Hull FC tasted defeat in Australia as Wigan ran out 24-10 winners at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium.
Here are the Five Things Up the Cream learned.
1.. Injuries dented the FC plan
No-one likes to make excuses after a defeat, and there is no taking away from the job Wigan did on Hull as they were the better team, but to lose Bureta Faraimo so early in the game massively screwed up the Black and Whites’ plans. It meant they had to reshuffle their line up completely, but more consequently, dented the go-forward and defensive resolve we would have got from the big winger.
It also affected the interchange. Washy was put into the centre spot, with Jake Connor moving to the wing, and after FC also lost Danny Houghton, Dean Hadley was put into the hooking role. That limited Hull’s options in the middle, and added to knocks to Connor and Mark Minichiello, made it a tough and potentially costly night for our boys.
Can we all see why Radders likes a back on the bench now? Yes. Did we let it faze us? No. Our boys battled until the end and I was proud as a supporter with their efforts. Let’s hope we get some good news now on the injury front.
2.. Contrast in attack
It’s only round two, but Wigan look like they’ll be a force to be reckoned with this year, which sounds about right, as every Tom, Dick and Harry wrote them off before a ball was kicked. They’re a very well drilled outfit and they have a star in George Williams. That was the sort of display we saw week in week out last year before he signed his new contract. The big nosed half back was almost untouchable. His, not to mention his teams’ shape, was exceptional, and it was too good for Hull, who must be said weren’t, although not through a lack of trying, at their best.
That was partly due to the injury reasons explained above, but also to Wigan’s capability to exploit those dents. That’s the mark of a very smart team and Shaun Wane is a smart coach. Hull’s attack wasn’t fluent and rarely threatened the Warriors’ line. Disappointing, as we wanted the two points on the big stage, but it just wasn’t to be.
3.. Sika Manu is just bloody class
This is nothing new as we all know how good the Tongan international captain is, but he was an even bigger freak beyond his consistently brilliant displays in Wollongong. Manu carried strongly all game and ran some great lines. His work rate was absolutely terrific and he never stopped going.
What a player he is. It’s an absolute necessity for Hull FC to extend Manu’s playing contract beyond 2018. Offer him whatever he wants, and give him a lordship while you’re at it.
4.. Griffin continues to impress
Josh Griffin had another strong game in Hull FC colours, and to no surprise, as he finds himself more accustomed to our playing styles. To be fair, his attitude has been superb since he signed. He knows he’s probably limited to an interchange spot here when both Carlos and Connor are fit, but he doesn’t let that faze him. Instead he knuckles down, works hard, and aspires to win back his place wherever needed. That must be a dream for Radders, who’s got a real hardworking player here.
In the famous MPG left centre spot where, for obvious reasons, he became an instant cult hero, Griffin was outstanding, constantly breaching the line and making metres. It was nice to see him in full flow again, even if we didn’t get the result we wanted.
5.. Exposure from Wollongong clash will be huge
It was a ballsy call from Hull and Wigan, in particular Wigan as this was one of their Super League home games, to take this game to Australia. But if you believe the media kings, the two clubs will be taking home around half a million quid each. Far from a waste of time then, as branded by the average bitter social media troll.
The tour has been funded by the government and tourism boards in New South Wales, so it’s no skin off the two clubs’ teeth. They played an intense physical game at the most picturesque ground in the NRL, aka Wollongong’s WIN Stadium, in the footy mad Illawarra region – a region that doesn’t get the volume of rugby league it deserves. There were 12,416 people there. That’s more than the large majority of Super League crowds. Off the field, Hull and Wigan have taken in a range of community clubs, schools, civic receptions, dinners and other marketing projects, showcasing their image. And last but certainly not least, the fixture was in honour of two legends of the game, Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling.
This is a tour for the innovators. The ones that are willing to try something different in new horizons for the good of the game. It’s absolutely no conincidence that those criticising the concept are those that feel threatened by these steps, or are envious of the clubs doing so, or in some wild cases, both.