid off. Something that the Club confirmed yesterday. I used to admire Callum and rated him as a great prospect and I think that he was a really talented kid, but rightly or wrongly there were always question marks about his attitude. He flirted with a move to Rovers when his last contract was up, but in the end no one seemed to want him and we had faith and coughed up a re-signing fee and at that time I still hoped he’d make it.

Moving on to explore new opportunities!

He played just seven games in his first contract spell and just one in this last one and I have to admit that players and officials have indicated to me over the last year that he never really fitted into the club’s ethos in terms of hard work and humility, but that’s not unusual for young kids that think they can make a name for themselves just by ‘being there’. Lee Radford continually says in the press that (as has been the case with the likes of Fash, Downs, Hadley, Turgut, Litten, Massie and I guess Logan) if you work hard and keep your head down you’ll get a chance, perhaps therefore it is no coincidence Lancaster hasn’t.

Any fan will realise that despite being given some of the best opportunities and the use of some great facilities and coaches, after three years Callum was still behind Fonua, Talanoa, Michaels, Naughton and Logan for a place on either wing, so that for me says it all. I have to say that I have followed his progress and some of his antics on social media and indeed true to type he tweeted on Saturday night to indicate that he had got money out of us for his pay off and was gleefully off to the casino in Leeds with his severance pay, good luck to him though and I wish him well. There will always be casualties, everyone can’t be a success and so for me as a club we now move on and perhaps use his wages to ease our salary cap woes.

Well, from a personal point of view, as I said earlier I certainly didn’t agree with extending Dean Hadley loan deal at Wakey, because quite frankly, with some knackered forwards by the end of that game at Warrington, I thought that we needed him back for last Friday. But what do I know and I guess as he can be recalled to the Black and Whites if required, its sort of Ok providing there hasn’t been any sort of fall out and the Club and player are doing what is best for the team. The 24-year-old featured in all four of Wakefield’s Super League matches in March and the extension was agreed by our Coach and he said: “The experience will be doing Dean the world of good and he looks like he is enjoying his time there. It allows him some valuable game time at Super League level which is important for him and his development and great for us as a club.” If Wakey think that they are in a position to snaffle Dean, then they had better be saving up, because Hadley signed a long term deal last season with Hull FC until the end of 2019. But it’s all a bit strange for me and we’ll have to see what happens I guess, although I have heard nothing about a fall out, so I suspect that Salary cap issues might be at the bottom of it all.

Whilst we are talking about the West Yorkshire Club did you read that article last week in the Independent when a Director of the Club said that its shareholders could consider selling the Super League Clubs license if they fail in their five-year fight to secure a Stadium in the District. Wakey are having a pretty good season to date despite the fact for several years they have been operating under a hand-to-mouth existence with a skeleton staff and a dilapidated Stadium which has for several seasons now repeatedly failed to comply with Super League regulations that stipulate 2,500 covered seats have to be provided at all grounds. They are increasingly desperate for the local Wakefield Council to honour their pledge of a £9m investment in a new stadium, which was one of the main components of a complex planning agreement that Wakey secured in 2012.

Sad times!

Trinity director Chris Brereton who has so far been quiet on the current state of the Club said that the planning agreement stipulated that developers could only attain permission to build on a lucrative site by making a tangible community benefit in return; in this case, by contributing £9m towards a new stadium for the club. That has never happened and the Council has indicated that they would step in but in local government times are hard and so the Club have been left high and dry at a derelict and worn-out Belle Vue.

Brereton was the guy that joined Trinity chairman Michael Carter to save the Club from disappearing from Super League when they were in a parlous financial state even said that the sale of the club’s license could be considered by the six shareholders if no help was forthcoming in replacing Belle Vue, which he described as now being unfit for purpose. Worrying times for Wakey fans indeed.

The news that our Club are to commemorate 100 years since Jack Harrison last played for Hull FC on 28th April, was good to read indeed especially the bit about the commemoration featuring not one but two special games, (although with two Hull City games after that date. I expect our resident turf expert Mr. Silva will be watching developments closely). Prior to the first-team taking to the field for their Super League match against the Wolves, we will be able to watch a special curtain-raiser fixture as Hull FC Reserves take on the United Kingdom Armed Forces rugby league team in the Jack Harrison Challenge. The combined services team will we are told, be using the game as preparation for their upcoming World Cup and they will be given an opportunity to also train with the club’s first-team squad at the County Road training ground. The reserve team are also to be wearing a specially commissioned replica strip for the match based on the shirt that would have been worn by Harrison 100 years ago, whilst the first-team will also carry a poppy superimposed onto their playing jerseys. The club have also announced that there will be introducing an authentic cotton jersey, similar to what would have been worn by Harrison during his playing days 100 years ago, which I’m looking forward to seeing because it’s the sort of shirt that will sell really well.

So a fitting event to remember the great Jack Harrison who as a player scored a remarkable 106 tries in 116 matches before his final game on Boxing Day 1916. He was an amazing talent whose feats of heroics on the battlefield have quite understandably over shadowed his record on the field, which is pretty great too. In tribute to Jack the City Council are doing their bit too and have produced a commemorative paver that is to positioned in Sutton.

That paving stone, provided by the Department of Communities and Local Government, will be on display as part of a Jack Harrison exhibit at the Hull History Centre throughout April. It will be displayed next to his war medals, before being officially laid at Sutton War Memorial as part of a formal memorial service at St James Church, Sutton, on Sunday 7th May. Great Stuff!

So now to the Codgers spot and this week by request once again this time for Billy Jones of Nafferton Close, we go back to 7th October 1990 and a game under Brian Smith against Wigan as I feature another one of the dozens and dozens of games from the past featured in the ‘Roamin’ the Range’ books.

…….that October, once again it was time for working at Hull Fair and the one day I got off from the incessant grind of injured kids, moaning parents, drunken fracas and grumbling Showmen was the Sunday, and thankfully, that year, we were at home to Wigan. The visitors had a team of stars but had started the season slowly, having won just two of their first five games. The invigorated and confident Hull FC on the other hand, hadn’t lost as yet and were top of the League.

The Boulevard had certainly been upgraded that summer and the influence of Brian Smith’s off the field was manifest in the newly refurbished ‘League’s Club’ at the Airlie Street end of the Ground and of course that new Tetley’s Threepenny Stand. However some things, like the catering, didn’t change and the only two choices of confectionary you had were still Mars Bars and the ubiquitous marshmallow biscuits known as Wagon Wheels, the latter along with gangrenous burgers being the staple diet at most, if not all RL grounds back then and they were usually washed down with a cardboard cup of Bovril that was guaranteed to remove the skin from your tongue. That catering was still dispensed from an ancient caravan adjacent to the Division Road gate.

It was a sunny afternoon and at least for once I wouldn’t have to take shelter in the Gents under the New Threepenny Stand during half time. I remember being amazed that despite the newness of the viewing area and it’s almost palatial sanitary provision, these toilets managed to perpetuate the same acrid aroma that the back of the old stand used to embrace. Who knows, perhaps it was the ‘lingering spirits’ of thousands of phantom ‘urinators’ still relieving themselves in the ghostly portals of the famous old wooden edifice it had replaced.

That afternoon we welcomed, with the usual trepidation, the reigning title holders Wigan, the team that had dominated domestic rugby for the last five years. The game had been ‘hyped up’ in the media all week but the over-riding memory for me that day, came as we were joined on the terraces by two nuns wearing habits and wimples, who nodded and smiled to us before leaning on an adjacent crush barrier to watch the game. These were real nuns, and it was, in a life time of watching Rugby League, a really surreal moment. I have seen plenty of men dressed as nuns at games, but these two were definitely ladies of the cloth.

The animosity on the field began before the game had even kicked off when the Hull team came out to warm up behind the try line at the Airlie Street end. You could see that our players were certainly focused on the task ahead but minutes later, out came Wigan to do their warm up and they purposely ran to the same end.

This was obviously seen as a way of intimidating the Hull players, and, as both sides refused to move, the warm up session descended into chaos as players from both sides mingled, ran around and even collided with each other. As the Hull team started back to the changing rooms and much to the amusement of the fans, a couple of our players (John Sharp and Noel Cleal) could clearly be seen to walk straight into two Wigan players, knocking them both sideways. It was great fun for the spectators and as I stood eating a Wagon Wheel, on my ‘Lucky Step’ with my pals all around me, there was nowhere in the world I would rather have been.

As referee Kevin Allett blew the whistle and we kicked off, Wigan came under an unyielding battery of crushing tackles and high speed collisions from a Hull pack that had obviously used the pre-match happenings as motivation. On attack too, we were ‘all aggression’ and within minutes both Karl Harrison and Andy Dannett had flattened Lucas and Dermott in blistering line breaking runs. The crowd of 10,900 was captivated as they roared every tackle and applauded every break.

After just 4 minutes Paul Eastwood converted a penalty when Myers tripped Rob Nolan, and then within minutes of the re-start Lee Jackson broke from acting half and found Patrick Entat on his shoulder. The little Frenchman scooted through the defence to face the Wigan full back Joe Lydon who felled the scrum half with a high tackle straight across his head. In piled Dannett and Harrison to shouts of ‘OFF, OFF, OFF’ from the ‘New’ Threepennies, and in the melee that followed Lydon was shown the Red Card. He tramped off, still protesting, to chants of ‘tatty bye, tatty bye, tatty bye’ and on reaching the tunnel the crowd struck up an impromptu rendition of the French National Anthem, as Entat staggered around in a daze. “You’re a F*cking disgrace Lydon” shouted a guy behind me, prompting everyone to turn as one to look at the nuns. They were both fine and heartily laughing at this outburst, as if it were the good natured banter that’s heard at the pantomime when the crowd boo and hiss the villain.

Andy Gregory was trying his best to get Wigan moving but a crunching tackle by Ian Marlow saw him limp from the field with a leg injury, to be replaced by Phil Clarke. In the 22nd minute Eastwood converted his third penalty and the atmosphere was tense as we pressed and pressed the Wigan line. On 28 minutes the Lancastrians defence finally cracked, when Ian Marlow scored his debut try for the Club. 10 minutes later Eastwood converted another penalty awarded for obstruction and we went in for the kill.

With just 2 minutes to go, a half completely dominated by the Airlie Birds ended with another great try. Wigan’s Shaun Edwards took his eyes off a pass from Betts and dropped the ball. Nolan snapped it up and ran at the defence before placing a measured kick towards the corner. Eastwood and the Wigan centre Dean Bell hared down field, shoulder to shoulder but both, in their desperation to get there first, over ran the ball and Greg Mackey following up, touched it down. Eastwood converted from the touchline to make the half time score a quite unbelievable 18-0.

As the nuns devoured the remains of their burgers, Wigan restarted the game and were certainly fired up, as four forwards immediately laid out Russ Walker in a gang tackle. The ‘Pies’ hearts must have sank though when who should come trotting from the bench to take his place but Noel Cleal. ‘Crusher’s’ first tackle laid Kevin ‘The Beast’’ Iro out cold, and the game had to be stopped whilst he was resuscitated with smelling salts. Eastwood then slotted over another penalty as Wigan got more and more frustrated. Next to suffer in the Wigan ranks was Dean Bell, who ran straight at one of his own players and was carried off unconscious. Back on came substitute Phil Clarke to last just 10 minutes before another Cleal special saw him helped from the field with a shoulder injury. During all this action Eastwood stroked over another penalty, and then there followed one of the best tries I had ever seen at the Boulevard.

The move started with a break in our own twenty by Nolan who passed onto young Steve McNamara who wriggled between two would be tacklers. Somehow Steve managed to pass onto Richard Gay, who had ghosted up on his outside and he spun out of no less than 4 tackles, before Cleal took the ball, stopping only to swat off the ‘would be’ tackle of a chasing Lucas, before ‘feeding’ the onrushing Neil Turner who scored in the corner. It was breath-taking stuff, which saw the remaining Wigan players collapse to their knees behind the posts. The game had been won by power and determination and although Wigan did get a consolation when Skerrett rolled over for a late try, as the hooter went the scoreboard at the Airlie Street end showed Hull 24 Wigan 4.

Brian Smith had the players wound up into a state of near frenzy that day and Wigan were never really allowed to get into the game. What we didn’t know at the time was that as Brian and the boys celebrated with us on the pitch afterwards, spies from Australia Club St George were in The Threepenny Stand, laying their plans to meet up with ‘Smithy’ afterwards to try and entice him back to his homeland. Perhaps it was best that we the fans didn’t know anything about that really, because our antipodean visitors would have been lynched!

So for the first time since that long journey home from Widnes back in March 2016 we don’t really know where it’s all going do we? Was last season a flash in the pan, will it all be back to normal after Danny, Albo, Carlos and Ellis are back, or is our recent malaise much bigger than that? I don’t think it is, but I still harbor concerns and want to see what happens in the next 8 days! We’ll probably know by then if it’s only a blip or a much bigger issue altogether. We all hate Leeds and so Friday is a massive game but what’s more important is how we come through the next three weeks because that will shape our season and although the Coach and Club may worry about that, one thing is for sure, we’ll all be well and truly behind the boys and will be doing our bit, however in the end you can’t help but wonder a bit can you!

Thanks as always for sticking with a rather introspective Diary but perhaps already after just a few games if we don’t exactly face a crossroads at least we face a fork in the road towards the end of the season! As Mohammed Ali once said, “It’s not being knocked down that’s the problem it’s always the getting back up again!”

We have to get that old tenacity and belief back and the inclusion of a few of our walking wounded again will probably sort everything out and we’ll be back on track next week, at least I hope we will! Try to keep believing and thanks as always for your support!

Faithfully Yours