Westy Gone West

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.

Joe Westerman

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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 12 Wigan Warriors 48, Airlie Birds Taught Harsh Lesson In Last Game Before Super 8s

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.

Hull v Wigan

Paris trip Final day

The final day of the trip was very long and certainly had its quirks. We started the day by doing all the remaining packing, then unpacking to get cases rearranged and packed again, then unpacking again to get certain things in certain places and repacking everything again before leaving the room to go and wait in reception with Errin and Katie.

After the excitement of the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company, the Arc De Triumph and the Seine Cruise I certainly just wanted the day to be just as ‘Normal’ as possible as we returned home to reality so we tried to relax before starting the long journey home to good old Hull.

We found a Chinese takeaway serving large portions for a small price for lunch and then left shortly after lunchtime to get to the station to check in, when we got to Paris Nord we found we were a bit early so we had to wait about half an hour before we could check in, at which time we were joined by the rest of the group who had travelled to Paris with us.

Once we were safely through passport control we found a few duty free shops although nowhere near as many as you find in an airport.

The toilets are of quite a high standard in the waiting area it has to be said.

Once we were called to board the Eurostar you could feel the excitement mount among all of us, my friend Kati and her partner were excitedly showing off the engagement ring that he had planted on her finger while we were in Paris and I must say I’m genuinely happy for them both.

On the train we all got comfortably seated and it almost felt like there would be a big cheer as we started moving but there wasn’t one as we all just settled in for the long journey back to England.

The Eurostar is about an hour and a half travelling from Paris to the Channel Tunnel and just before we entered it a voice came over the intercom saying we were about to enter the tunnel and saying we would be in it for about 20 minutes before emerging into England.

True to form we were 20 minutes under the English Channel before reaching English soil which suddenly reset all mobile phones to original settings and suddenly gave me a good signal on my phone so I got many notifications that I hadn’t been able to get before.

The train stopped and dropped off some passengers at Ebbsfleet International station before carrying on to London St. Pancras where we all disembarked. On arriving there it was noted that there was a man sat at a piano there playing Sonata Number 14, otherwise known as Moonlight Sonata, by Ludwig Van Beethoven.

We waited a short while but were ultimately told by the lovely Di Allerston that we could dash to get the next possible train if we wanted rather than waiting for the whole travelling group to come together, so Errin, Katie, Martin and Myself went in search of the next possible train.

We dashed to King’s Cross and I noticed there was a train leaving in a few minutes from Platform 2 that would drop us off at Doncaster so we could get a connecting train to Hull.

We dashed through the crowds to get to the train and just made it, we walked through several carriages but eventually gave up looking for seats as it seemed the train was absolutely crammed full.

Eventually a lady came and checked our tickets and told us we would get to Doncaster at 7:47pm and there would be a 7:55 train from there to Hull.

We stayed where we were stood at the end of the carriage until a few minutes later when the lady who had checked our tickets announced over the intercom to us that there were several seats on carriage D so that was it we were off in a flash making our way to carriage D to sit down.

Upon reaching Doncaster we got off the train which was carrying on to Leeds and Errin and Katie were off like the clappers to get to Platform 1 where the train to Hull was waiting. After a few stops myself, Katie and Martin decided to stand the rest of the way to keep the blood flowing in our legs after being sat down as much as we had been.

We finally got home to Hull at 8:58 and all went our separate ways.

The trip to Paris has been ultimately very rewarding and I can only hope that whoever reads these entries in my blog finds them enjoyable and informative.

Paris trip day 1

I was pleased to see some of our travelling party when I arrived at the railway station at 7:15 this morning. As the group gathered we decided to make our way to the platform to get on the train to Doncaster.

After a quick journey we changed trains and headed off to London King’s Cross. When we got there some people wanted to go and find Platform 9 and 3/4 of Harry Potter fame but they didn’t get to see it which caused a certain amount of disappointment.

Before too long we were heading over to St. Pancras international station to catch the Eurostar to Paris. It is very conveniently marked on the floor where your carriage is so you can’t go wrong

Travelling Eurostar was certainly an experience, not so much because it was my first time but, because I was surrounded by a bunch of young ladies, one of which thought I wasn’t a student, who proceeded to compare notes on boyfriends, amounts of clothes in their cases, and the colour of them, and what they are going to do when they graduate.

On leaving the station the train went into a big tunnel so one such young lady thought that the channel tunnel lasted all the way from London to Paris. When we came out of the first tunnel a few minutes later and she realised we were still very much in England she said she was happy that the tunnel didn’t run all the way to Paris.

Before too long we were in the Channel Tunnel and heading under the sea towards France. When we emerged from the tunnel in Northern France the ladies sat near me were all wondering if we were still in England and, on discovering that cars were driving on the wrong side of the road, the one who earlier had said she was happy that the tunnel didn’t run all the way from London to Paris, announced she was unhappy about her first experience of going through the channel tunnel.

When we arrived at Paris Nord we were soon out of the station and into the fresh air (or as fresh as it can be in a major city). We followed Di and the other lecturers as we picked our way through the French capital to our hotel, unfortunately nobody seemed to be sure in which direction we should be heading so some time was wasted trying to find it.

After a few scares thanks to the French drivers, and Broadie declaring that he doesn’t get Paris because of the people trying to cross the road without a green man at the crossroads (which there definitely is) we made it to the hotel, called Hotel Paris Louis Blanc.

Having got settled in we all met back down in reception to go to the Paris Catacombes. Looking round them was extremely interesting and also very sad but is certainly very much worth visiting if you have chance.

After visiting the catacombes myself and one of my room mates Martin went to Buffalo Grill for tea, we each had a full 3 course meal before heading back to the hotel.