It was a cold October morning in 1967 when my Dad finally introduced me to the greatest club in the world. We boarded the Danby’s bus to Headingley for what was to be my first taste of Rugby League. Excited, an eight year old off to his first game in a big stadium, with a packed lunch, a bottle of pop, and a brand new knitted scarf, with eyes wide open we left in total darkness, and the roller coaster (better known as following Hull) had started. The day as it turned out was spoilt by a very late drop goal, but this boy was hooked.
In 1969 I was lucky enough to become one of two Hull RLFC full time mascots – something which still fills me with immense pride. The other mascot was called Kevin, and I have no idea if he still follows the club, but what followed for the next three years was simply fantastic.
My all-time favourite player Arthur Keegan was the clubs full back and in September Hull reached the Yorkshire Cup final again, this time against Featherstone. I travelled to the game with the families and wives of the officials and players, with us arriving late due to road works. I appeared at the bottom of the slope where the players entered the field only to be blocked by a steward, he informed me that I was not going to be allowed onto the playing field. Lucky for me the Hull supporters around that area had other ideas and lifted me over the barrier, and then just like Clive Sullivan I sprinted behind the posts. Hull won the game 12-9 and the dressing room post-match was fantastic. That night I travelled home on the bus roof – being held by Arthur and Clive with the Yorkshire Cup high above my head, bet health and safety would not allow that now!
The 1970’s introduced another stalwart to the Hull family – my brother Terry, and we have been travelling to games together ever since. The John Player Final in 1975 was the highlight in an under achieving decade, but the magical times for Hull RLFC fans were not far away.
After yo-yoing with promotion and relegation, Hull entered the history books with the all-conquering 1978/79 team – still to this day a record after winning EVERY league game of that season. We started to travel to every game from that year. I had a job, my own money and there was a team to be proud of – Farrah, Norton (God), and Charlie Stone to name a few. The start of a purple patch for our club, with the latter scoring the winning try at the Boulevard in front of over 16,000 fans, boy did we celebrate that night!
The early 1980’s brought Cup finals a plenty, record attendances and fans from all over the North of England. Away days were like home games with massive travelling support. I will gloss over a certain 1980 Challenge Cup final as its STILL hurts, but hey we have now won it three times!
The 1982 final against Widnes brings tears to my eyes, the Holy Grail may still elude us but Elland Road was something else. Roadwork’s struck again and the bus was running late, so I jumped ship and legged it to the stadium. I stood on a walkway as there was nowhere else to stand. Sullivan back in Black and White, and with Tony Duke and Lee Crooks how could we lose. The game went to plan and the cup came to Hull. The traffic on the way home I remember was manic, but when we stopped for a break the noise was fantastic – fans singing and dancing and I am sure nobody taking care where they were aiming!
1983 was a successful year spoilt by the Cup final at Wembley, the biggest upset ever in my opinion. We only started playing in the last few minutes, something which became a trademark of that team. 1985 Wigan at Wembley another few minutes and we would have won I am sure, but we returned home to Hull empty again.
The team broke up and financial problems seemed to restrict our clubs ability to perform where it should, until the famous 1991 Premiership Final. Old Trafford with our heads shaven, underdogs to Widnes, one of the best sides in the competition could Hull pull it off? Well we sure did, what a night, with a record crowd at the time seeing Hull triumph and Bluey lifting the cup – a picture that still brings tears to eyes even now.
The mid 90s saw me become more of a home supporter with my young family by my side spasmodically attending away days. In 1997 I continued the family legacy of introducing my eldest son to the game and Hull RLFC in particular. I honestly believe that he is now more devout than me.
Season pass holders since 1998, he re-kindled my enthusiasm for our great club and away days have continued ever since with Mr Hull FC aka Kevin Deighton. In 2005 we travelled to Cardiff on the train as we stayed near Hereford. The day as we all know gave us the result we all wanted. I remember with five minutes to go and the boys had tears in their eyes, and at full time the tears were rolling down my face. They were jumping up and down, laughing, screaming and singing all at the same time. What a day, with the best memory one of my youngest Matthew singing on a train packed with Leeds fans “We all hate Leeds scum!” I have no idea where he gets it from, but the Leeds fans faces were a picture!
The next year we had a fantastic season finishing second and reaching our first Super League Grand Final against Saints. We showed up well but they were brilliant. Leon’s try I think broke our resistance and resolve that night but I was proud of my team.
Defeats at Wembley in 2008 and again in 2013 broke our hearts once more. I don’t think we performed on either occasion. We should have won in 2013 I still don’t understand what happened? We completely lost the plot against Wigan but we will break this hoodoo one day I’m sure.
The rivalry with “The Dark Side” and tussles against the best teams in Super League fire me up and make me long for more. Scenes like I participated in last Saturday at Newcastle, and victories like at Widnes on Thursday are the reason I follow this great team. Our fans are second to none.
Over the years I have been privileged to witness some of the finest times in Hull RLFC’s history and also some of the lows. The club is now 150 years young. We have under achieved, but through it all I remain as passionate as ever, wishing, hoping, and believing that someday it will all be worth it.