The season that spluttered out
When we previewed Hull FC’s 2021 season last February, we suggested that their performance in 2020 meant that a play-off finish would be essential in 2021, especially given the traditional high expectations from their supporters.
“Hull FC had a great end to last year under Andy Last, getting just one game away from the Super League Grand Final,” we wrote.
“Their lack of recruitment up to this point is perhaps concerning, but their faithful fans will be expecting their side to do as well this year, if not better.
“So Brett Hodgson and his side will have to be aiming for the playoffs this year.
“Hull FC have also been very successful in the Challenge Cup under Lee Radford so a Cup run would be a great chance for success in 2021.”
Unfortunately, their new coach Brett Hodgson couldn’t deliver in either competition, despite a hugely promising start to the season and a Challenge Cup semi-final appearance against St Helens.
Five things we learned from Hull FC’s season
1. No team was hit harder than Hull FC by the Covid pandemic in 2021. After they had played Huddersfield Giants on Friday 25th June, winning 17-10, they were in fifth place with a win percentage of 68.18%, well ahead of Leeds Rhinos, who were on 44.44% at that time. But Hull didn’t play again until they again faced Huddersfield on 22nd July, which they lost 40-26. And their performances declined to the point at which they finished the season with a win percentage of 40.48%, well short of Hull Kingston Rovers’ 50.00% record in sixth place. It’s hard not to believe that some of the Hull players were feeling the after-effects of the virus in the final months of the season.
2. Hull FC owner Adam Pearson made no bones about the fact that the club had faced a major financial crisis caused by the pandemic and especially the period in which there was an absence of crowds. He left everyone in little doubt that an urgent injection of finance is important for the club.
3. Such was the impact of injury and the pandemic on the Airlie Birds in 2021 that not a single player turned out in every one of Hull’s 21 Super League games. The highest appearance totals were made by Brad Fash and Ligi Sao, who both registered 20 games.
4. Hull FC won a thrilling derby 23-22 against Hull Kingston Rovers on Saturday 21st August, although the game attracted a crowd of 13,709, which is well below the equivalent figure of recent years. That suggests that Hull have some way to go to build back the belief in their supporters that they can be successful.
5. In an admittedly difficult year there were some bright spots for the Airlie Birds, with some local players now becoming established first-team stars, including Jordan Lane, Joe Cator, Brad Fash and Cameron Scott, all of whom played in the vast majority of Super League matches during the season.
The Airlie Birds finished in eighth place, with eight wins and one draw out of 21 games, giving them a winning record of 40.48%, scoring 409 points and conceding 476 for an average scoreline of 19-23.
On Saturday 8th May Hull inflicted Wigan’s first defeat of the season, beating them 20-10 in the Challenge Cup quarter-final, with Tevita Satae scoring two tries, Adam Swift a third and Marc Sneyd kicking four goals. Hull were able to beat Wigan even without Jake Connor, who was injured, and at the time it looked like the Black and Whites were set for a big season.
Nine days after defeating Wigan, on Monday 17 May, Hull were back at home. It had been 431 days since they had last played a home game with fans in attendance, although that match had seen head coach Lee Radford get sacked immediately after a 38-4 loss to Warrington. The roars of ‘Old Faithful’ and ‘Come on, you Hull’ echoed around the stadium as the 5,527 supporters who were allowed in made their voices heard, but their hopes were crushed as Hull lost 10-27 to the visiting Catalans Dragons, who gradually pulled away from their hosts in the second half.
Hull have a decidedly mixed record when it comes to recruiting players from the NRL. But in 2021 their two former NRL forwards Tevita ‘Chris’ Satae and Ligi Sao were both outstanding, with Satae winning all the club’s Player of the Year awards. Those two players will still be there in 2022 and Hull coach Brett Hodgson should build his team around them.
Best young player
Ben McNamara is still a teenager, but he played twelve times for Hull in 2021, including nine times in the starting line-up, and he surely deserves an extended run in the halfback positions.
Best overseas player
Chris Satae and Ligi Sao were both outstanding in 2021.
Try of the year
Jack Brown’s touchdown in Hull’s 64-22 victory over Leigh Centurions in June was the culmination of a flowing move during a period when Hull were still looking like serious play-off contenders.
Quote of the year
“It’s been the hardest time of my career by a long distance. The sport is in its most difficult point that I have ever known it. There’s a 35% reduction in the Sky TV money central distribution, which is a massive blow too. Everyone seems to be getting better media deals or similar deals and we have lost a third of our income from it. With all that and then the potential of getting any meaningful crowds in for the foreseeable future, it’s tough to take. It’s led to a lot of soul searching from myself, in particular, in relation to the future of the club.” Hull FC owner Adam Pearson, speaking in June about his personal worries for his club and the game.
Image of the year
Andre Savelio approaching the referee in Hull’s game at Wigan on Thursday 29th April and alleging that he had been racially abused. Wigan’s Tony Clubb was suspended for eight matches for having used unacceptable language towards Savelio.
in the Challenge Cup semi-final on Saturday 5th June, Hull were playing St Helens at Leigh Sports Village and were holding their own early in the game when Josh Griffin, running the ball out of defence, collapsed to the ground as his Achilles tendon gave way and, in agony, let go of the ball. It was immediately snapped up by Saints’ halfback Theo Fages, who touched down for a crucial score. Fages was roundly booed by the Hull fans, who thought the game should have been stopped. Griffin’s season was ended at that point and Hull struggled to recover from that disappointment.
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