Five things we learned from Hull FC’s season
1: Hull FC owner Adam Pearson is an unsentimental character. He always had a strong relationship with his former coach Lee Radford, but was ruthless in announcing Radford’s sacking on Sky Sports on 12 March, when Hull were spanked 4-38 by Warrington Wolves at the KCOM Stadium. He then appointed long-time Hull servant Andy Last as the club’s interim coach, but overlooked him, instead appointing Brett Hodgson as the club’s new head coach at the end of the season.
2: Early results mean very little. Hull hammered Leeds Rhinos 30-4 in the opening match of the season at Headingley on 2nd February, but it was a false dawn for the black and whites. Throughout the season they struggled to compete with the clubs that would finish above them in Super League, although they did manage to gain revenge over Warrington, defeating them 27-14 in the play-offs in November.
3: Jake Connor has star quality, but he hasn’t always delivered the performances he is capable of. However, after Jamie Shaul suffered an unfortunate ACL injury on the club’s return to the KCOM Stadium against Castleford on 18th October, Connor’s performances at fullback suggested that he is likely to occupy that position again when the new season starts, particularly after the signing of Josh Reynolds from Wests Tigers.
4: The 2020 season saw plenty of young players given opportunities at all clubs, and Hull were no exception. And one of the most outstanding rookies was Joe Cator, who played 13 first-team games and looks set to be a regular in the side for many years to come.
5: Gareth Ellis will not be playing Super League at the age of 40 in 2021. Ellis played his last game for the club against Castleford Tigers in the Challenge Cup Round 6 game on 13th September, after playing his final Super League game against Huddersfield Giants on 30th August. Ellis narrowly failed to beat Steve Menzies’ record as the oldest man to play in Super League.
Hull ended the regular season in sixth position and were unexpectedly handed the opportunity to compete in the redrawn six-team play-offs. They began them with a fine win against Warrington Wolves, before bowing out to Wigan Warriors one game before the Grand Final at the KCOM Stadium.
Hull’s penultimate game of the season was that excellent 27-14 victory over Warrington in the elimination play-off game. And it was a symbolic victory for Andy Last, given that the heavy defeat by the Wolves in March had catapulted him into the interim coach’s position.
Hull’s first game back after the lockdown resulted in a shattering 54-18 defeat to Salford Red Devils at Headingley, which was a complete contrast to the way they played in their opening fixture of the season at the same venue against Leeds. “I’m really disappointed with the manner of that performance. We have to go back to the drawing board, get our heads down and try to bounce back next week. While Salford stuck to their processes, we made far too many errors, gave them too much field position, and weren’t able to defend with the type of steel you need when you turn the ball over.” Last did secure some significant improvement, but not enough to secure him the top job.
Jake Connor’s form near the end of the season, when he moved to fullback after the injury to Jamie Shaul, was a major factor in Hull’s dramatic improvement in form.
Best young player
Ben McNamara made his Hull debut at the age of 18 against Castleford Tigers on 1st October, going on to make three more appearances and looking at home in the stand-off position. He will surely make more appearances in 2021. Joe Cator, incidentally, was 21 at the start of the season, which means he didn’t qualify as a young player.
Best overseas player
Carlos Tuimavave has been with Hull since 2016 and almost qualifies to be classified as a domestic player. He was outstanding throughout 2020, earning the club’s own player of the season accolade, and was given a new four-year contract in September.
Try of the year
Hull will miss their Fijian wing star Ratu Naulago next season and that was illustrated by the try he scored against Castleford in the Challenge Cup in September, when he combined with Bureta Faraimo at a 20-metre restart before surging through the Tigers’ defence for a delightful dash of 80 metres to touch down under the posts.
Quote of the year
“Lee and I have decided to call it a day. It was a decision that didn’t rest easily with me but I don’t think we’re going in the right direction at the minute and so we’ve decided to go our separate ways. I’d just like to place on record the unbelievable job that he’s done. He’s a loyal guy who works tremendously hard and has put his life into this club for seven years so we’re going to miss him. Lee is nobody’s fool and I think he realises that certain aspects of that performance are just not acceptable.” Club owner Adam Pearson breaking the news on Sky in March that he had sacked his coach.
Image of the year
Adam Pearson telling Sky Sports he was dispensing with the services of Lee Radford.
Hull were competing well with Wigan in their Super League play-off semi-final, before their centre Josh Griffin took it into his head to pat Wigan’s Oliver Partington on the head, following a Wigan knock-on. That should have led to a Hull ball in an attacking position, but instead Griffin was penalised and Wigan took control from that point onwards.
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