If last month’s Round-Up was certifiably upbeat in the aftermath of the hilarious Easter Resurrection over the river, it’s hard to know where to go following the sequence of events on and off the pitch at our club since that glorious Good Friday.
As has been the case so often in recent years, that win came off the back of a scrap between two teams in scratchy form desperate to secure their only realistic target of the season – local bragging rights. To go into Easter Monday in 4th, then, was great but according to pundits only temporary.
We got lucky early on, catching Catalans cold, sneaking past a disrupted Wakefield and executing a smash and grab in East Hull. We’d been luckier than most injury wise. Slow starts by Leeds and Huddersfield would soon unwind. In short, it wouldn’t, couldn’t, last.
But what’s transpired since? Rather than reverting to inconsistent mediocrity of seasons gone by, this group of players has done quite the opposite. An unlikely run of 4 wins from 5, and the sole loss a 2-point reverse at the champions in the pouring rain has triggered some genuine optimism that a top four finish and play-off place could be realism rather than fantasy.
The Easter weekend finished in dream fashion, overcoming unbeaten Warrington with a team rotated superbly by Lee Radford and including 11 Hull-born players, a hugely satisfying response to the premature swagger of Sandow’s South Stand celebrations.
A customary 2 point return from Langtree Park five days later backed up with a second gear defeat of cellar-dwellers Huddersfield and things were looking good. A trip to Headingley always inspires trepidation and rain on the Western Terrace, but a late defeat in as close as contest we’ve had there for a long time was forgivable.
The Wakefield game then took on major significance, a marker of whether we’d revert to type or show professionalism to bring to an end the opposition’s five game unbeaten run. After a shocking second quarter normal service was resumed, the excellent left side link play created four tries for our prolific binman and saw another W in the column.
Is it time, then, to start to think this season could be a successful one? After successive years of raised hopes and disappointment, even the most pessimistic amongst us would agree that the consistency, attitude and resilience of this side looks to have stepped up from previous years. But beyond the strong recent results, something more profound looks to be developing.
The club’s engagement with its fans is excellent at present – I can’t believe there are any supporters who haven’t had the opportunity of a photo with Frank Pritchard or who’ve missed all the examples of great work the players and foundation are doing at local schools. Investment in the academy and specifically a U23s side is providing an important bridge to the first team squad. And the breaking news that Bowden, Green and Hadley have all been secured long term is a massive boost; all three core local players for our future squad, and Bowden in particular being sought by other SL clubs including Wigan but choosing to stay.
Is this finally our New Dawn? Either way the test in front of us against Catalans could scarcely by tougher, but at least we go into it with some well-founded optimism rather than blind hope. Feels good.
I didn’t want to let the departure of Superman pass without a mention; I’ve seen many players leave the club over the last 25 years, but I can rarely recall feeling such genuine sadness as I did at the confirmation of Whiting’s departure. He typifies everything a RL role model should be. Former SL community player of the year. Professional in preparation, the most versatile player I’ve seen in my time as a fan. Along the way he’s given us hundreds of selfless performances, come back from lows like his injury in London and celebrated like a fan whilst delivering memorable moments like Cardiff and going the length at Belle Vue. Thank you, and good luck, Rich, the club will be a poorer place without you.
Round Up Player of the Month
In a month with an 80% win ratio, there are naturally plenty of candidates. Pritchard’s made metres and half breaks for fun. Shaul, Houghton, Taylor have all turned in top class, consistent knocks. But Marc Sneyd, displaying maturity and hugely effective game management, exemplified in one superlative 45 metre angled drop goal at Saints, is this month’s winner.