First published in League Express, Mon 23rd Sept 2013
I take no pleasure whatsoever from Thursday night’s horror show involving Hull FC.
In fact, I find it strange that I even have to say that.
They’re my old club – my first in the pro game – and I always want them to win (unless they’re playing Leeds). But because of the circumstances involving my departure from the club in 1987 and the fact that I’ve criticised their team a fair bit over the years, I’ve been labelled anti-Hull by more than a few.
Not true, and I write this column as someone who wants what’s best for the club.
The bottom line is that, despite a Wembley appearance, the critics, including me, have been right this season.
The side is a million miles away from where it should be, which is fighting to be the best team in the league.
The team that reached two finals in 2005 and 2006 was very good, but since then the club has been a chaotic mess.
Some of the players on Thursday looked as though they couldn’t care less. The white flag was out from the off.
A never-ending catalogue of bad decisions have been taken, largely involving the appointment of off-field staff and the recruitment of players in the key positions on the field.
Their search for a halfback over the years is now becoming a soap opera. I don’t like singling out players, but if anyone thinks Jacob Miller is the answer, they don’t know Rugby League.
I was criticised pre-season for questioning the signing of Gareth Ellis.
Of course I know how good Gareth was for Wests. But it’s pretty obvious he’ll be on a fair whack at the club, and, for a club that has struggled to get the balance right when it comes to the salary cap, which previous coach Richard Agar has admitted, it was never going to be sensible tying up so much money in a second-rower.
Especially when they’ve lacked a top-class ballplayer for so long.
But the main criticism I got came last Easter from the club owner Adam Pearson.
I wonder now whether Adam is regretting buying the club. He seems to be well out of his depth.
And obviously he’ll now realise that I was right to ask early-season questions about them.
It’s up to him now to put things right, but I think it will take a while before they can recruit what they need, given the salary cap and their various contractual commitments.
Adam needs to do two things straightaway.
First, get rid of the top-six-is-okay mentality, which was still doing the rounds on Twitter in the build-up to the Giants game.
It isn’t okay. The club should be aiming for the top.
Second, he should refund every single Hull fan that attended Thursday’s game for their travel costs and the price of their ticket.
Lastly, to the 17 players who played in the game: you were an absolute disgrace to the shirt.
Fortunately the quality of the Leeds and Saints game gave us all a much-needed boost after the debacle of the night before.
I think everyone can now see that eight teams in the play-offs is far too many. It should be a top five, and this year’s play-offs prove that perfectly, although previous years haven’t been much better since the top eight was introduced.
It was a great game, and again Leeds didn’t lose their composure. The drop-goal was set up nicely with Kevin Sinfield moving it on to Danny McGuire, who slotted it over from a difficult angle.
Compare that to Jon Wilkin a few minutes earlier. He just wasn’t standing far enough back for his attempt.
These are the matchwinning plays, and it always seems to be Leeds executing them better than any other club.
There were other great games at the weekend, notably in Melbourne and Halifax.
I really thought the game between Fax and Sheffield was superb.
The big issue for Halifax was why they didn’t turn all their pressure of the first 15 minutes into points. They didn’t have enough variety alongside Scott Murrell.
Sheffield have a lot of semi-final experience, and in QLT they have a great player. In the end they just had a little bit too much class.
I’d like to thank Tony Abbott, who’s new behind the scenes at Halifax, for his hospitality on Thursday and for looking after Roland Green, Phil Lamb and myself from Wish Communications.
I’ve had some dealings with Tony over the last few weeks and I’m confident that his club is really going places.
Warrington’s Club Call decision was little surprise to me, despite a lot of people thinking they might pick Leeds.
The Wolves have the beating of Huddersfield in the forwards, and I think they’ll roll them over again and win by a margin of around ten points.
And I think they’ll meet Leeds in the final, who I expect to come back from Wigan with a win of around five points.