Hull FC Season review 2015

It was billed as the 150th anniversary year of Hull FC, despite the feeble attempt at billing it as the 15th anniversary by a small amount of fans from the other side of Hull, but while the Airlie Birds can point to clear progress on their dismal 2014 Super League campaign and the fact that they currently hold the bragging rights over their close neighbour’s Hull KR having won the derby series 2-1 and finished above them in the table the end of term report once again looks back at a very frustrating campaign when the sleeping giant failed to awaken from its slumbers.

It all started rather well as a black and white army converged on the birthplace of the game Huddersfield as a new look FC side started their campaign in emphatic fashion by inflicting an embarrassing defeat on the Giants who most experts expected to be genuine Grand Final contenders, nil-ling them in the process.

The next game saw a single point defeat to Warrington Wolves in Hull’s first home game of the season, despite that setback everything still looked very positive as Lee Radford’s men looked very competitive and able to handle the inevitable extra pressure that came with such a landmark season doubled with the start of a new experiment for the First Utility Super League with the tag line of “Every minute matters”.

The first alarm bells started to ring with a shock defeat at big spending Salford when the Red Devils found it far too easy to score points against a side who had only conceded one try in their opening two games, which was scored by the reigning Steve Prescott Man of Steel Daryl Clark.

Hull’s next game, at home against eventual treble winners Leeds Rhinos, almost encapsulated the Black and White’s season in 80 minutes, holding a deserved 12-0 lead at half time Hull were applauded off the pitch and seemingly back in the groove as they produced some of the best rugby they had played up to that point in the still fledgling season, what followed was frankly quite embarrassing as the Rhinos cut loose and scored 43 unanswered points too easily in the second 40 minutes.

Playing away to eventual Grand Finalists Wigan Warriors in their next game the Airlie Birds showed some genuine dogged determination, guts and pride but fell just short by a single point for the second time in the campaign, although a better more controlled pass in the last minute would surely have seen them gain the reward their efforts deserved as 2014 player of the year Fetuli Talanoa would surely have scored a match-winning try if the ball hadn’t flown into touch.

After that near miss at the DW Stadium Hull finally gave their fans something to shout about as Catalans Dragons were brushed aside far easier than the 11 point winning margin would seemingly suggest. Hull were then unlucky in defeat away to Castleford Tigers and then came the lowest point of the season without doubt as Hull KR breezed into the KC Stadium and left with the two points and bragging rights on offer far too easily as the Airlie Birds produced probably their worst performance of the season and almost gift-wrapped the game for Chris Chester’s side.

After that contemptuous low the Old Faithful still traveled in large numbers to the home of reigning champions St. Helens in the first game of the now annual Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy and a stunning comeback that few would have thought possible at the start of the Easter Weekend was capped by one of the tries of the season from full-back Jamie Shaul as Hull banished the memories of the previous Thursday night with a stirring 20-28 victory at Langtree Park.

Next up for the Airlie Birds was a home game against Widnes Vikings, on that evening Tom Lineham proved once again what a potent finisher he is with a hat-trick including two 95 meter interception tries, after that the Airlie Birds hit the road to Wembley dispensing of Sheffield Eagles at Bramall Lane in comfortable, if not entirely convincing, fashion before returning to Super League matters with a truly dismal performance against Huddersfield Giants in which Hull only just avoided the ignominy that they inflicted on the Giants on the opening weekend with a very late try by Steve Michaels.

The following week was quite a comedy with next opponents Salford Red Devils asking the Airlie Birds to postpone the game due to the injury and suspension crisis they were going through which Hull, understandably, flatly refused so the game went ahead as scheduled, despite their pleas and protestations the team built expensively by Dr Marwan Koukash arrived much healthier than first envisaged, sporting seven internationals, a spirited performance almost saw them through, but once again a gutsy comeback which was crowned by an individual barnstorming try by Setaimata Sa saw Hull eek out a victory that would have been predicted.

Lee Radford then told his side to take off the shackles and start to attack with more purpose, this appeared to be going slightly wrong for Hull in the next game away to Warrington Wolves but, yet again, Hull showed a spirit that proved they never knew when they were beaten as they came from 10 points behind in the last 10 minutes to grab a priceless victory with a drop goal from Marc Sneyd with just three seconds remaining on the clock to send the Old Faithful into very noisy raptures and gain sweet revenge for their single point defeat earlier in the year.

Castleford Tigers were the visitors to the KC Stadium in the 6th round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and a hat-trick from new young signing Curtis Naughton saw the previous years beaten finalists put to the sword in sizzling fashion as more evidence of Hull taking off the shackles was put on full display.

However the positive mood that was sweeping the team and supporters was soon dampened down as Saints came to town and won an arm wrestle game although not by enough to rob Hull of the Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy.

Magic Weekend, however, delivered another high note as close neighbours Hull KR, holding smug bragging rights since the Easter derby, were taught a very harsh lesson as they were thoroughly whipped by an arrogant Hull in record fashion as they ran up a record 46 points in a competitive derby topping the 44 points they had hit Rovers with in 2008, at this point I suppose for the benefit of certain friends that Rovers do still hold the record for the biggest winning margin by 36 points in 2007.

The following week saw Hull travel to Widnes for what was seen as a defining match as both sides were competing for the coveted Super 8s spot with just 1 league point separating them, with the Vikings storming into a 12 point lead it was fast starting to look like a forlorn journey for Hull, however another Tom Lineham hat-trick allied with a try from Leon Pryce and a delicious kick and gather try by Marc Sneyd swept Hull home to a convincing victory.

Unfortunately after that success Hull’s season began to almost implode with defeats away to Catalans Dragons and Leeds before being unceremoniously dumped out of the cup by the Rhinos at the KC Stadium and then an embarrassing defeat at basement side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, in this topsy turvy season however the Black and White’s rallied once again and, in their second double header, they gained revenge over the Wildcats, by now being coached by former Hull coach Brian Smith, with a victory which maybe wasn’t really deserved but, after a three game losing streak, it was a priceless victory which breathed much needed new life into a faltering season.

The top 8 cause was then further aided with another gutsy comeback victory at the KC Stadium against Castleford Tigers as the Tigers were given little choice by the intensity of Hull’s performance but to surrender an eight point half time advantage.

The game that mattered most though was taking place in front of the Sky cameras the following Friday at the KC Lightstream Stadium as the biggest rivalry in Super League was pushed to the forefront with the promise of victory holding the key to the door of the much vaunted Super 8s and defeat promised the ignominy of a place in the dreaded Middle 8s and the knowledge that it was your closest rivals who would have put you there.

Everything seemed to be going wrong in the derby match, losing their two most influential players Leon Pryce and captain Gareth Ellis to injury in the heat of the battle in the first half, trailing 12-4 when they lost Ellis to a snapped Achilles Hull looked in desperate trouble on a ground where only Leeds and Castleford had previously triumphed this season, but that fast growing resolve was soon on show again as Hull out-fought and out-thought their nearest and dearest enemies to take charge with another stirring comeback which saw them take the lead by half time and then produce a masterclass in how to control an opponent and a game at arms length to wrap up the points, the bragging rights and the place in the Super 8s in one evenings work which led to jubilant celebrations among the Old Faithful.

With so much attention and emphasis having been placed on the derby match it was probably not a surprise that the first phase of the season for Hull ended with a whimper as Wigan Warriors arrived at the KC Stadium and inflicted a heavy defeat on the home side.

The Super 8s was something of an anti-climax for the Airlie Birds due to the fact that they were playing teams who were in some cases superior sides who were always expected to be pushing for the semi-finals and a trip to Old Trafford and the Grand Final, having started brightly away to Castleford with two early tries the old frailties once again took over and Hull slipped to an unfortunate defeat but nobody could really say the Tigers didn’t deserve their victory.

The following week Hull again traveled to the home of the defending champions and, as on Easter Monday, Saints were ambushed by yet another comeback, including another hat-trick by Curtis Naughton, and soundly beaten 22-32.

The epitaph on this season will show that Hull lost all of their last 5 games, however it must be said that is far from the end story under the circumstances. With a growing injury list which included Gareth Ellis, Leon Pryce, Josh Bowden, Chris Green, Steve Michaels, Jordan Thompson, Setaimata Sa, Joe Westerman, Kirk Yeaman, Fetuli Talanoa and Dean Hadley for at least some, if not all, their Super 8s games Hull could possibly have been excused for asking to delay some games due to their unprecedented injury crisis, however no such Salford-like request was forthcoming, or even entertained, by the Black and White’s as they put their trust in youth.

A week before their Wembley date against Hull KR, Leeds rolled into town and rested some stars although not many as they still had Challenge Cup Final places up for grabs, Hull had some senior stars playing, such as new joint-players of the year Mark Minichiello and Liam Watts, but there was also more than just a smattering of under 19s players present in the match-day squad and, indeed, the 17 man match team, the Rhinos inevitably won but, according to Rhinos coach Brian McDermott afterwards, only because they got a few opportunities that only men like Ryan Hall and Rob Burrow could finish despite their inability in certain quarters to breakdown an enthusiastic Hull side.

Unfortunately the down side to using lots of youth is sometimes it breeds inconsistency and so it proved as Warrington Wolves were handed the points on a plate at the Halliwell Jones Stadium two weeks later, more injuries ensued in that game and Hull were only able to name 18 men instead of the regulation 19 in advance of the trip to Wigan for their one and only appearance in front of the Sky cameras in the Super 8s the following Friday.

In a match that was seen as a chance for the battle-hardened Warriors, who were just coming into top form, to put a severe dent in Leeds Rhinos points difference advantage at the summit of the table, Hull had to name seven youth players and were given no chance and were indeed tipped to succumb to a worse beating than 60-0 thrashing the Warriors had inflicted on a similarly severely under-strength Hull KR earlier in the season but somebody forgot to give the script to the kindergarten Hull side.

Although the Warriors squeezed out a thoroughly and totally undeserved 30-24 win a Hull team containing Curtis Naughton, Jordan Abdull, Jack Logan, Masimbaashe Matongo, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash and Jack Downs left a more than lasting impression on the crowd in the DW Stadium and, no doubt, had fans of other teams sat at home glued to their television sets and cheering them on as they gave Shaun Wane’s side the fright of their lives.

Hull then returned home for their heritage week games against Huddersfield Giants and Catalans Dragons, with youthful enthusiasm on their side, but also a great deal of in-experience, the Airlie Birds fall to two more narrow defeats that could surely have been avoided with a bit more know-how.

The 14 point margin of victory for the Giants looks much more comfortable than it was, a point made very succinctly by coach Paul Anderson, the four point victory for the Dragons didn’t flatter them but could again have been avoided by Hull if only tries had been scored further infield rather than right in the corner every time.

Reaching the Super 8s was set as a minimum requirement by owner Adam Pearson at the start of the season and that was duly achieved. There was also some major highlights in the season for instance the two victories over Hull KR, the manner of them and what both meant to the supporters cannot be overestimated and the emergence of some genuinely exciting youth is a major plus.

The down-side, it was yet another false dawn in a lot of ways, certain players have clearly just been taking money from the club and not giving much in return and, in my humble opinion, Tom Lineham should never have been sold but that’s now water under the bridge and we’ll have to get used to the sight of him in primrose and blue.

The up-side, Hull FC do have a lot of very exciting youth that they need to keep hold of in future, the likes of Jack Logan, Callum Lancaster, Jordan Abdull, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash, Jack Downs, Masimbaashe Matongo and Curtis Naughton are all seemingly very exciting players and that’s before we think about the likes of Reece Dean and Harry Tyson-Wilson.

Future. It’s no secret Hull do have some financial problems mainly due to having to pay off dead wood with some big money plus the big payout to Willie Manu but with great support, season pass membership sales, merchandising etc I’m sure they can get over the worst of it.

New Signings. Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Scott Taylor, Danny Washbrook, Carlos Tuimavave and Mahe Fonua are genuinely very impressive additions especially the forwards who will be added to an already mean pack that is bristling with quality.

Controversy. There is clearly absolutely no need for a ‘Super Academy’ merger with Hull KR.

Positive. The creation of an under 23s side with Richard Horne as its boss will give certain players more chance to develop and will hopefullt dispense with the ridiculous dual-registration idea.

Derby Match Jamie Shaul Jack Logan

NEWS/SPORT...with James Smailes, 06/11/14  :  Hull Daily Mail Sporting Champion Awards, held at the Wilberforce Suite, KC Stadium, Hull.  Pictured, Sporting Champion Award Winner, Jordan Abdull.  Picture: Jerome Ellerby

Sika_Manu-1200 Danny Washbrook Mahe+Fonua+NRL+Rd+23+Storm+v+Titans+lzIeGJEH0zXl Carlostuimavave 1200-Frank-Pritchard Scott Taylor

Advertisements

Hull FC Overall Recruitment For 2016

All-in-all the recruitment by Hull FC for the 2016 Super League season has been undeniably impressive with many bases covered for Lee Radford.

One thing that the Airlie Birds certainly won’t be short of is genuine grunt and brute force with the capture of the likes of Frank ‘The Tank’ Pritchard, Sika Manu and Hull-born Scott Taylor to put with a pack that already includes the likes of Gareth Ellis, Feka Palea’aesina, Mark Minichiello and Liam Watts.

Pritchard will turn 32 years old in November but the former New Zealand international still plays big minutes although this has now been somewhat curtailed with the announcement that he would miss 3-4 months with a pectoral injury he suffered when playing for current club Canterbury Bulldogs against New Zealand Warriors at the end of last month.

Despite that news he is an exciting signing for Radford’s side and he will undoubtedly bring massive impact for the men from the KC Stadium.

With 27 New Zealand caps and 4 Samoa caps to his name and having been involved in two NRL Grand Final’s Pritchard certainly brings a wealth of experience with him although his current injury could possibly be something of a warning for his new side especially considering his age.

Looking at the signing of Sika Manu it has to be said that it is a definite coup not only for Hull FC but also for Super League in general as the former New Zealand international turned down offers from NRL sides South Sydney Rabbitohs, St. George/Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks as well as Leeds Rhinos to join some old friends and a member of his family at Hull.

The cousin of cult hero Fetuli Talanoa will swap Penrith Panthers for life in the goldfish bowl that is Hull FC and join up with old friends Pritchard, Mahe Fonua and Carlos Tuimavave.

At 28 years old Manu certainly has time on his side and is another who brings great experience with him having won the Rugby League World Cup in 2008 with New Zealand and the 2012 NRL Grand Final with Melbourne Storm.

Manu is a player renowned for his strength and aggression who will be expected to control the ruck and get Hull on the front foot so as to allow people like Marc Sneyd and Danny Houghton time and space to work their magic and he will also cause panic in any defence with his destructive running.

In Scott Taylor the Airlie Birds have got hold of a Hull-born player who has supported the club since he was a boy. The former England international started his career impressively with much hated cross-city rivals Hull KR before joining Wigan Warriors for the 2013 season.

With international recognition and a Challenge Cup and Super League Grand Final double in his first season with the Warriors it seemed the world was Taylor’s oyster, however in recent times his career has somewhat stagnated after he fell out of favour with Warriors boss Shaun Wane.

Taylor was left out of the Wigan side for their 2014 Grand Final defeat to St. Helens and has spent much of this season on loan at Salford Red Devils.

Some sections of supporters of both Hull KR and Wigan have made much of him being out of condition and, as a result he has become the subject of several jokes due to his expanded waistline.

Despite his hard luck in recent times Taylor, who will be an automatic replacement for Newcastle Knights bound Mickey Paea and, with a good pre-season, the black and white’s could easily benefit from his arrival. What they have in Taylor is a prop forward who will tackle for all he’s worth and run his blood to water.

He isn’t the quickest or most mobile in his current condition but his strength is obvious and he has a good offload in him as well.

Mahe Fonua is one name that not many people in Super League will be aware of but he will arrive on these shores with a point to prove to any doubters and, having played and been a regular try scorer for Melbourne Storm, he can point to experience of having played alongside such superstars as Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk as well as former Storm player Manu.

Billed as a player similar to Castleford Tigers star Justin Carney, much is expected of Fonua by his new boss, Having won the 2012 NRL Grand Final and then the 2013 World Club Challenge when his hometown side came over and ambushed then Super League champions Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Fonua certainly has big game experience.

Turning 23 on Christmas Eve he is still young but with 23 tries to his name in 50 NRL games he certainly knows his way to the try line but that is just part of his armoury.

The young winger is a big, robust player who is equally known down under for his ability to break the line and also for his tackling and he can also produce the occasional moment of genuine magic.

With spectacular finishes being another part of his game it would seem that Hull have got hold of the perfect replacement for the Warrington Wolves bound, and extremely popular, Tom Lineham.

Carlos Tuimavave is another young talent that Hull have snatched from the NRL. Brought in to provide competition in the centre’s the cousin of former Hull KR prop Evarn Tuimavave is known primarily as a stand-off and can also fill in at full-back if required.

Tuimavave sprang to prominence when forming a half back partnership with New Zealand superstar Shaun Johnson when reaching the Toyota Cup Grand Final in 2010 and 2011 with New Zealand Warriors junior side, he also played for the Junior Kiwis.

He is known for his sublime ball-handling skills and is a very good support player who is usually to be found on the end of a break to poach a try.

Turning 22 in January he is another young player who is an undeniably exciting signing of who Lee Radford said “He has a bit of that X-Factor about him.”

What could well be key to any success Hull may enjoy in 2016 will be just how quickly Tuimavave and Fonua settle in to life in a new country and a new culture.

Another signing who will have no such fears is the returning Danny Washbrook who has been brought back after a four year stint at Super League rivals Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

On the surface it would seem that bringing back the 29-year-old is maybe a bit of a public relations signing, however there is a definite purpose to bringing Washbrook back to his hometown club.

Having played in the 2006 Grand Final for the Airlie Birds he certainly has experience but another reason he has seemingly been brought back for is to provide cover for hooker and vice-captain Danny Houghton.

Washbrook is not a player who will do something spectacular that will win you a game but he is certainly the sort who will do something unseen that will ensure you don’t lose a game.

Having won the 2012 Super League hitman award as the top tackler in Super League it is clear why Washbrook is seen as the ideal foyle to tackling machine Houghton and this could be what makes this a very shrewd bit of business by Radford.

What Hull have added with their six signings are pace, power, strength, experience, know how, grunt and absolutely genuine quality.

If they can make them gel together and get them to click they could have the makings of a very exciting squad.

Sika_Manu-1200Danny WashbrookMahe+Fonua+NRL+Rd+23+Storm+v+Titans+lzIeGJEH0zXlCarlostuimavave1200-Frank-PritchardScott Taylor

Hull FC Recruitment For 2016 Part 6, Sika Manu

Hull FC have today announced the massive coup of signing New Zealand World Cup winner Sika Manu on a 3-year-deal starting next season.

The 28-year-old will leave Penrith Panthers to head to the KC Stadium having turned down firm offers from Leeds Rhinos and NRL sides South Sydney Rabbitohs, St. George/Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks.

Panthers boss Phil Gould said: “We at Panthers will forever be grateful to Sika for coming to our club when he did and for the tremendous impact he has had on our young developing players.

“We can assure his new club they have recruited a quality footballer and a quality person.

“We wish Sika and his family all the very best for the future.”

Manu made his debut with Melbourne Storm in 2007 and won the Telstra Premiership with them in 2012 before joining the Panthers in 2013.

He has won 14 caps with New Zealand and won the Rugby League World Cup with them in 2008.

Manu has been quoted as saying one of the big draws for him to sign for Lee Radford’s side was the opportunity to join-up with great friend Mahe Fonua who Hull signed from Melbourne Storm and fellow kiwis Frank Pritchard and Carlos Tuimavave and it’s understood that he is also excited at playing alongside his cousin Fetuli Talanoa.

Sika_Manu-1200

Hull FC Recruitment For 2016 Part 3, Carlos Tuimavave

Hull FC announced the capture of Samoa international Carlos Tuimavave on 25th July.

The 23-year-old former junior kiwi captain has penned a 3-year-deal at the KC Stadium starting next year leaving NRL outfit Newcastle Knights.

Tuimavave said: “I am excited to be joining Hull next season and the opportunity to play regular first grade football at one of the biggest clubs in Super League.

“While I am focused on finishing the season well at the Knights, I am looking forward to moving my family to England and making a positive contribution to Hull Football Club.

“Hull are a big club with a great fan base and I’m looking forward to getting over there to sample the atmosphere and competition.”

Coach Lee Radford was clearly excited about his new signing, he said: “He has finesse and a bit of X-factor about him, the style of player that can create something from nothing.”

Tuimavave came through the ranks at New Zealand Warriors playing at centre or stand-off in a successful partnership with kiwi superstar Shaun Johnson.

He helped the Warriors to Toyota Cup Grand Final appearances in both 2010 and 2011 and made his NRL debut in 2012.

With first team chances at the Warriors limited he made the switch to Newcastle Knights for this season before opting to try his hand in Super League.

Carlostuimavave