Down Under Blog: Game over

Well what a year that was – a year of shock retirements, surprise signings, releases, more missed opportunities, thrilling victories, brave efforts, gutless capitulations and mid table obscurity after so much promise.

This is the blog that’s easiest for me to write all year really, as post-mortem is easier than diagnosis, as I go through my pre-season predictions and give myself a sound pat on the back (in some cases) and a gigantic face-palm in others….. so eyes down, look in, ‘ere we go for a full house.

Super League—I said a top four of Saints, Warrington, Catalans and L**ds, with us finishing 6th or 7th. I just couldn’t see us sustaining a challenge, and I think our nostalgic heavy contract extensions would bite us half way through the season when fatigue and injury hit our older players. Grand Final to be Saints vs L**ds with Saints shading it. The Steve Prescott Man of Steel would be a toss-up between Blake Austin and Trent Merrin. I predicted London to finish stone dead last, with Rovers either 8th or 9th. I thought Wigan would struggle this year and Cas would miss Luke Gale badly and finish mid table.

Verdict: Well I got us finishing out of the top five which was right, although we bloody well should’ve been up there. I massively overestimated Le Cats and L**ds, and like everybody else in the sport missed the rise of Salford completely. That in turn meant I didn’t even think of Jackson Hastings getting MOS, and I missed Trent Merrin having a terrible first year. I genuinely thought Rovers would do better, but I did get both the champions, and the relegated team right in Saints and London respectively. I’d give myself about an 8/10.

Challenge Cup—I tipped  Le Catalans to retain the cup, beating Leeds in the final.

Verdict: NOPE! 0/10

NRL—I predicted the Roosters going back to back. The top eight of Panthers, Storm, Bunnies, Broncos, Dragons, Tigers and Knights all sitting behind the Roosters. I said the Sharks, Eels, Raiders, Warriors, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Titans and Manly would all miss out on the eight this year. Grand Final to be Roosters vs Panthers, and by way of revenge for 2003, the Chooks will take the men from the foot of the mountains apart.

Verdict: Well I got the Roosters right, and had just four right in my top eight. My two, six, seven and eight all missed out and I totally missed the Des Hasler redemption story at Manly, and the Eels resurgence. The least said about my views on the Canberra Raiders the better. I did come around to that way of thinking, but that wasn’t until mid-season when I jumped on the green machine bandwagon with gusto. 6/10

Origin—NSW to win 3-0 and it’s going to be the start of a multi-year run. Well. Let me take a minute here. NSW DID win, but 2-1. I changed my prediction late, like VERY late. Writing a blog, and messaging our esteemed editor Dan literally 30 mins before kick off in Origin 1, saying QLD would win the first game, but NSW would still win the    series.

Verdict: That was close to Nostradamus levels of prescience, but I have to score myself on my PRE-SEASON prediction so it’s a solid 7/10.

Sackings—I said Steve Kearney will go at the Warriors, My bolter to be “given the arse” was Eels coach Brad Arthur. Nope they’re still at their clubs and in Arthur’s case thriving. I didn’t see the sacking of Titans coach Garth Brennan either.

In Super League,  I said  Tim Sheens might go this year and be replaced by Shaun Wane. Well that’s not a bad call, and I don’t think anyone saw the spectre of Tony “no, Keith Senior is 100% fit, and I made the right selection” Smith standing behind Hudge as the Wizard got shafted. I missed Dave Furner going too

Verdict: 2/10 – but bloody hell its been funny watching Rovers scramble and suffer.

Random predictions—I foresaw more scandals this year especially in the Hayne case, and Napa sex tape. Now I’ve been looking back at the date I wrote my predictions and it was three days before the first inklings of the Jack De Belin case and all the trouble and scandal that caused. Its still before the courts now, and much, much more is likely to come out. You can always rely on the NRL to throw up an unexpected scandal when you’re least expecting it and from the weirdest angle too. Just this week Manly hooker Manaise Fainu is sitting in custody after allegedly stabbing someone in church. Hallelujah and cop this. I despair sometimes I really do.

Verdict: 1/10 but I’m not proud of the score or the sport.

The Cream—Finally, what did I think would be in store for Hull FC this year? Well I was torn. I wanted us to stay clear of injuries and resign our big names that were coming off contract, and said we’d finish 6th or 7th. We sort of did that, with Sneyd signing back on long term, but as for injuries, we were cursed again.

Next year we have a lot of new faces to integrate into the team, but on paper, we have a frightening pack (if STILL one prop short), and a back line filled with exciting players that are all capable of match winning performances, and likewise defensively a bit suspect at times….. From the business we’ve done, I’ll make an early prediction right here and now. We’ll offload in the tackle for fun next year. Manu, Satae, Sao, Jones, Savelio, Faraimo, are all masters at this art, and Taylor, Griffin, Ellis and Tuimavave are no slouches either. We’ll top the list in offloads in 2020. It’ll lead to fan frustration as we’ll drop a lot of ball, and leave ourselves open to intercepts and knock-ons, but it’ll bear fruit, we’ll make so many metres off second phase attack after offloads that we’ll be a bloody tough team to stop when on a roll.

Get excited. 2020 vision is here (even though I used the phrase two months before the club did), and we should be more optimistic than we’ve been for YEARS.

Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.


Twitter @pommyrich

This article first appeared in Up the Cream Issue 82. For our online shop, click here

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