The Dentist’s Diary – 534th

What a superb exhibition of Rugby League that was and how proud I was at 10-00pm last Friday to be a Hull FC fan.

Ian, my great pal and, over the years, my comrade in so many disheartening and disappointing campaigns is not one for the over statement or the rash comment, for unlike me, he’s more of a steadying influence and always a font of rather sensible rationale, particularly when it comes to all things Hull FC. Not much phases him at all and yet after the game on Friday he texted me with a short message which simply read, “Wow just Wow that’s all!” Which as far as Friday night was concerned said it all for me.

If the Castleford game was amazing for that brilliant backs to the wall never say die, ‘hanging on by your fingernails’ drama then Friday’s showing was a lesson in game management, in that it was our most complete and controlled performance at home, since well before Wembley last season. Everyone knew their job and no player could be criticised at all!

We cut out a lot of the errors, our attack looked sharp, well directed and lethal at times, our defence was solid under pressure and most of all that game management was first class. Time and again, NRL style, we simply rolled up-field with quick play the balls and once there, the guile of Sneyd and Kelly set up the chances. Even more than all that, a team that had no right to be invigorated and full of zest were just that and showed few signs of the battle that had been the war of attrition just 5 days earlier.

Few of us, me included, saw that performance coming, as all week we heard of the players being out on their feet after the short-handed heroics of the previous Sunday, but despite all the fatigue and tired legs, confidence, self-belief and wanting something as a group are great motivators. From the first minute we looked as if we believed we could win against what was probably, results wise at least, the form team of the competition. As one contributor on RL fans said after the game, at times we are even ‘making playing ugly, look beautiful’.

So, another win, another massive effort and at the halfway point of the season with 17 points already in the bag, top of the league for 24 hours at least; we’d have taken that back in January wouldn’t we?

It was a night to be so proud of our lads and yet one that seemed impossible to imagine after those two 50 point reversals at home before Easter. On Good Friday Leeds looked the real deal and pretty much demolished us and yet here we are just over two weeks later, they get beaten at home by lowly Huddersfield, while we experience two contrasting but brilliant victories against the current league leaders and last year’s Grand Finalists. It’s such a tight competition this year, but as league leaders after the game, we are certainly going well at present and doing it while we are short-handed and missing three or four of our key and indeed ‘star’ players. What a tribute that is to Radford’s 3 years of persistence and Pearson’s financial investment, as they both endeavoured to build a big squad to cover just such eventualities.

All week I’d worried and as we walked to the game I wondered just how a team that had put so much effort and energy into a brilliant short-handed win earlier in the week, could do anything but gracefully capitulate to a team that were as good as any, result wise at least, over the last 5 games. They hadn’t been playing well and that gave me a glimmer of hope, but they were racking up the points in the table just the same.

On my way into the KCOM I stopped to pay homage to a real hero, as the Rev Tony Cotson conducted a short service of remembrance and wreath laying at the Jack Harrison Memorial. What a brave man he was and as Marc Sneyd commented during the week, it’s hard to comprehend, in the context of Rugby League, such heroism over and above the call of duty which ends with you giving your life for your pals. I think that the Club should be congratulated on their efforts to mark the occasion and I’d like to think that some of the aura of respect and admiration that surrounds Jack rubbed off on some of our players that night as well.

A nice picture as Ex-player Tommy Ball proudly poses with the Cup and Jack’s two Medals, in the lounge before the game.

However, as I moved on to my seat, I was gripped by another sort of emotional and I was certainly worried about the upcoming encounter as all the hallmarks of a game too far were looming large for me. In addition, the Wolves were something of a bogy team at home as we had only managed one win and one draw in our last 10 meetings with them at the KCOM.

It had already been said that because of the short turn around and a host of beat up bodies in camp, training had been kept to a minimum but there was plenty of talking going on down at County Road, when as always our coaching teams meticulous planning outlined exactly what we had to do to give ourselves a chance of beating the Wolves. Of course despite the best of preparations players don’t always listen do they? However, this week all the talk about keeping up the tempo and unsettling the opposition around the ruck was obviously taken note of by the whole team.

After the game Radford emphasised just how pleased he was with their defensive efforts and said, “The tempo in which we defended against Warrington was really important, which I said in the press conference beforehand. We haven’t had a great deal of time to practice our defensive attributes because of the short turnaround. But we implemented the plan we set out and, for me, that’s really, really pleasing.”

All through the pre-season Lee banged on and on about the value of a big squad and how with such a hectic and cramped season it was the teams that had the depth that would win through. I also think he was mindful of the need to try and peak more comprehensively towards the end of the season and to not worry too much about the odd defeat along the way through the first 23 rounds. He’s more experience as a coach, our players have now ‘seen it all before’ and as fans we ‘get it’ a bit more too these days, so I guess we’re all a bit more long suffering this time around. Last year, despite all the heroics, our confidence out on the terraces was spread as a thin veneer over the worry and uncertainty that had been developed incrementally over successive disappointing campaigns, when we had often flattered to deceive and when we were at times down right dissapointing. That big, big win in London last August helped to shore up and indeed reinforce our belief again and boy, have we all come a long way in 9 months, both on and off the field!

Of course in hindsight I was wrong to be concerned at all, but I defy anyone reading this to honestly say that they weren’t a bit worried about our ability to back up again on Friday. But, in the end we were fantastic, as the team that had the worst defensive record at home in the League, only conceded two tries and leaked not a point in the second half and all that with a group who had hardly trained all week. The rigours of that brilliant siege like victory against Castleford meant that all our coaching efforts between games were directed towards getting our fit players rested and recuperated. In fact, as one player commented on Thursday, we were still feeling the effect of that epic victory when that day’s ‘Captains Run’ was ‘More Like a Captains Walk’.

I met up with Danny Houghton last Friday and he indicated to me that he could have played ‘at a pinch’ that evening, as could, I’m told, Gaz Ellis. But neither was felt to be worth the risk. That’s a really sensible approach and by the way there’s absolutely nothing to be read into Houghton’s continued absence from the team, he just needed another week to make sure his conditioning was right and to hopefully guard against any further damage, which could lead to a much longer lay off.

Ellis had a couple of sternum strains and so the same applied to him. Unlike last season, when our under pressure coach threw our top players into the fray (providing that they could just about walk), this year with a certain, ‘Monkey’ off his back, I think he has more confidence in his own ability and in that of our fringe players and so on Friday it was the squad effect and the depth of our playing strength that got us home and those chosen to play certainly rose to the task in hand.

Still there is no denying that in that second half I sat tensed up in my seat hardly daring to look as they pumped high ball after high ball at Shaul, Fonua and Michaels, but we dealt with all that admirably, as we did with a string of silly penalties we conceded in our own half. But, that’s what sport is all about because in a measured and calculated world it allows you to experience and try to deal with things that you have no control over whatsoever. Yet the clock crawled on with every minute seeming to last an age, as ‘glass half full’ me contemplated the possibility that our energy would in the end just run out.

We sat with Joe Bennett, the guy who manages this web site so well and he kept asking Mrs R if it was safe to talk to me about us having won before the end, but until the last few minutes the answer was always in the negative. I’m a bad watcher even in games when we have obviously got the better of the opposition. With 6 minutes to go and a three try lead I’m still working out in my head how the impossible can still become a reality!

What a kick and catch!

I guess, had we all been not so emotionally involved, it’s fair to say that despite lacking Houghton and Ellis two of our generals and Watts and Bowden from our front row, we managed the game superbly and for me the match was won in the opening period of the second half when our control and game management came right to the fore. On leaving I was to overhear two Wolves fans saying as they left the Stadium that although well beaten, the Wire had produced as good a display as they had seen all season, they were, they concluded, just defeated by a much better team on the night.

For Hull Fc throughout, Sneyd stood head and shoulders above the ‘more illustrious’ Warrington play makers and was imperious with his kicking both from the T (where he converted all of his 7 attempts at goal to send his season long completion rate to just over 93%) and in that opening section of the second half, when his already good field kicking game really came to the fore.

Trailing 14-10 at the break, Warrington thought they had scored within 50 seconds of the restart as we fell asleep in defence for the only time in the whole game. Quite inexplicably as we all settled back into our seats, some of the FC players were guilty of ‘still being in the dressing rooms’ as, after he had surged out of their quarter and through some woeful tackling, we chased Joe Philbin’s stunning 80m run from the kick-off. That led to what looked like a certain Warrington try, but the ‘Rugby Gods’ shone down on us, as Jack Hughes’s effort was ruled out by video referee Ben Thaler, for a dubious and yet fortuitous obstruction.

That should have seen us punished and a few years ago it would have done for us, as we would have dwelt on what was a poor passage of play and paid the penalty, but quite characteristically for this current team of late, we instead marched back up field. Sneyd’s pin point accuracy with his short field kicking game near the opposition line saw him force two Wire drop outs in quick succession, from where, Kelly’s astute long pass gave Connor just enough space to get on the outside of his opposite man. From there he turning a lovely flick pass inside for the supporting Jamie Shaul, for a try that still needed a bit of scoring. Marc improved the try again and then a little later he directed a brilliant 40/20 to touch to keep us well and truly on the front foot and in a position from which we never looked back. As with the same tactic by the same player at the Cup Final, you could see the opposition heads go down, as they tramped back to defend the tap restart and we were on our way.

Connor started again and starred, the kid has a tremendous rugby brain and the advantage that a centre who can play a bit of half back brings to his game is, like with Carlos, invaluable when it comes to creating play back inside for the following runners. Looking at the team sheet Fash, Downs and Turgot made for a very young and inexperienced bench but those three in varying ways rose to the occasion brilliantly with Fash (39 tackles and no errors) looking like he had played in the middle for years, Turgot bull heading his way into every tackle and is visibly growing in confidence, while Downs pitched in with some good stuff as well. Most of all of course, those three, when they were on the field, stopped up the middle and repelled any sort of roll the Warrington forward tried to get on. Fresh young legs and stout hearts won the day in that department and the three spelled the hard working Green and Thompson whilst brilliantly complimenting the sterling efforts of Taylor, Manu and confident and steadying Minichiello.

Jake had his best game for Hull FC

You know one thing is for sure and that is that when Danny Houghton returns to his rightful place in the team next week, I hope that we never forget the effort and endeavor that Danny Washbrook has put in over these five games past. His 41 tackles last Friday again topped the charts and his work from acting half was again a revelation. He’s been a massive hero in these difficult times and a player that has, since he re-signed for the Club, never once let us down. He’s taken over the Richard Whiting mantle of being the teams ‘Jack of all Trades’ and as such has been a ‘Superman’ in his own way of late. At the end of the game against Castleford he looked like a man who was about to ring his wife to bring the wheelbarrow to take him home, as his legs just about buckled underneath him, but on Friday he was back at it again, in the acting half back role and full of energy and tackling. What a hero he has turned out to be of late.

But there were heroes across the pitch on Friday. Shaul had his best game for ages and if Kelly is proving to be the epitome of the archetypical maverick player, then Mahe Fonua has evolved into the classic mold of ‘the unplayable one’, as he accrued 253 metres, made five tackle busts, produced three offloads, and scored one try and an assist. What a game he had and by the end how the Warrington players dreaded him running at them. No wonder his legs buckled under him on that 80 meter run for the line near the end, he must have worked himself to a standstill. His work rate as ‘an additional forward’ is amazing and out there on the wing in a one on one situation he is lethal. Mahe and Jake Connor are forming a great combination out there aren’t they? Kelly himself was brilliant again as his unpredictability makes him so hard to defend against. Several Rovers fans told me when we signed him that it would all end in tears and it has….tears of joy!

The Maverick!

If there is one small fly in the ointment, then it has to be our discipline because on Friday once again we were short-handed for ten minutes and another player faces a ban, whilst we are still piling pressure on ourselves by conceding too many stupid penalties in our own half. But otherwise it was a fabulous game and a great night of drama and entertainment befitting the memory of the great Jack Harrison.

Finally, however it would be wrong not to say a big well done to the crowd who were magnificent in getting behind the team and the atmosphere they created wasn’t lost on our coach Lee Radford either. Quite out of the blue on Saturday I received a text from Lee which said, “If ever there was an advertisement that the atmosphere impacts on the team Pete, last night was it I think. We’ve found our voice in the stands, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence performance has lifted as well”. I said that I would pass on his thanks and as for Fortress KCOM? Well perhaps we are at least starting to get there.

So to the week gone by and it seems incredible that once again we are at that time of year when the balls are in the fridge and its time for our first outing in our quest to defend the Challenge Cup. The more cynical out there will have noted immediately that Leeds and Wigan got ‘a bye’, but otherwise it’s a pretty exciting draw. We have been there before against Catalan haven’t we, in fact we played them last season and at least this time around we’ll be performing on some grass rather than the Gobi Desert like conditions we experience last June at the KCOM. It’s a hard draw and we have to be wary of them, but whatever happens between now and then if we have any aspirations about returning to Wembley it’s the sort of game we should be able to win. I’d rather be playing them here at home than in France or even having to go to Salford to face the in-form Red Devils and no mistake!

Rovers will see a chance for retribution after the million-pound game which turned out so well last year, but Salford are a smart outfit these days and I’d be worrying a bit if we had to travel over there for that one. However, for us it’s the start of the adventure again and the hairs just stand up on the back of your neck thinking about what came about last time and what could be this time around, don’t they? Last year at this time we came out of the hat against Saints as we all cursed our luck and continued in our belief that it would simply never happen and we were destined to never win that trophy at that venue. But then, on 27th August last year, it did happen and our lives will frankly, never be the same again, will they? That’s done now and will live with us forever so much so that a trip to Wembley will never be the same again, but it would be nice one day to go back to the National Stadium and ‘enjoy’ the game a bit wouldn’t it? Bring on the Dragons!

As for Liam Watts and that sending off. Well, I’ve watched that game again and that tackle literally dozens of times and I honestly, honestly feel that a two game ban, the maximum they can give at that grade, was a bit harsh! He’s a silly lad at times, but one whose so enthusiastic about winning that the moment takes over and ‘wham’, he’s in trouble. However, this time I think he was badly done too, but with Grahame Hallas on the panel we shouldn’t be surprised should we? It may just be a coincidence but I can’t recall a single time we have had any success in those circumstances, or on appeal, when he has been involved. Of course, as soon as it went to appeal the charge was reduced, it couldn’t be quashed completely because they obviously felt a loyalty to the initial decision.

Even the Castleford message board was full of fans that thought sending off was sufficient and who were surprised with the outcome. But its done and a modicum of justice followed on appeal and so we have to get on with it! Wattsy has to learn to be a bit more controlled in such situations, because he is starting to get an unenviable reputation and the referees will be watching him. However as for the RL well, there is simply no consistency at all with that lot and I don’t think we should ever really be surprised at anything they do.

So to Danny Washbrook, who I praised for his recent efforts and I had a look back at the Diary’s back editions and have to admit to questioning his signing in here when he returned to the Club. I in fact described him at the time as an ‘adequate’ player ‘who would make great back-up in times of injury’ and I think if they are honest a lot of fans felt the same and he was certainly not the ‘sexy’ signing that grabs the headlines and the imagination of the fans. However how wrong were we all to be proved, because although he has been employed as a ‘Jack of all trades’ across the team he has played a lot of games and if not starting as a replacement in the team he is invariably found on the bench. What a great signing he has turned out to be. He is a really unassuming guy who goes about his business on and off the field quietly but effectively.

He’s liked in the squad and although often the butt of a bit of joking amongst the players, he is respected and appreciated by them all. It was therefore to be expected I guess, when the Daily Mail printed an interesting article on Thursday that included Scott Taylor saying how much he hoped that Washy was given a new contract.

No one can really step into Danny Houghton’s shoes that’s pretty impossible in any scenario and there have certainly been issues whilst our mercurial hooker has been injured, but despite all that the 31-year-old has provided invaluable cover for the current Man of Steel. Danny has so much respect for his good mate’s recent efforts whilst Tag Taylor said, “Washy has been unbelievable and he’s Mr. Versatile. He’s played out of his skin and did another 80 minutes against Castleford. He’s a Hull lad and he rips in. I have so much respect for him and as much stick as I give him sometimes, he knows how much I rate him. If there is one player I’d love to see get a new deal at this club it would be him. Hopefully he’ll be here for a few more years.”

Washy’s a player I don’t talk about that often, because he is one of those guys who just goes about his business and as a Hull lad he does it for the cause every time he pulls on the shirt. However, he really does deserve a big well done on this one.

Our Coach Lee Radford was certainly taken aback when someone stopped him in the Street last Monday evening and asked him if Rangi Chase would be signed in time for the Warrington game! Lee was surprised because it was the first he knew about it!!! In fact, the rumour gained ‘legs’ pretty quickly and on Tuesday evening the Castleford Tigers halfback took to Twitter to rubbish suggestions that he was coming to us insisting that he is happy at the Tigers (even if at times they aren’t that happy with him!). ‘Bad boy’ Chase, missed the KCOM game with a wrist problem, but his absence from the club’s last two defeats had stoked up the West Yorkshire rumour mill which indicated that he could be about to leave. I mean to say why do we need another half back? But, his contract with Castleford expires at the end of the season (although the club does have an option to extend his deal) and he is obviously putting himself in the shop window, if not on the field, then on Twitter at least.

Once again, as I have said on many occasions in this Diary, in Codgers Corner this week, I look at a game that was if you were there, simply unforgettable.

The day in question was a tea time kick-off on Sunday 6th January 1991 and the match was of course the last game at the Boulevard for that most distinguished of Hull FC coaches Brian Smith. That night the team played their hearts out for Smithy and in the end easily beat a Leeds team (who came to the Boulevard standing 3rd in the League), were led by Garry Schofield and stuffed full of international players.

The 7,500 fans that had come along to wish ‘Smithy’ well were spellbound and at times I was left breathless by a sizzling game that had everything. Sky TV were there to broadcast an encounter that saw our forwards tear into the Leeds six with an awesome display of power and aggression. Greg Mackey led from the front, he was a great little player and showed that day just how effective a terrier like half back could be against a pack of big forwards as he goaded and provoked the Leeds 6 all night. Whilst up front for us, Props Karl Harrison and Andy Dannett had big games too. In addition both Russ Walker and Bradd Webb produced their best performances to date in a Black and White shirt, and the whole FC team had Leeds, led by villain of the day ‘Judas’ Schofield, reeling by the end.

Straight from the kick-off there were one or two ‘tasty’ exchanges between the forwards, before Damien McGarry opened the scoring on his debut after just 11 minutes. He was fed a great pass by Webb, after some astute running from Greg Mackey and a tackle bust by Ian Marlow. Simon Irvine got one back for Leeds, before Rob Nolan dummied to the left and then darted right and in at the corner. Next up Lee Jackson and Paul Eastwood gave us a good position in the Leeds 25 before Brad Webb finished off a flowing move by diving in and despite the predictions of most of the pundits and the forecasts of the bookmakers we were 16-8 up at the interval.

Leeds came charging back at us from the kick off at the start of the second half and only some great tackling from Richard Gay at Full Back kept Harkin and Maskill out. Marlow was certainly making his presence felt and one mighty hit on the visitors loose forward Kuiti saw him sat on the ground shaking his head and counting his fingers for about a minute. Leeds pressed and pressed but then against the run of play Jon Sharp broke out of his own half and passed onto Mackey who was felled with a high tackle from Leeds ‘Bad Boy’ Paul Dixon. He shown a quick red card and quickly dispatched from the field by referee Carter to hoots of derision from right around the ground.

Then the onslaught began! First Harrison blasted through the visitor’s line to put Gay clear, he left Schofield grabbing thin air before finding Walker superbly supporting for him to score wide out on the left. A massive crescendo of shouting greeted a towering up and under from Entat which seemed to momentarily distract the Leeds full back Gallagher as he dropped the ball for Nolan to nip in to make it 28-8.

Then, as was to be expected sometime in the game, there came a spell of Leeds dominance after Phil Ford scored a brilliant 75 yard try and with our prop Karl Harrison in the sin bin for dissent and both teams down to 12 men we had a difficult few minutes. On came Brian Blacker though to steady the ship and when Harrison returned he immediately broke the line, passed onto Entat and the little Frenchman put Sharp into a gap through which he wriggled and writhed his way over the line to complete our scoring. As the hooter went and the ‘Farewell’ party began, we had won the game 34-14.

The result gave Brian Smith a fairy tale send-off coming as it did just a few days after a heart-breaking defeat at Craven Park against Hull KR. After we had all said our ‘Goodbyes’ to Garry Schofield with chants of “Judas, Judas” The man who had transformed Hull FC from struggling relegation candidates to Championship contenders in just two and a half years, was chaired round the ground by the players to the adulation of the crowd. I was stood in the Threepenny Stand and the whole place was dancing and cheering as the entourage came past us and as often happens for us fanatics in those times of joy, my eyes started to moisten and yes, as Smithy went by me signalling with one finger that we were the top supporters in the land, I was just overcome by it all and I have to admit that yes, I cried.

The 36 year old ‘hero of the masses’ said afterwards, “I never want to forget tonight, This was something else, I thought I’d seen it all from this club, but tonight has left me stunned and speechless” Most of the fans there that night would agree with those sentiments completely, it was the end of an era and although we were to win a glorious victory at the end of the campaign we didn’t know it yet but tough times were just around the corner.

While we are on the reminiscence stuff I got a long and interesting E Mail this week from Chris Walker which followed my recollections of the cramped programme and tight schedule we experienced over Easter 1965 that I featured in Edition 532 of this weekly rubbish. Chris like me remembers great times but as with us all, admits as I do, to sometimes being a bit hazy about what actually went on, but then again we are talking about individual games played over 50 years ago. One piece of his E Mail interested me and concerned two Easter Derby games I had forgotten about but for which the memories came flooding back. Chris wrote….

“Talking of Easter derbies that I recall from that era, two others that I have strong memories of (partly because we won!) were those on Good Friday 1967 and 1968.

In the 1967 game we won 13-12, and as I recall it came from a dramatic fight back in the last 10 minutes when we were trailing 12-5 and seemed out of it. FC were playing towards the Gordon Street end and I was stood in the Threepennies near the 25 yard mark at that end of the ground. Arthur Keegan fielded a dropout from Rovers near half-way and went on an arcing run towards FC’s right touchline. Just inside the 25 yard line Keegan drew a Rovers defender and fed Norman Oliver who just squeezed in at the corner as the cover came across. John Maloney landed a brilliant conversion inches in from the touchline, to put us 11-12 behind. He then followed this up with a penalty about 5 minutes from time when Rovers were penalised about 40 yards out in from of the posts.

The 1968 Good Friday game was memorable because it was the first time I saw us beat Rovers at Craven Park. The score was 19-5 and if memory serves me right the game was unusual because both sides scored just one try – I think, while Maloney converted the try and added 7 penalties as Rovers lost their composure and gave away one after another. I also remember a bust up between Alan McGlone and Flash Flanagan at a scrum, with Flash getting his revenge a bit later by landing a couple of punches in McGlone’s eye when Alan had his back turned, this was deemed to be quite serious at the time resulting in him having to be substituted”.

Ah great memories eh and thanks for those flashbacks to Derby’s of the sixties Chris. I always said way back when I started this weekly journal that if my reminiscences caused others to start thinking and remembering games gone by then it was doing what I originally set out to achieve. Great stuff!

Darren the Treasurer of the Vice Presidents Association and regular reader of the Diary contacted me this week to tell me about a Race night that they are having this Thursday 4th May at the Walton Club. It should be a great occasion and they expect Carlos, Albert Kelly, Fetuli Talanoa and Jack Logan will be in attendance, at an event they have arranged to raise money for a Family Fun day that the Club are to host later in the year and to also help towards the cost of the Cryro-Chamber the Club has hired over Easter and for the congested fixture period between now and the end of May.

It’s a great cause and it will no doubt be a lot of fun. The entrance fee is £5 and includes a pie, chips and pea supper (and, Darren tells me, they are not bad pies either!). The VP’s do a great job and their input has helped Adam secured the freezer chamber for 8 weeks at a cost of well over £1000 a week. It was a big investment, but their partnership with the Club has made it possible and there is little doubt that the last two great results have in no small way been down to its use. Try and get there to support the Vice Presidents if you can.

So there we are and after that great win last Friday we now set out on the second half of the season well placed in the League. It’s tight at the top and exciting stuff as far as anyone looking at the table is concerned although whether there is real quality there or just a load of clubs on a similar level of mediocrity is questionable. The fact two of the four Super League teams involved the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup fifth round lost to lower league opposition either says something about the strength of the elite competition, or indicates that the Championship sides are growing closer to the standards set in that top division. However, at least Super League is unpredictable these days. An example? Well don’t just compare those two big home defeats over Easter with our last two results but also consider that in the space of five days recently St Helens managed to beat the team leading the table, Castleford Tigers and then lost to the side at the bottom, Widnes Vikings.

Players and coaches say it every week, but that is an indication that whatever the quality there really are no easy games in Super League any more. Of the four fixtures the weekend before last three were decided by just two points. There is now a genuine question mark over the outcome of most games and that is what any competition containing just 12 team’s needs if it is to remain interesting and competitive throughout. Therefore, I guess there are no guarantees this coming weekend despite the fact that we travel to Widnes who are at the wrong end of the table. Again it will be tough particularly without Seka (the enforcer) and Scott who are both on International duty. But we will have Danny Houghton and Liam Watts back, at least with Bowden not too far off either, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading the Diary again this week, I received the final proof of the new book last Friday and its looking quite good for a release around 8th July, but more of that in future weeks. The Diary will be back next week, but in the meantime enjoy the reflected glory and memory of a marvelous game last Friday and a superb effort over just 5 days from each and every one of the players involved. I’ll be watching both matches again during the week and marveling at the effort and passion that both games providing for us lot watching on the Terraces. We are back on track and going pretty well, but as they say next weekend is another challenge and we’ll have to be on our guard. Thank you for sticking with me, the Diary will be back next week but in the mean time I’ll see you all at Widnes.

Faithfully Yours