Finally. The end of a year like no other. On the pitch Hull were under-whelming (some would say no change there then), and off the pitch covid tested Super League and it’s clubs to their limit.
It was a mental season, packed with drama, one that saw the end of Lee Radford’s dynasty, the retirement of club legend Gareth Ellis, this time for good, and us fans confined to our armchairs as the unthinkable happened. Locked out, strewth, mate, but at least we now know how Radders felt at Widnes…
Crazy, crazy times. And here’s what we’ve made of it.
1.. A complete utter farce
When the government announced the first lockdown back in March, we were told everything would be back to normal in the Summer. In fact, the powers that be even backlogged fixtures for the Autumn in the hope that fans could return to games. Yeah, right. The competition resumed in August behind closed doors and at largely neutral venues – well, for most of us anyway.
It soon descended into a farce, and once Hull became the first team to be struck down by covid a day or two after the resumption, cases were soon rampant at just about every other club. Cue fixture postponements, tweaks and rearrangements becoming more common than a Thursday night video refereeing blunder. It was all a complete basket case; fixture congestion, teams drafted in at the eleventh hour, player welfare thrown out the window, the completion of the season always in jeopardy, and a new play-off system to boot.
Then, and ironically after whinging for three months at just about everything from Toronto to TV deals, St Helens and Wigan dished out arguably the greatest Grand Final ever in yep, you’ve guessed it, the wonderful city of Hull. Mental. We’ve never seen anything like it, and hopefully never will again.
2.. Hull weren’t good enough
If you look at the last month of Super League, Hull were the form team. Games were won against tin pot clubs (you know the types), the goalposts were moved and Hull were in the play-offs, with a fine win at Warrington putting them one game away from the Grand Final. What, wait? That sounds alright, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t tell the story at all.
2020 pre-lockdown wasn’t going to plan. Six weeks after an insanely professional and hardworking opening round display at Headingley, Hull were in limbo having parted ways with Lee Radford following another embarrassing home defeat. Andy Last was then placed in temporary charge and when the comp restarted in August, Hull with this amazing squad (on paper at least), were smashed again by Salford, Warrington and Wigan. What gives?
Enough was enough and the knife was then stuck in – and rightly so. The playing group needed to do some soul-searching and even legends such as Gareth Ellis spoke about attitude and desire. Hull’s worst was a thousand miles from their best, with points leaked rapidly under the first glimpse of pressure and the attack lacking any clinical nature or alternative about it.
And as both the unforced error and missed tackle counts crept up, more defeats followed, then eventually, and admittedly following a more favourable run of fixtures, the wins started to come. Woop. The flaws were still there to see though as a poorly set up Hull outfit relied on Marc Sneyd’s boot or the brilliance of Jake Connor to see them through in games where they battered the opposition in everything but the scoreboard.
That was enough for some to suggest the tide had turned, but both the cup and play-off exits, not to mention the Grand Final, showed just how far away Hull are. Given how Wigan and St Helens were the ones playing catch up not so long ago, and given how much Hull spend on the salary cap, should that be accepted? Not for us, and clearly not for Adam Pearson either. He demands better, and so should we.
Lee Radford’s dismissal in March changes nothing and he will always be a hero for what he achieved at Wembley alone. Andy Last’s two-decade long service to the club won’t be forgotten either, but a new direction and therefore change was needed.
Hull got that change in November announcing Brett Hodgson as the clubs new head coach. It’s certainly a fresh appointment and you can only hope the players embrace it. Hodgson certainly talks the talk and he has come across superbly since taking the gig. He knows what he wants, and he’s not afraid to upset the apple cart to get it.
The Aussie has inherited a good squad, one that just needs a bit of guidance from the blokes that tell them what to do every week. A couple of new additions won’t harm either, and his first signing in Josh Reynolds to partner Marc Sneyd is a good one, with optimism (as always) already building ahead of the March kick-off. A couple more tweaks and we might even get a little giddy.
4.. The Goat
Hull FC’s best player of 2020, Carlos Tuimavave was brilliant throughout the year sweeping up the Players, Coaches and most prestigiously (obviously) the UTC Player of the Year award. We all know the score with Tuimavave. He eats up the metres in his sleep, gets Hull on the front foot, and when he gets an opportunity to show his class, he doesn’t waste it. The top appearance maker and joint top try scorer of the year, he boasts the best pair of triceps we’ve since Popeye started binging on his spinach. An outstanding rugby league player.
4.1 Joe Cator
It wouldn’t be right not to scribble something down on Joe Cator. Not the new signing with the most fan-fare going into this year, but comfortably the best once he let his actions on the field do the talking. Brilliant year from the newest branch of baby-faced assassin. Got to kick on now.
5.. In Any Kind of Weather
Never have those words been so just. Fans have been kept out of grounds since March, yet its fans who continue to be the backbone of all Super League clubs snapping up memberships and merchandise. When we’ll be allowed back in only God knows, but ask yourself this, how long can clubs seriously go on like this? How long can society go on like this?
A second lockdown and now a tier system that borders on the insane is messing with both people’s livelihoods and mental health. It’s a dangerous time, not just because of a virus, but for thousands and thousands of jobs and businesses, many of which are fans of Hull and rugby league. This year has been an absolute shit show; it’s tough out there right now and we’ve felt it as much as anyone, but we’ll get through it together as we always do. In Any Kind of Weather.