Hull FC created a big squad for 2019 with the intention of competing in a full reserve league, but sadly, and despite other clubs saying they would run teams, only the Airlie Birds and Wakefield are testing the concept this season.
That means the clubs dual-registration partnership with Doncaster becomes of a greater importance than first planned, with head coach Lee Radford boosting the Dons’ playing pool with his own talent throughout the year. Doncaster actually pay Hull FC a fee for this beneficiary, in ex-change for a certain quality of player per season. The League One outfit can only field five dual-reg players per match.
Luckily for both parties, the relationship between the two clubs is strong, as Dons CEO Carl Hall, a New Zealand-born former player himself, explains.
“We have distributed a significant chunk of our budget to Hull FC,” he told Doncaster’s official website. “That’s contracted now and it guarantees us a certain level of player in a game. So we are paying for that system and we are giving Hull a fee. We have always paid for dual-registration players.
“It costs us and we have never done it for free. Nothing is for free but what we have done is agree a certain fee every month and that will get us a specific calibre of player. We’re in control of that. It’s in the contract and agreed by both clubs.
“That’s not to say the players will play every week. Richard Horne has still got to pick his team. Performance is key. If our boys are performing, they will stay in. But he has got access to other players.
“Both myself and James Clark of Hull FC are protecting our clubs and we have come to an agreement. Adam Pearson has been good with it as well. I met with him. When players who have featured for us go on to play for Hull in the Super League, we should feel proud.”
Many players in the Hull first team have lined up for Doncaster in recent years, from the likes of Jordan Lane, Jack Logan and Jez Litten, with youngsters Connor Wynne, Charlie Graham, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Kieran Buchanan and Jack Sanderson already featuring for the Dons in pre-season.
Whilst details of any 2019 Reserve games are sparse to say the least, with no information on dates or venues given out yet, the dual-reg partnership, whilst probably not preferable to some, gives these players a playing outlet, rather than being what Horne called “glorified trainers” during his time as Hull FC Reserve coach – a role Gareth Ellis has now been given.
If anything, we should be thankful Doncaster and Carl Hall have given the club that playing outlet, to hopefully develop and nurture players that in time will become good enough to play for Hull FC.
“We have 20 players signed on now who are ours,” Hall continued. “With the Hull dual-registration, there are about 16 of them who could be made available to Richard Horne if they are not needed in the Hull first team.
“Hull have 38 contracted players this year because they thought there was going to be a full-on reserve grade. Every Super League club apart from a couple said they were going to have one and as it’s turned out, only two have actually committed.
“The Super League reserve grade loss is our gain. If you talk to anyone around Doncaster they all want to know which players we are getting from Hull.”
It’s been argued in the past that playing on dual-reg doesn’t give the player the incentive he gets with his parent club, after all the same voices come out whenever a player goes on loan, but Hall says that’s not the case at Doncaster, and every player is committed when playing.
“Nobody can question the Hull players when they come to us,” he added. “They really put it on the line. They are the first players to come up to me after the game apologising when the results haven’t gone well.
“They have given everything over the last couple of years and the fans love them. As long as they show pride and passion in the club colours, the door is open for them.”