After riding such an emotional high both during and after the Derby, everything about Hull FC on Thursday night was flat.
The crowd was flat. The atmosphere was flat. The product on the pitch was flat. It was something we’ve all seen before, and given the current climate, it is something we will all see again as Castleford ran out 12-23 winners.
It was a massive game too, huge in the context of Hull’s season. A win would have meant a fourth placed finish was not out of the question, but a defeat and once again even a play-off finish would look ominous, with Hull now sitting in eighth place on the table. That’s grim and it’s so disappointing. It’s not good enough either, and nor should it be accepted.
This is the most expensive Hull squad ever. Just let that sink in. Christ. If that’s the case, and why wouldn’t we believe it when the chairman Adam Pearson whinges about money every five minutes, then there’s been some serious mismanagement, but we all know that. Hull brought back players to the club on big money that weren’t needed, and Hull re-signed players that should have been let go. Sentiment has been a word used a lot since the two cup wins, and it’s bang on. Hull have been way too sentimental with their business decisions for years now, signing, or re-signing players on who they once were, and not who they are now.
The worst thing about it all is that it won’t change anytime soon. Hull won’t bring anyone else in because there’s no cap space, and they’ll go again next year with the majority of the current squad. The one that needs a new hooker, a new middle or two, arguably a new direction in the halves, and a cull on certain individuals. That kills me saying all that, it really does, but there are just too many players not bringing enough to the table. Some of those players are on big money and have done wonders for this club in the past as well, but time moves on. That’s the brutal reality of it, and Hull’s inability to be brutal is costing them now.
Never mind alarming, it’s staggering how backwards Hull have gone since those two cup wins. I for one don’t criticise lightly either. Like the majority of you reading this I love this club, I get optimistic, I look at our best players and get more than a little giddy, but I look at the holes that bring us back down to earth too. I won’t sit by and have a blinkered viewpoint, I’ll always call it as I see it, and the situation Hull find themselves in now is down to being complacent, naive, stupid, or a combination of all three.
Yet for the most part, we all defend the club no matter what because it’s what we do. We go every week, we support them, and then we do it all again. Our loyalty is incredible. It’s like your little sibling. You argue and you get annoyed with them, but you get over it and you move on. Except with Hull you can’t just sit by and bury your head in the sand. Things need to change, but they wont because of one word again – money.
Again, I struggle to fathom not listening to your head coach and your football manager, and instead bringing players back to the club on six figure salaries who are not cutting it and who weren’t needed despite their past reputation. It’s things like that why I end up pulling my hair out when Adam moans about money. His naivety is a huge contribution to why Hull are in this mess. It’s not the only example either, but it’s an easy one to point out when you already had Swift, Faraimo, Buchanan, and at the time Naulago on the books. Think what Hull could be if that cap space was spent on other areas that urgently needed (and still need) attention.
Brett Hodgson. You don’t envy him, do you? To implement all of his ideas and play the brand of rugby he desires, then the final say on both retention and recruitment has to be with him. The club have got to back him, and luckily so far Hodgson has had his wing preference listened to. It’ll be interesting to see what direction Hodgson takes, and is allowed to take, at the end of next year when the hooker and half backs are out of contract. And doesn’t that just sum everything up, that most of Hull’s problems can’t really be addressed until 2023. Strewth, mate.
Of course, not everything at Hull is a disaster. There’s been signs under Hodgson who is trying to change the attacking structures with the tools he currently has – Hull are much better defensively and they have shown a lot of resilience in the face of adversity. Obviously, the form of Jake Connor at fullback and Chris Satae at prop have been sensational too, but unfortunately the squad limitations have shown. Despite what the best parts of Hull are capable of, it’s those limitations that are holding this side back and clearly with the fact that three coaches have had a crack over the past year, those limitations mean the side won’t evolve until they are addressed. Another brutal reality.
The defeat to Castleford just saw all the problems come to fore. It was the same errors that hindered Hull and the same il-discipline that proved costly time and time again. You can’t question effort as the resilience from Hull especially at the start of the second half to defend their line was apparent. Hull scrambled and put their bodies on the line, but it doesn’t matter how good you are defensively, if you keep turning over cheap ball then eventually you’ll crack. That was the case here, and with the continuous errors both in yardage and in the rare opportunities Hull had with good field position, they gave themselves no chance to win the game.
And when they held the ball long enough to have a go in attack, Hull were hopeless. Their only threat was from Connor who popped up with yet another try assist and even a try himself thanks to a brilliant piece of play from Cam Scott who you could argue is on a fraction of what others earn, but who right now is offering more value. As for big name players Marc Sneyd offered very little, as did Danny Houghton who threw himself into every tackle but who has little to no influence with the ball. Elsewhere, Mahe Fonua was a headless chicken compared to Carlos Tuimavave, who went off injured, and on the other side of the fence, Ben McNamara was way too conservative, going for the safe option all the time – although if Andre Savelio ran his line properly then young Ben would have had an assist. In the forwards Scott Taylor is still finding his feet again and Satae was clearly eased back in after contracting covid. The only big positive other than Connor was Manu Ma’u who had a real crack yet again. Wouldn’t even go as far as saying another strong showing from Bureta Faraimo is a positive knowing he’s leaving the club in a couple of months time.
All in all though it was just such a disappointing performance in what was such a big game. It followed the trend of the past few weeks, the Derby aside, although as I said at the time I didn’t think Hull were great against Rovers and they certainly wouldn’t have won without Connor in the side. The Derby was helped because it was an entertaining game of rugby league with a moment at the end that will go into folklore. It was Super League at its best, but the reality is that those games are too few and far between right now.
Thursday nights don’t help that. The mood in the crowd was so dull, and the gate looked to be much lower than the figure Hull announced. The performance on the field matched the feeling in the stand. It was flat. The game had no intensity about it and Castleford, who lost Paul McShane early on, were still able to highlight Hull’s problems, and to be honest never looked in doubt of doing so, with the boos come the final hooter telling the story. It’s a long road yet before any light comes out of the tunnel…
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jake Connor, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 24. Cameron Scott, 21. Adam Swift, 19. Ben McNamara, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 13. Ligi Sao, 11. Andre Savelio, 12. Manu Ma’u, 16. Jordan Lane.
Interchange: 10. Chris Satae, 17. Brad Fash, 5. Mahe Fonua, 14. Jordan Johnstone.
Hull Tries: Swift, Connor. Goals: Sneyd 2/2
Hull Sin Bin: Taylor
Castleford Starting XIII: 1. Niall Evalds, 2. Derrell Olpherts, 3. Peter Mata’utai, Jordan Turner, 23. Greg Eden, 31. Gareth O’Brien, 7. Danny Richardson, 15. George Griffin, 9. Paul McShane, 22. Daniel Smith, 17. Alex Foster, 12 Cheyse Blair, 14. Nathan Massey.
Interchange: 8. Liam Watts, 11. Oliver Holmes, 13. Adam Milner, 24. Suaia Matagi.
Castleford Tries. Turner, Olpherts, Richardson, Evalds. Goals: Richardson 3/5. Drop Goal: Richardson.
Castleford Sin Bin: Watts, Griffin.
Scoring System: 0-6, 6-6, 6-7, 6-13, HT, 6-15, 6-19, 12-19, 12-23.
Referee: Ben Thaler