Well, where to start then? There’s only one place and that’s the return of Gareth Ellis on a Hull FC playing field.
Yes, you read that right. The captain, leader, legend started the clubs first Reserve outing in the middle as Hull toppled Wakefield 24-14 at Bishop Burton College in what was an enjoyable contest in a format that hopefully will become obligatory to all Super League clubs.
Playing two stints, Ellis was solid. He got through around 40-50 playing minutes and as we are so accustomed to, he put everything into everything. Interestingly so he finished the game playing a little more on the fringes, but it’s in the middle he’ll play should an extraordinary return to Super League occur. Is that a genuine possibility? Well you’d have to say it’s something Lee Radford will consider, even more so after watching that. Our first team side are lacking props and that’s been well documented, and Ellis offers you more than what we’ve currently got.
Although he’s probably lost a little of his former playing weight, Ellis is still really lean and clearly hasn’t swapped the spinach and cranberry juice for the kebabs and ale just yet. The ultimate professional. He genuinely looks like he could hack it and it’s probably a further indication that he retired a little too early. We all know he had a further year or dare we say two years in him. He’s a once in a generation player, the signing that without question changed the status quo and was the catalyst to two Hull FC Challenge Cup wins.
With all due respect Wigan are a different kettle of fish to a few Reserve players from Wakefield though, and if and when he does play those first few minutes back at Super League level, he might think he hasn’t missed this, but Ellis is a bloke that can certainly boost the morale of the Hull FC camp. Even in warm up. Even when you’re sat in the changing room. You’re sat and talking to Gareth Ellis. Probably every younger players dream and one many at our club had the privilege of doing. It’s a game changer.
With Scott Taylor banned we are left with Masimbaashe Matongo, Jordan Thompson and Mickey Paea. It’s undesirable to throw Levy Nzoungou straight at the deep end too or even Jack Brown for that matter, with Brad Fash the other option. The fact Hull FC are considering bringing Ellis back is of course an indication to our forward pack not being as good as we thought it was, but that’s what happens when your owner becomes complacent and doesn’t replace Liam Watts or the man in question.
It wouldn’t be the most craziest thing in recent Hull FC history to see Ellis line up at Wigan next week, that’s for certain, and you have to say that given the current situation it’s more than likely.
Elsewhere then and if you’re looking for a star of the show for the Hull FC Reserves side, then look no further than Fijian trialist winger Ratu Naulago. He’s definitely got something about him and he would be an asset to our squad. He scored three tries against Trinity, showing speed, good finishing ability and a threat in the air taking a high kick. He works hard too, and is safe under the high bomb. There is a desire to sign him but it’s complicated. As many of you know Ratu is in the British Army and is based at Leconfield Barracks. Any deal we believe wouldn’t count on the cap or quota with his union background but it would have to be compromised with the army and that makes if difficult, but there is negotiation there as Hull obviously see the quality in him. Hopefully all parties can come to an agreement.
UTC was also impressed with Bobby Downs at half back and laterally full back. He is a tenacious, tough little player that plays beyond his weight and competes for everything. He’s got something about him too and impresses every time we see him. Bobby came up with one try assist for Charlie Graham, the rugby union convert like Naulago who again looks a promising prospect for the future, but moving to the number one spot Downs definitely caught the eye, being brave in dealing with kicks and bringing the ball back. There’s a future there if he maximises his potential.
On a sunny but windy afternoon Hull out scored Wakefield five tries to three, with two of the latters tries coming from breakaways from Callum Hudson, a winger so fast he could probably give Tom Johnstone a run for his money. Trinity, playing the likes of Keegan Hirst and Max Jowitt, were good value in a tough arm wrestle and the beneficiaries to the Reserves concept were there to see. It was a physical encounter and without question more intense and beneficial than the dual reg system.
Whilst every Hull FC fan can appreciate what Doncaster do for our club, there’s nothing like pulling on the jersey of your own colours and we want our lads doing just that, playing to our structures and in our environment. We’ve got to hope the governing body see sense on that front but that’s about as likely as Ralph Rimmer dropping a trouser size, we know what expenses do to CEOs after all, but puns aside it’s criminal how this level of rugby league isn’t taken more seriously. Dual reg is a farce and makes what is a very good Championship competition unbalanced, as there’s no continuity on the blokes drafted in from the top flight clubs. Look at Leigh for instance. What we saw here in rural East Yorkshire is the way forward.
That statement is also echoed by some amateur lads getting run outs at a level that they might not be regularly accustomed to, and late bloomers need no introduction at Hull FC. Three of them are now Wembley winners. Furthermore the game also saw first run outs since pre-season for the likes of Jack Brown, Kieran Buchanan, Cameron Scott and the like, who without these fixtures would be little more than glorified trainers. There’s some potential in all three of those too, who just need time and patience to develop. That’s what this concept is for, and with fifteen games still to go, there’s further opportunity for all developing, fringe or aspiring first team players to make their mark.
The only negative was Mickey Paea, who not through the want of trying, just couldn’t get any mojo going even at this level. He struggled to make an impact and dropped the ball too in his one and only stint. There’s that hope that the Tongan will return to form soon, but there’s a realisation also that one of Motu Tony’s final deals as Hull FC football manager may have been a bad one.
Meanwhile the other senior in the side was Danny Washbrook and he went okay, as did promising youngsters Jordan Lane and Jez Litten. The livewire hooker scored the games first try thanks to his Boothferry chum, and will probably be involved at Wigan next week, as may Fetuli Talanoa and Albert Kelly, both of whom were in the watching crowd. As for selections though, all eyes will be on Hull FC’s legendary captain Gareth Ellis after his sensational return to action. Will we see him at Wigan next week? Let’s hope so.
Hull Starting XIII: Jack Logan, Ratu Naulago, Cameron Scott, Kieran Buchanan, Charlie Graham, Danny Washbrook, Bobby Downs, Mickey Paea, Jez Litten, Brad Fash, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Jordan Lane, Gareth Ellis.
Interchange: Jack Brown, Harvey Gotts, Levy Nzoungou, Callum Ogden, Ryan Price, Elliot Townsend, Jordan Webster.
Hull Tries: Litten, Graham, Naulago 3. Goals: Scott 2/5
Wakefield: Tom Ashen, Yusuf Aydin, Connor Bailey, Jordan Baldwinson, Daniel Barcoe, Elliot Caine, Jack Croft, Jordan Crowther, Bobby Derbyshire, Harry Dodd, Oli Greensmith, Keegan Hirst, Callum Hudson, Owen Hughes, Jacob Jones, Max Jowitt, Moris Kamano, Ben Reynolds, Jordan Schofield, Lewis Teale, Dane Windrow.
Wakefield Tries: Hudson 2, Caine. Goals: 1/3
Scoring System: 6-0, 6-6, 12-6, 12-10, HT, 16-10, 20-10, 24-10, 24-14