Having spent heavily in the Off Season the Black and Whites commenced the campaign in blistering form with some commentators predicting that the Airlie Birds would finally live up to their potential with a Grand Final appearance.
This paragraph could equally apply to this season as much as it did to the campaign in question. In 2009 FC started like a train by winning their first five Super League fixtures in a row. The last in the sequence was a 36-24 victory at Bradford Bulls.
This game was memorable for me as I experienced that absolute dread of every parent of a young child; losing them in a crowd. It was Conor’s sixth birthday and we travelled by coach to the game. It was my first occasion away from Hull on my own since IvIg therapy had all to briefly halted my symptoms and I was able to walk unaided. I was still in denial about my failing eyesight, but that’s another story (involving England V S. Africa at the Oval, a tree branch and a car). In the away end at Odsal we went use the facilities. To my horror I realised too late that there were two exits and Conor was nowhere to be seen. Cue blind (lol) panic. I told myself that this was the North and a rugby league crowd, and as expected my confidence was repaid some ten long minutes later when a steward spotted Conor with a family who were looking for me.
FC romped to victory and all the talk amongst the fans on the way home concerned who we could expect to face at Old Trafford in October. The following game we lost to Cas. Hull FC didn’t even make the play-offs, finishing a miserable 12th.
This season began with an absolute shallocking of Hull KR in the Clive Sullivan Trophy; the winning margin a record 60-20. This was followed by a 42-20 demolition of a much fancied Salford side at the KC. Then a visit to France saw FC leave with a healthy 38-10 win posted to put us top of SL XXI. What could go wrong?
Castleford arrived in the City on the back of a 40-6 local derby triumph over Wakefield Trinity having drawn their opening fixture at the KC Shitestream. Poor form at the real KC in recent years put the Black and Whites securely in the favourites paddock.
The start of the season had placed veteran signing Frank Pritchard follow a long line of South Pacific Islanders into the hearts of FC fans. His buccaneering, 100% style of play is just what Radford’s outfit required following (yet another) moribund end to last season.
The 32 year old joined 35 year old Frank Minichiello, 34 year old Leon Pryce, 30 year old Danny Washbrook, and 34 year old Gareth Ellis in the Airlie Bird’s first choice match day squad. A pattern is, as they emerging. When the going is good these players will shine and inspire the younger team members. The trouble generally starts when results go awry. Having given the best years of their careers to other sides, and having established themselves in the all time greats hall of fame, the incentive is not perhaps not what it once was. In addition injuries become longer to get over. Let’s be honest we’ve been here before regarding players who can no longer play in the NRL* or top rate SL teams. In the medium to long term it doesn’t work and we are back to square one. In addition Lee Radford lacks the gravitas to deal with these egos and has been prone to blame other players in the media which is never good for morale.
Last night’s game was played at break neck pace with Cas going over the whitewash just shy of two minutes into the clash. By the break egalite had been achieved at 18 all and just after the break Hull star player of last season Jamie Shaul went over and Sneyd added the extras. All would be well, or so we thought. The impressive Luke Gale landed a goal and then a one pointer but with 8 minutes on the clock all was not lost. Unfortunately fitness contributed to a mad last five minutes and Cas sealed the points after a suicidal last minute pass went astray.
Overall Watts, Shaul and the loose forward convert Jordan Thompson joined the ever reliable Danny Houghton as the stand out performers. Whether or not my pessimism will be misplaced depends on how we react to this defeat as Wigan are the next opponents here in Hull a week today. Yikes.
Robert Hicks reffed the game brilliantly but it was disappointing to hear players from both sides routinely questioning every decision. Leon Pryce did himself no favours by going down far too easily in an obstruction incident which denied the Cas winger Denny Solamona a spectacular score. The RFL must clamp down on this malarkey pronto.
*Last weeks triple walloping for SL teams at the hands of their Aussie counterparts just demonstrated just how far behind the European Competition really is, and why we it will take a miracle for us to ever beat the Kangaroos more than once in Tournament conditions. That’s a whole other subject for a rant…..