Hull FC legend Gareth Ellis didn’t hold back with his thoughts after the side were embarrassed 54-18 by Salford on Sunday afternoon.
“We were full of optimism. There was a reason to be buoyant and excited about our performance yet obviously – and evidently – we seem to be in the same place as we were the last time we played against Warrington in March,” Ellis wrote in his insightful Yorkshire Post column.
“There was just a level of softness and that lack of some desire to not be beaten that you need to be a rugby player.
“You can’t rely on the Xs and Os, the tactical side of the game. Whether you’re an amateur player that plays on a Saturday afternoon or a professional, you need some sort of toughness and resilience and desire to want to be better than your opposite number or your opposition.
“We just don’t seem to have that at the minute and it is just really letting us down. It’s showing us in a really bad light. There’s an issue there and it’s something we need to address.”
Hull were completely rudderless against Salford despite taking an early lead, and once the Red Devils began to go through the gears themselves, the Airlie Birds crashed and burned.
An all too familiar occurrence.
“There is obviously something there that is just lingering around the underbelly of the team that, to me, just seems a bit soft,” Ellis continued.
“I find it frustrating myself as I wanted to play this year to complement the key players around me and help bring the best out of them.
“But I’ve realised – and I hate admitting it – that I am not the player I once was. Sometimes, particularly after a game like yesterday, I find it really frustrating that I just don’t have the impact I used to have, that player with a leading from the front mentality that once others aspired to be or wanted to follow.
“That’s what’s difficult for me personally but we’ve currently got bigger issues in how the team’s playing. We will have to see how this next couple of months pan out.
“The games will come thick and fast and there will be no room for performances like that. If there are, we will get what we deserve.”
Tough words, but they’re needed. Sunday was once again embarrassing for all who share a connection to Hull FC.
But also perplexing, given the talent amongst the playing group.
“On the surface, I do see people wanting to get better and see them training, doing their extras and wanting to improve,” Ellis added.
“But it goes back to what I said before; there’s an underlying characteristic required. Think about when people say you must be stupid to be a rugby league player; there is that bit of madness that makes you want to go into battle with someone.
“It epitomises us in that respect as it’s the manner of our losses that is really hard to take.
“If you were in the game for 80 minutes with blood, sweat and tears, just losing out after a ding-dong affair, you’d understand.
“You don’t win every battle or confrontation but what’s important is you’re trying. It’s how we’re losing, though, that has been really highlighting a softness about us.”