It’s coming up to that time of year when Super League squads get tested, coaches sprout a few more grey hairs, supporters cheer themselves that bit more hoarse, the whole two games in three days debate rears its head again and a feast of rugby league keeps us all riveted while the men and the boys get separated.
It all starts on Maundy Thursday as the Tigers and the Rhinos lock horns in The Jungle, then after that starter we have a main course, a desert, coffee and liqueurs, after dinner treats and the Easter eggs (for want of a better way of putting it) if you please.
The Saints take on the Warriors in their little spat and while the Wildcats will try to cut the Giants down to size, the Wolves will be hungry to deal with the Viking invasion in Cheshire and the Red Devils and the Dragons will try to put out each others fire.
But on the banks of the Humber something quite different will take place as red and white and black and white will charge at full pelt into each other quite unlike any two other teams in this great feast of uncompromising sport.
In the heat of the battle between two quaintly nicknamed teams, known as the Robins and the Airlie Birds, performance will mean nothing, the result will mean everything as families, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances will be split down the middle of a divided city.
Win and you walk into work the next day, or week, with a glow and aura surrounding you like no other, lose and you want the ground to open up and swallow you and it had better be bloody quick about it.
Blood and thunder has nothing on the Hull Derby, there could be an apocalypse and it wouldn’t matter as long as you hold the bragging rights and the great, and scary, thing about it is that it comes around again and again and again.
Easter Monday is like the warm after-glow, or a chance for part redemption, with six more games as the Dragons tackle the Tigers, the Giants greet the Red Devils, the Champions at home to the Wildcats and the Vikings against the Saints.
But elsewhere the red and white half of Hull will travel to face the Warriors and the black and white half will return home to tackle two of their former employees with the men that replaced them as the Wolves come to the next City of Culture, one will be looking for redemption while the other will basque in the glow of a derby victory.
Easter is looming large on the horizon, are you excited yet about what could hatch?
Hull FC can attack! Yes the team known for their defending and low risk strategy are flinging the ball around with absolute abandon, and it’s working spectacularly well at the moment, as evidenced by their two games so far this year.
As we all know, their near neighbours were gobbled up and spat back out with absolutely genuine contempt, and now in their opening game of Super League Salford Red Devils have been treated with similar disdain.
It’s no joke, when the Airlie Birds make a break with one of their punishingly big forwards, there are 4,5,6 or even more players to be seen charging forward in support, both backs and forwards turning opposition players, particularly full-backs, into mere traffic wardens pointing players in different directions to the try line.
Power and drive are a big part of Hull’s game now and the pack will get lots of headlines and rightly so, but like the old saying tells us, forwards win you matches, but your backs decide by how many points and, with blistering pace and guile and enthusiasm, Hull’s backs are definitely taking full advantage of the gaps being presented to them.
As evidence of this, Hull scored 8 tries against the Red Devils, all from different try scorers, and 6 of those came from backs, with Marc Sneyd, the only back not to score, pulling his former clubs defence apart due to the time and space he was afforded behind a pack that was utterly dominant.
Carlos Tuimavave is proving to be a big success thus far, the half back is relishing playing at centre and producing breaks, passes and tries with monotonously stunning regularity.
In the process he’s leaving defenders floundering in his wake and producing gaping holes in opposition defensive lines as wide as the Humber to put his winger, full-back or himself through.
On the other side young Jack Logan is sniping and getting on the shoulder of his big forwards to get on the end of a move and, when he can’t finish it himself, he’s producing a peach of a pass to his winger or whoever’s closest to him in a black and white shirt.
With Jamie Shaul expertly positioning himself to make a break or profit from one with his searing pace and excellent vision let’s not forget that this back division has got enough to challenge, and hurt, certainly most sides in the competition.
We also need to remember the supporting cast for this back division includes the likes of Callum Lancaster and Curtis Naughton both of which Super League are certainly aware of with both having scored tries, indeed hat-trick’s to boot, against notable opposition such as St. Helens, Castleford, Widnes and Warrington between them.
So yes everybody keep lauding the pack put together by former forward Lee Radford, just don’t forget that’s not all that Hull have in their locker, either on the pitch or waiting in the wings.
So Joe Westerman is the latest player to leave the KC Stadium and head west for the big cash on offer from Simon Moran and Warrington Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium (how are they even under the salary cap must be the first question?)
What to say about the 25 year old who has 1 England cap to his name! The boy from Pontefract was schooled by Hull FC in the academy set-up before he signed his first professional contract for his local side Castleford Tigers for the 2007 season, in 2010 the Airlie Birds came calling and signed him in a blaze of publicity.
When he first arrived at Hull he was billed as the future Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton who also left Castleford for East Yorkshire 30+ years earlier. It was maybe a tad unfair to put the 20 year old under that sort of pressure but life at Hull FC is never straightforward due to the aspirations of the Old Faithful.
Five years later, after one Challenge Cup Final and one England cap, he’s headed for pastures new joining what would appear to be a worrying trend of young British players who have left such as Tom Lineham, Ben Crooks and Tom Briscoe.
In five years at the club Westy has had three different coaches, Richard Agar, Peter Gentle and Lee Radford and it has to be said it was only in 2014, Radford’s first season in charge which ended in dreadful failure, that Hull FC really saw the best of him and that’s why he gained international recognition.
Since then he hasn’t been the same player and, with 12 months left on his contract and no negotiations over a new one, it’s very understandable that the Black and White’s have taken the decision to take the big money on offer and re-invest it where it’s probably needed more in the team.
No matter how many people may argue with me I do genuinely believe, and maybe some others might surprise me and agree, Hull FC do have the best set of back-rowers, maybe even the best pack, in Super League for 2016, something tells me that a pack with the likes of Gareth Ellis, Mark Minichiello, Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Jordan Thompson, Richard Whiting, Dean Hadley and young guns Jordan Abdull, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash and Jack Downs to call on in their back row will be able to easily absorb the loss of one misfiring loose forward.
The Airlie Birds have let it be known that the money received for Westerman will be put to use for a high profile back who is currently on the radar, I won’t mention names because that’s not my thing, I’ll just wait and see which I wish so many other people would do as well sometimes.
We’ll wish Joe good luck as we send him on his way to Cheshire, to another mid-table team much like ourselves, and indeed some of the lady fans will miss him with his boyish good looks, but the overwhelming feeling here on the Black and White side of Hull, East Yorkshire, is that it’s pretty good business getting £150,000 for a player who would have left for nothing in 12 months time anyway.
As for Joe the player, it seems to have been a frustrating chapter for both club and player which is probably best put down to experience and time to move on.
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.
Hull FC ended their regular season campaign in extremely disappointing fashion before the start of the Super 8s.
After the euphoria of the derby win over Hull KR the previous week which confirmed their place in the First Utility Super League’s coveted top 8 the Airlie Birds went into their game with 3rd place Wigan Warriors in good heart and, allied with wins against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Castleford Tigers, in good form.
Coach Lee Radford installed teenage sensation Jordan Abdull and club stalwart Richard Whiting in the starting line-up in place of seriously injured Leon Pryce and captain Gareth Ellis.
The first chance of the game went the way of the visitor’s as Joe Burgess made a burst for the line but Hull’s scrambling defence held them at bay until a forward pass gave the Airlie Birds a relieving scrum.
Burgess then made a break from deep and wrong footed Jordan Rankin and the leading try scorer in Super League went over behind the posts in the 6th minute to give the Warriors the lead, the goal from England international Matty Smith made it a six point lead.
Hull were given an opportunity soon after when a forward pass by Wigan was spotted by referee Ben Thaler just inside their own half but the resulting attack was quelled by organised defence from the Warriors.
Wigan were then gifted another similar opportunity as Marc Sneyd knocked on in his own half but a rather unstructured attack from them was easily repelled by Hull until a kick went into touch in front of the try line to give Hull the scrum.
Another scrambled Wigan attack then led to a kick out to the right wing by Smith which was batted back inside by Josh Charnley for John Bateman to touchdown with the try being confirmed by video referee Richard Silverwood, the conversion from Smith made it a 12 point advantage in the 16th minute.
Back-to-back penalties then gave Hull a sustained period of pressure on the Wigan line and Abdull eventually put Whiting through a huge gap with a delicious pass after 20 minutes to register Hull’s first points, the conversion from Sneyd brought the hosts back to within six points.
The visitor’s were then awarded a controversial try in the 24th minute as Sam Powell followed up a kick and scampered over to touchdown behind the posts, Smith’s conversion made it 6-18 in the 25th minute, the try was awarded by the video referee despite Powell appearing to be offside when the ball was kicked through but they deemed that he was back onside when centre Anthony Gelling made a second kick, to a chorus of booing from the home supporter’s.
A frantic attack from the black and white’s seemed to unsettle the Warriors and a grubber kick had to be kicked dead causing a goal line drop out which was soon backed up by a penalty giving Hull more territory and possession and a fast move from right to left saw Jack Logan cross the whitewash only to be pulled back for a forward pass.
A terrible mistake in the middle of the park as a pass went to ground gifted Wigan half-back George Williams a clean break and he needed no 2nd invitation to race clear and score under the posts with three minutes of the half remaining, the conversion from Smith took them an ominous 18 points clear going into half time.
Hull needed a fast start to the second half and they almost made a dream start as a fast move released Tom Lineham but the winger was held down just short then as the ball was moved in-field an attempted interception provided a knock-on to give Hull a scrum 20 meters out, and a grubber kick over the Wigan line was touched down by a defender to force a second goal line drop out.
The resulting attack was wasted however as Hull then were adjudged to have knocked on to give the Lancashire outfit a pressure relieving scrum, Wigan then marched to the other end and a penalty to the visitor’s allowed for more concerted pressure on the Hull line and eventually Matty Bowen crossed in the 47th minute, the conversion by Smith wrapped up the points for the Warriors with a 6-30 lead.
Despite their obvious dominance the Warriors seemed to be also in something of a profligate mood and gave Hull another chance as a pass went into touch giving Hull head and feed at a scrum in their half but another chance was wasted as Logan was denied again by a forward pass from Sneyd.
Another attack was also controversially stopped for the home side for a knock on which appeared to come from Bowen knocking the ball onto Danny Houghton’s arm before Lineham went under the posts.
Wigan captain Sean O’ Loughlin then compounded Hull’s misery further with their sixth try of the evening in the 58th minute, the conversion by Smith made it 6-36.
As much as they were being beaten in every department there was still plenty of effort from the home side but a lack of precision and completion were just hurting them every bit as much as the Warriors attack, a point which was shown glaringly as Steve Michaels was denied a try after putting a foot in touch before diving over in the corner.
Hull eventually got their try courtesy of the video referee as Joe Westerman bashed his way over the line in the 67th minute, the conversion from Sneyd made it 12-30.
Refree Thaler then enraged the home fans after controversially stopping Jordan Rankin from a certain break-away try after a deft chip in midfield and pulling him back for offside for which the Warriors were handed an equally controversial penalty.
After a goal line drop out from that penalty another Wigan attack ensued and Bowen scrambled over for his second try with nine minutes left on the clock and the conversion from Smith made it 12-42.
Wigan made it eight tries too easily as a deft pass then put Dominic Crosby over with two minutes left, the conversion from Smith stretched the lead to the final score of 12-48.
We set off in very good spirits on Sunday morning, excitement about getting home later in the day obviously mixed with the familiar excitement that we all get on match day anyway.
After a while walking on the Trans Penine Trail we could see the Humber Bridge in the distance, seeing our first glimpse of home seemed to increase our pace despite our inevitable tiredness.
This time we were accompanied by sheep on the trail and, although there wasn’t as much as the previous day with the cows, there was still a significant amount of the smelly stuff for us to dodge round while keeping up our tremendous pace.
Finally we reached Brough and were only too happy to leave the trail behind for a while and walk on a harder surface which made the walking so much easier.
Thankfully during the early morning the weather was a little bit cooler than it had been the day before but it didn’t last terribly long and we were soon taking fluids on board to cool down.
You remember I said early in part 1 that carrying your supplies in a rucksack on your back could make you ache, well it also causes you to sweat down your back a lot too but I decided to keep my tee shirt on because I know I’m still a bit too fat to show my torso in public although I am getting into better shape at the gym now so maybe next year 😉
We kept walking at a very good pace and we were soon through Melton and then most of the team decided they needed to check the plumbing at a garage so we were delayed for about half an hour because said garage only had 1 toilet so they all had to take it in turns.
We went through North Ferriby, which needs saving, at a good rate of knots and Alison’s sister met us and brought supplies of Haribo Starmix and bottles of water which were soon, very gratefully, snapped up.
We reached Home Farm at Hessle much earlier than had been anticipated so this gave us time to have a very nice and very welcome long break to go to the toilet and have food and drink.
Whilst we were there Darren and Jodee turned up in the minibus and said we needed to not walk so fast because they were falling behind because of a problem with packing away one of the tents.
Being only 5 miles from where we needed to be we were in the mood to take it a little bit easier but we also wanted to finish quite soon and have plenty of time to recover before the match.
Having stopped at The Fiveways pub we then started again and next stopped at The Three Tuns on Boothferry Road and received some donations in the buckets that were being carried.
As our bucket collection carried on to Silver Cod, The Three Crowns and the Albert Hotel we were chased down Anlaby Road by two Castleford fans so they could put money in the bucket for us, showing the true colours of all genuine rugby league fans as they did so.
Eventually I had to leave my fellow walkers in the Albert Hotel and head to the media suite at the KC Stadium to get logged on the WiFi ready to write my match report.
As I had promised I met the rest of them for a photo opportunity outside the main reception at the stadium as we finally basked in the glow of the summer sunshine and our achievement.
The fun and games didn’t finish there for us though, I made my way painfully to the press box at the very top of the West Stand and started reporting on the Super League game Hull FC v Castleford Tigers but had to be down at the North West corner of the stadium just before half time.
In that corner I saw Tom Lineham denied what looked like a legitimate try and the lads trudged off trailing 6-14 at half time, then came our moment as we were introduced to the crowd and the picture of us outside Castleford Tigers home ground the day before was flashed up on the scoreboard as we started our lap of honour.
As we walked around the stadium we had Hull FC and Castleford Tigers fans applauding us, shaking our hands and hugging us and even giving us a standing ovation showing us how much this remarkable band of people had achieved since the day before, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
To complete a perfect day my beloved Hull FC came back and secured a stunning 21-18 victory in quite dramatic style.
I’m never going to forget this challenge and, indeed, look forward to doing it all over again hopefully next year. The friendships that have been built during this weekend will, I’m sure, last for a lifetime.
I am proud to say I did this and even prouder to say that everybody involved in this genuine adventure are all very good friends, the once in a lifetime kind of people.