Super League is back, Hull FC are back, and whilst St Helens and Wigan kicked things off on Thursday night, there’s nothing quite like Hull’n’Rovers, the big city Derby, two clubs that quite frankly despise one another.
You could say then that it’s not a bad way to kick things off, although a trip to Caravan Park is nothing less than a human rights breach, as those unfortunate to be left with a ticket in the Zeebrugge End will tell you as they’re rubbing the frost off their binoculars and suffering from hypothermia. For us in the Blue Elephant Stand, it’s not that much better. Sure we can see the game, but the stench burning your nostrils only indicates your close proximity to the noisy neighbour. Not a ‘traditional’ ground by any stretch of the imagination, just one stuck in the last century.
On the playing side of things it seems those making voodoo dolls of Hull FC players (we have our suspicions) are still up to their evil tricks. No fewer than eight blokes will miss the Derby opener, with seven injured and one suspended, but it would certainty be naive to forget the quality that will still pull on a Black and White jersey come Friday night. We’re lucky that we still have a team blessed with talent, and one that will hopefully stick a finger or two up to the daft sods that are basing their league table predictions on Hull FC losing their last eleven games with two-thirds of the salary cap sat in the stands. Fat lady and all that. Still though, there’s a lot of apprehension even from our own supporters about the start to the season. Sure it’ll be tough, but we’ll be mid-table fodder at worst when everyone’s back larking out. Until then we’ve got to stick together and grind out results.
As for Super League, this should be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory. This fanzine has never beat round the bush, last year was terrible, and the competition needed shaking up. Luckily we’ve got a fella in Robert Elstone who seems, despite having a fling with the Lancashire clubs, to know what he’s doing. Super League looks fresh and appealing and the build up, despite the news of Wigan cheating the cap again, has been good. For the neutral the start is explosive. Saints and Wigan was decent, now it’s up to the Hull clubs, and there’s still Wire versus the Whinos to come.
Make no mistake Hull FC’s game against the old enemy will be tough. They’re confident. Probably too confident. And they’ll be unbearable if they manage to beat half a Hull team on Friday night. It’ll be hostile at times, unless a reminder of the location of their famous Wembley song comes out again. Love the silence. Many have already written us off, but this is a side that has managed to claw their way back from 20-0 down and see out a game with 12-men for 71 minutes in only their last two fixtures at this venue. It brings out the best of blokes like Jamie Shaul and Danny Houghton, who will want to shut a few critics up themselves. It’s a Derby, and everyone will be fired up, but it’s only two competition points. It probably doesn’t warrant the overkill it gets from sections of the local media, but then again that’s probably excusable being the Super League opener.
Unfortunately the Dobins’ return to Super League has seen a Derby fixture overload and that has made the fixture less desirable. That goes hand in hand with success too, and we’ve had a taste for that recently, so much that we long for a Challenge Cup blockbuster or a play-off semi-final more than a war of attrition against our nearest and dearest on a freezing night in February. Not everyone has that mentality though, and whilst Hull FC’s focus has been on lifting silverware, we know all the little brother is focused solely on getting one over us. Take the boss for example with his childish playground comments in the local rag earlier this week. We’re counting the days until Adam tells him to do one quicker than Gareth O’Brien boots them out of Super League.
The first of three meetings in 2019 then, although we’re told the fixture gurus are still nurturing their plans for a Super League breakaway of the two clubs. Expect to see Danny Washbrook at Stand-Off, a few Wembley references, and the smell of staled piss coming from the portaloos in the Zeebrugge End. New beginnings and that.
Hull FC are under-strength, we all know that, and have named a blend of youth and experience. We’re taking applications on when you should stop calling youth, youth, but in prop years Masi Matongo and Brad Fash are still babies. Still, there’s 80 odd games of first grade experience between them. Mark Minichiello is also included and boosts the squads average age up by a decade. The old enemy meanwhile have ditched the adulterer and Snapchat stalker, but are still left with the Rectum of Wigan, who they have hilariously named captain in the off-season. To be fair to Mr Shines, this is a master stroke, as pensioner Danny McGuire can now focus solely on refereeing the game. They’ll have several new signings making their competitive debuts, including Josh Drinkwater, who arrived in East Hull for 50p and a box of TimTams. Fullback Adam Quinlan is out for the season with an ACL injury.
Hull Squad: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 11. Dean Hadley, 12. Mark Minichiello, 16. Jordan Thompson, 17. Matty Dawson-Jones, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Sika Manu, 22. Jordan Lane, 23. Mickey Paea, 25. Danny Langtree, 28. Jez Litten, 30. Danny Washbrook.
Rovers Squad: 2. Craig Hall, 3. Ben Crooks, 4. Jimmy Keinhorst, 5. Ryan Shaw, 7. Danny McGuire, 8. Robbie Mulhern, 10. Mose Masoe, 11. Joel Tomkins, 12. James Greenwood, 13. Weller Hauraki, 14. Mitch Garbutt, 15. Tommy Lee, 17. Chris Atkin, 19. Junior Vaivai, 20. Danny Addy, 21. George Lawler, 23. Kane Linnett, 24. Josh Drinkwater, 26. Will Dagger.
Last Five Meetings
Hull 16 Rovers 20
Hull 34 Rovers 22
Rovers 22 Hull 30
Hull 36 Rovers 12
Hull 28 Rovers 16
Marc Sneyd – With no recognised second half back, Sneyd must have one of ‘those’ games. When he performs he’s practically untouchable (see Wembley footage), and we need him to be at his best. We would say there’s a lot of pressure on him, but he literally couldn’t give a shit what anyone outside of the club thinks. The game will be a grind and his kicking game will be crucial.
Nervous but blinkered loyalty suggests Hull will win by eight points with a spectacular Jamie Shaul try.