Wembley was Hull FC’s frequent nemesis, the place of frustration and heartache, until the sheer jubilation of 2016, where at the ninth time of asking, the Airlie Birds finally tasted victory at the Holy Grail with a 12-10 win over Warrington. Immortality awaited.
The agony and the ecstasy
When you consider the legends that tried and failed to get that elusive Wembley win, the achievement by the seventeen Hull FC players on the 27th August 2016 becomes all the more remarkable.
The Airlie Birds had tasted Wembley defeat on seven previous occasions. The years of 1959, 1960, 1980, 1983, 1985, 2008 and 2013 all ended in heartbreak, with one draw in 1982 the only exception. It didn’t matter if Hull FC were favourites or underdogs, or whether they were playing Wakefield, Featherstone or Wigan in the classic 1985 final, defeat followed. Not even the great Johnny Whiteley or the legendary Peter Sterling could orchestrate a win, and such an unwanted record made many people label the national venue as a hoodoo for Hull FC, and many questioned if the club would ever win there.
2016, the year the club finally did it, brought with it so much emotion. The victory was overwhelming for the large majority of those in attendance. Tears were shed in abundance and every stranger became your best mate. It was an incredible occasion.
The magnitude of Hull FC’s first Wembley victory will never be topped. For every player and supporter it meant absolutely everything. Finally. The relief, pride, and absolute joy of being a sports fan topped with an unbeatable moment.
Johnny Whiteley overlooks Mike Smith and Tommy Sutton as they shake hands with Prince Charles in 1959.
Arthur Bunting and Steve Norton lead Hull out at Wembley in 1980.
Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling in the 1985 final – considered the greatest of all-time
Road To Wembley
Hull FC’s Challenge Cup success of 2016 is even more remarkable when you consider who they beat on the way to Wembley.
Starting with a magnificent 47-18 victory at St Helens, over 2,500 fans packed the Langtree Park away end as Hull ran riot, scoring eight tries in the Spring sun. Next up was Catalans, and a big French forward pack was diminished as Hull’s front runners got on top, securing a 22-8 victory. The Black and Whites then produced further heroics at Doncaster, beating Wigan 16-12 in the semi-final. Thousands of Hull fans packed the Keepmoat, as Gareth Ellis led the way in an incredible performance. Hull beat the best sides of the 2016 season to achieve the ultimate glory. This club only does things the hard way.
What stands out for us though is a stat. There’s one bloke who really steered Hull to each victory and that man is Marc Sneyd. He won the official Man of the Match in all four of Hull’s 2016 Challenge Cups ties.
Many would have been forgiven for thinking the cause was lost at 10-0 down. The hour mark was fast approaching and Ben Currie had just scored Warrington’s second try, following Matty Russell’s first half opener. But there was something special about the Hull FC side of 2016. The spirit was unreal and they continued to believe.
In truth, it was a sublime 40/20 from Marc Sneyd that turned the game. From that set the Airlie Birds began to dominate. Fonua crossed on tackle six leaping highest off a Sneyd kick, with Shaul pouncing off a similar situation to get the winner.
Hull massively dug in to get their Wembley victory. After Shaul’s try it looked like the job was done, but it took one more miraculous effort to see off the Wire.
Danny Houghton’s monumental tackle on Ben Currie ultimately won the game. Two minutes later it was all over and Hull FC had done it – finally a Challenge Cup victory at Wembley.
Lance Todd Winner
Marc Sneyd will be forever remembered as the first Hull FC player to win the Lance Todd Trophy having been on the winning side.
Sneyd was magnificent. Warrington contained him for the first sixty minutes, but during the last quarter he was unplayable. The 40/20 was pinpoint. There was no run up. He caught the ball, swung his left boot, and pinned the kick exactly where he wanted it. Majestic. On tackle six from that set, his kick found Mahe Fonua, who lept above Chris Sandow to score. A few minutes later, Sneyd did the same kick, and from Fonua’s leap, Sneyd recollected the ball and sent over Jamie Shaul for the match winning try.
Sneyd’s contribution was vital, and without it, the turning point for Hull FC’s elusive victory would not have occurred.
We’re massive fans of Josh Bowden at Up the Cream. He was one of Hull FC’s top performers throughout the season, and at Wembley he was incredible. His leg drives were insane and some of hits thunderous.
He didn’t get the headlines, but his impact was massive, and along with fellow interchange prop Chris Green, ensured Hull’s grip in the middle never dropped.
Stevie Michaels is having a party….
Danny Houghton’s incredible 52nd tackle on Ben Currie in the 78th minute won Hull FC the Challenge Cup.
The Warrington back rower looked destined for the try-line and when Mark Minichiello slipped, we all feared the worst. Though with his never say die attitude, Houghton pulled off a miracle, halting Currie, who lost possession in the collusion. For the Hull FC hooker, immortality awaited. Sheer legend status for a player that has given everything to this club since his debut in 2007.
Radders is the Dadders
It’s his squad. He’s built it. There were plenty of people calling for his head at the start of his tenure as head coach but not anymore. His passion for Hull FC is huge and he deserves this success as much as anyone.
“It’s a history making moment for us,” Radford stated. “There have been so many quality teams prior to us and so many unbelievable players haven’t achieved what we’ve done today.
“I feel really privileged to be involved with this group of players and I feel really proud to put this group of players together.
“We knocked off Catalans, we knocked off Saints, we knocked off Wigan and now we’ve just knocked off Warrington. I don’t think anybody could begrudge us taking this trophy home to Hull.”
Jamie Shaul: “It’s an unreal feeling. We spoke about it before the game and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck just thinking about winning at Wembley and being the first team to do that. It was the most important try I’ve ever scored. It will stay with me forever. To score in front of the Hull fans was great. It was a surreal moment.”
Mark Minichiello: “This is the highlight of my career by far; 15 years at the top level trying to achieve something like this and it’s finally come true.”
Kirk Yeaman: “Danny Houghton was an absolute superstar as he has been throughout his career, that tackle was unbelievable. It’s the Richard Swain charge down of 2016. He’s an absolutely top bloke is Danny, a fantastic player and my best mate. I love him to bits.”
Scott Taylor: “We are in the history books now, we’ve done something no other team at this club has achieved and that’s really special. Let’s celebrate that, big time. There were tears, there was so much joy. I had absolutely nothing left in the tank in the last minute of the game and it was so many emotions and relief when the whistle went.”
Gareth Ellis: “To come back from 10-0 down, it wasn’t pretty, it was a real tough gritty game, and we worked so hard. It means so much to me, this club, these players and I’m lost for words. The club is back where it needs to be. For me, my family and these fans it’s a dream come true.”
You’ll never win at Wembley
Of course a maiden Hull FC victory at Wembley abolished a famous chant sung by our bitter rivals Hull Kingston Rovers. “Old Faithful, you’ll never win at Wembley”, was sung for three decades, and taunted Hull wherever they went, but now it’s no more. Head coach Lee Radford made no secret of his delight of it, saying, “They’re going to have to change the lyrics.” Prop forward Scott Taylor added at the time, “Let’s see what song Rovers are singing at us when we play them next.”
An astonishing number of 23,000 Hull FC fans packed into Queens Garden’s to welcome back their Wembley heroes after their Challenge Cup final triumph.
Welcoming back the first ever Wembley winning team after their epic win over Warrington, an open top bus paraded the streets of West Hull, including the clubs former home at the Boulevard, before touring Hull City Centre, and a reception in Queen Gardens polishing off an astounding weekend.
Without the pictures, it’s hard to believe it.
2016 was the fourth occasion Hull FC lifted rugby league’s most prestigious competition, after triumphs in 1914, 1982 and 2005, but of course the first time they had done so at Wembley.
Its down to interpretation, but from relief more than anything, the win at the national stadium for the fanzine at least, and given the tough run to the final itself, marks the greatest achievement in the clubs history, by far.
Immortalised, it will never be forgotten.