Well, we did it! All of that “You’ll never win at Wembley” stuff is now fading into a distant memory, and we’ve done the thing that Hull sides have failed to do for years—build on success.
The fact that it was against Wigan – a real bogey side for us down the years in knockout competitions – made it all the sweeter too. Having to watch it on telly (with a midnight kick-off) was, as ever, horrible but listening to the BBC pundits and commentating team was a bit of an eye opener.
We’re starting to be taken properly seriously by the games experts where previously we have always had that “sleeping giant” or “plucky underdog” tag firmly attached to us.
The other eye opener was watching the contrasting images of the half time team talks. Wane was animated – standing up, pointing, gesticulating, and he looked like he was raising his voice a little too. Radford on the other hand was seated, quiet, commanding attention, calm. I can’t quite believe the evolution of my feelings towards Lee Radford. For a good long time, I was of the opinion that the job was beyond him, that he was out of his depth. I can hand on heart say I was wrong, and I’ve never been happier to be proved wrong either.
It seems to me that the one percenters that the club are doing are proving to be the difference between winning things and being also rans.
Stuff like the team taking to the field in the leg warming tracksuits to ensure that the players don’t lose the good work done in the warm up. The work the coaching staff must’ve put in in the build-up to the game showed time and time again in the match too.
Sneyd and Kelly have both got excellent kicking games, but the research and video sessions that the staff gave them showed them exactly where to land those kicks – which player would be a bit windy under a high ball, who to target.
Of course in the pressure cooker of a game instinct will still take over sometimes, and that’s where Albert Kelly comes into his own. On pure instinct he’s on a level above anything we’ve had since Sterling and Topliss – that’s a huge statement, but I’ll stand by that. The offload for Mahe’s second try was mercurial, yes he drifts in and out of games a little, but when he injects himself into the line, you can see the opposition defence hesitate as they’ve no idea what he’s going to do.
However, for our halfbacks to dominate, our forwards have to lay the platform and lay it they did. Ellis, Taylor, and especially Watts were unbelievable, but this year my appreciation for Josh Bowden has grown and grown. Most teams lose something when their starting props go off the field after about 20 mins or so. There is no noticeable drop in our go forward when Green and Bowden come on.
The Aussie media love the Challenge Cup, and as I’ve said in previous blogs, the fact that this year’s finalists will be playing over here in February have really added some fuel to that publicity fire. Wigan as a club should be applauded for their awareness to invite us along as their opposition. This trip is Wigan’s baby – they courted the NSW tourism people and floated the idea, and – my sources tell me – tried to get St Helens along for the ride. Saints refused, and we were the next ones asked.
The other important thing to remember is that – wages and a few other sundries aside – this trip is costing the club nothing.
The NSW government are paying for flights and accommodation, and negotiations are well advanced for Hull to share an NRL club’s facilities for a couple of weeks. There is also the rumour that Anthony Mundine might come out of retirement to play in the ANZ stadium double header against us – that’s bound to generate a huge amount of press if it happens. To say I’m excited is a massive understatement.
So now as I’m writing this its Sunday morning post-Wembley, I’ve had my usual hangover cure of mushrooms, hot English mustard and Worcester sauce on toast and I’m just starting to feel human again. The game finished at 2:30am here, but I watched it again straight afterwards, with a few single malts. My kids stayed up to watch the game live with me too, and they’ve both learned some new words, none of which will go down well if they repeat them at school.
Finally, it’s always bittersweet when my team wins something and I’m not there. It’s a small price to pay for living in paradise….. (I can hear you all calling me names!). My feelings of joy are shared online rather than down the pub or at the game. Last night was tinged with a little sadness though, I always think of my grandad who died in the mid 80’s, he’d have been beside himself at the thought of winning Back to Back at Wembley. On that note, I’d love to think we can dedicate this win to Arthur Bunting, and to Dan Kitching. Two men with Black and White running through them that we recently lost.
Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.