It may have been five months, 21 weeks and 150 days ago, but that Hull FC defeat to Warrington back in March still stings.
It was a horrendous performance, and signalled the end of the road for the clubs best ever coach of the summer era, Lee Radford.
Everything about that night resembled a blockbuster horror movie. Hull were rudderless, defensively hopeless, and clueless with ball in hand. Then the owner announced the coach’s departure live on Sky and a few days later the season was put on hold. Madness. From that wonderful opening night at L**ds, to this. How the hell did we get here?
Now after a nationwide lockdown, and almost half a year later, we go again. Refreshed and rejuvenated. With almost a fully fit squad at interim head coach Andy Last’s disposal, there’s a desire to write some wrongs and get this season, which originally promised so much, back on track. In short motivation isn’t an issue, but talk is cheap, we want actions.
Many fans haven’t forgotten the emotions of that night against Warrington in a hurry. Time to set the record straight with the sort of professionalism we saw back where it all started, at Headingley.
Behind closed doors
As COVID-19 came into our lives it became apparent that whenever Super League restarted it would do so behind closed doors. Whilst beaches across the country will be packed this weekend, no spectators are allowed into sporting events. A right kick in the knackers to the match going supporter, especially our pal Kevin Deighton. TV remotes in hand, sat on the sofa, no thrills of the match-day experience, proper rancid. At least we’ll all know what it’s like to be a Wigan fan though. Every cloud.
A new regime
Andy Last is Hull FC through and through. He’s been at the club since the Stone Age and now has his shot at the big time. Whilst some of the patterns, structures etc are likely to have not changed too much since the Radford era, Last is his own individual with his own ideas.
Players have already spoken on how Last has tightened things up. They got a bit too comfortable before and that showed in performances and results, both with and without the ball. They owe it to the club, the fans and themselves to put it right now.
Hit the ground running
With Toronto’s withdrawal Hull have played the most games in the competition, losing four of the opening seven before lockdown. There’s thirteen rounds left now and little room for error. We’ve gone through every page on the excuse book. Now it’s time to deliver. One game at a time of course, but given the quality of this squad, Hull should be challenging for a play-off spot. Ten wins will probably be needed to achieve that.
The new rules
‘Six again’ has made rugby league even faster and more fluent. We’ve seen it for weeks on end in the NRL and the Super League games so far have also been significantly quicker. Already there’s been the usual undesirables saying that this won’t suit Hull with our massive pack and that. Complete and utter bollocks. We forgot that Ligi Sao, Manu Ma’u etc run the ball in like tortoises and turn like elephants. Whilst the new rules have opened the game up for the more creative players, it’s also given an extra dimension to the big fellas. There’s a bigger emphasis on owning that middle, something the boys at Penrith and Melbourne have been doing for weeks Down Under – to the joy of their hooker and half backs. The Hull pack is big, and packs a punch, but it’s mobile and it can play too.
A point to prove
The voices from the players are that lockdown has given everyone at Hull a fresh start. Those that were struggling have had weeks, even months, to get fit and rediscover their enthusiasm etc.
Look at Mahe Fonua. He hasn’t been messing about during lockdown. He looks as lean as ever and by all accounts has been killing it in training. Fonua had a slow start to the year, understandable given he wasn’t fully fit after a troublesome foot injury, but we all know how good he is – in fact he was voted the fourth best player in Super League the last time he was here.
Danny Houghton too will be wanting to silence a few critics. He was the first to admit his form prior to lockdown wasn’t good enough.
Then there’s Jake Connor and Andre Savelio, both back from injury and both wanting to rekindle their best form.
Competition is rampant. It can only be a good thing.
A word on Salford
Despite their rise to the Grand Final last year whenever we think of Salford that brilliant Gareth O’Brien drop-goal comes to mind. Still chuckling to this day.
Since Old Trafford they’ve lost Jackson Hastings to the Pies and Josh Jones to Hull, and baring one outing against Hastings’ new employer, they have struggled.
Like Hull they’ll have no shortage of motivation. They have a great coach in Ian Watson and still possess some quality players. Only Hull’s best will beat them.
Salford: 1. Niall Evalds, 3. Kris Welham, 4. Dan Sarginson, 6. Tui Lolohea, 8. Lee Mossop, 9. Joey Lussick, 11. Ryan Lannon, 12. Pauli Pauli, 13. Tyrone McCarthy, 14. Sebastine Ikahihifo, 17. Luke Yates, 18. Chris Atkin, 19. Mark Flanagan, 20. Josh Johnson, 21. James Greenwood, 22. Rhys Williams, 23. Ken Sio, 24. Elliot Kear, 25. Connor Jones, 26. Jack Ormondroyd, 31. Morgan Escare.
Hull: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 6. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 11. Josh Jones, 12. Manu Ma’u, 13. Ligi Sao, 14. Albert Kelly, 15. Joe Cator, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Jordan Lane, 22. Josh Bowden. 23. Andre Savelio, 24. Mahe Fonua, 29. Gareth Ellis, 33. Ratu Naulago.
Super League Head to Head
Played 46, Hull wins 35, Salford wins 11
Last Five Meetings
2019: Hull 22 Salford 44
2019: Hull 35 Salford 32
2019: Salford 16 Hull 23
2018: Hull 45 Salford 14
2018: Salford 24 Hull 8
Hull by 14 points.