Hull FC in 2021 featured both the sublime and the ridiculous. It’s never been any different…
Here’s some final thoughts on another mixed year.
1.. A promising start
It’s easy to forget now, but Hull FC actually started the season well. Brett Hodgson came in, brought some new qualities to the side, and reignited some others.
The squad had (and still has) holes amongst it, but Hodgson and Hull worked with what they had and there was a rediscovered resilience about them. Everything they did at the start of the season felt fresh. Their performances were full of both energy and fight, and the effort was outstanding. They won ugly, they won with style, and when they got beat, they kept swinging until that final hooter.
Defensively Hull were sublime and in attack they were signs. Players were improving. Jake Connor at fullback was the shining light, Chris Satae was practically unplayable, Adam Swift was on fire, and Jordan Lane was thriving in the loose man position, whilst the likes of Andre Savelio, Josh Griffin, and Carlos Tuimavave were hitting form.
Under Hodgson, Hull, reaching the cup semi final and sitting inside the play-off positions, were heading in the right direction and right up until the end of June, whilst knowing there was still a long way to go, we were more than content with what we had seen. What could go wrong from here?
2.. The turning point
With thirteen players out through either injury, Covid, or playing against England, a rag-tag Hull side dug deeper than they had all year to beat Huddersfield. Coming just after a 64-point attacking masterclass at Leigh, it was as satisfying as anything we had seen all season, yet what followed next was nothing short of a nightmare.
Hull had a favourable run of games ahead and we were looking at dizzy height territory on the Super League table, but luck wasn’t on Hull’s side, with Jake Connor picking up a lengthy injury and winnable games against Rovers, Salford and Leigh all falling by the wayside.
Typical, and so Hull FC, but this bit was beyond their control.
After nearly a month, the side finally returned to action and ironically against Huddersfield once again, but here they were a shadow of their former self and leaked 40-points on the night.
It was the first time where you could really question the Hull of 2021 and it set the alarm bells ringing. It wasn’t good enough and it’s something the side never recovered from.
That bit was certainly within their control and in nearly all the performances after the enforced break something was missing. Hull just weren’t the same again.
3.. Old habits die hard
Hull lost nine of their last ten games to end the season in eighth position, with less wins than two of the sides placed below them. Excuses and explanations didn’t cut it anymore and criticism rightly came their way.
The Covid interruptions clearly had an impact, and they are understandable, but the same hunger that Hull started the season with just wasn’t there and the fight was evidently lacking in performances. Instead, the much bastardised soft underbelly returned, with 40+ points conceded on four occasions.
Defence, the most notable improvement in Hull, became soft and the attack was hopeless. The side had hit self-destruct mode, slipping into former bad habits with unforced errors and poor discipline becoming the norm again.
Truth be told, Hull became absolutely dire to watch and the squad holes, which were previously masked to an extent by effort, intensity, fight, and most notably certain personnel, were exposed again.
After a promising start, to win only one of the last ten just wasn’t acceptable. It was the manner of defeat if anything, and in going away from everything that saw them start the season well, attitudes were rightly questioned.
4.. Snake and Satae
Despite another season that ended in disappointment, it’s hard to ignore the form of a handful of players.
With the ball Jake Connor was nothing short of outstanding, nailing that final pass time and time again to boast 22 try assists from fullback. The Snake made it look effortless at times. He’s as naturally talented as they come and he put tries on a plate for his outside backs. The challenge now is to improve the other side of his game and leave Shaun Wane no choice but to include him in future England squads.
Up front, Chris Satae was magnificent – a complete and utter wrecking ball. At his best, he was unstoppable, and whilst the form of others dipped, the big Tongan kept going, albeit he wasn’t quite the same after contracting Covid. None the less, he had a brilliant season and rightly cleaned up at the clubs Player of the Year Awards.
Shout out to Adam Swift as well, the ever brilliant Carlos Tuimavave, and Manu Ma’u who really stood up. Oh, and Josh Reynolds. Yeah. Hull’s year was done when he went down with a season ending knee injury, and the record without him speaks volumes.
5.. The future
Hull had something about them early in the season but everything good faded away as the year wore on. The limitations shined through and change is needed. It’s a necessity for this side to move forward.
Of course, Adam Pearson served up his annual “We’re going to make changes” rant, except this time he has followed up with his word – so far.
Mahe Fonua has been shown the door, with Marc Sneyd also leaving the club. Their cap space has been replaced by Luke Gale, Joe Lovodua and a much needed prop in Kane Evans. All, along with Darnell McIntosh, are welcome additions.
The contract renewals are equally so, with the likes of Ma’u and Griffin signed up, not to mention promising youngsters like Connor Wynne. Then there’s the acquisition of Michael Shenton on the coaching department. All good news.
However, there are still issues that need sorting and it’s no secret Hull have their hands tied with some players until the end of next year.
There’s no room for sentiment anymore. When the time comes Hull have got to be ruthless. Cut the cloth and evolve with Hodgson, or go back to square one with the same problems intact.