EDITOR’S COLUMN | What on earth has happened at Hull FC?

It was only just over a year ago that Gareth Ellis lifted the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, as Hull FC retained the trophy with victory over Wigan Warriors.

While those back-to-back wins were followed by play-off semi-final defeats in Super League, there was every reason to hope that that silverware could be the start of a successful era as the Black and Whites aimed to win the Grand Final at Old Trafford for the first time.

Embed from Getty Images

Fast forward 12 months, and Hull have just had 80 points put past them in a humiliating defeat at Warrington.

That was a seventh defeat in a row, in a run that also featured a 72-10 capitulation at Wakefield.

So how have things gone so badly wrong in the past year?

How badly have injuries hit?

Many teams have struggled with the volume of injuries this season, with Leeds, Widnes and Castleford among those to have had the most serious problems.

FC have undoubtedly been hit hardest in recent months though, ever since having to bring a player in from loan (Cameron Scott), sign a new one (Liam Harris) and bring a club legend out of retirement (Kirk Yeaman) just to have enough backs available for the derby with Hull KR at Magic Weekend.

Most crucial though is where those injuries have come. Hull boast, when at their best, three of the best half-backs in Super League in Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd and Jake Connor, but all have suffered lengthy lay-offs during the course of the season.

Embed from Getty Images

The stats would back up the impact – they have won 67% of their matches when all three have played, 33% with two, and 25% with just one.

In the last two matches they haven’t had any of the three and have lost both, and unless Sneyd, Lance Todd Trophy winner in the past two seasons, makes a return before the end of the campaign, they will remain without them all.

They have clearly lacked creativity in the most important position on the field in the absence of their key men, and it has been a hard ask for young Harris to step up and fill the gaps following his arrival from League 1 side Doncaster.

Jordan Abdull has really struggled since returning from his own injury spell, and chairman Adam Pearson slammed him after revealing he had handed in a transfer request a few weeks ago.

Does that excuse the big scorelines?

Creativity has understandably been a problem but does that begin to excuse the 72 and 80 points put past them in recent weeks?

The stuffing at Wakefield occurred when a number of big players returned from injury, with Jamie Shaul, Fetuli Talanoa and Sneyd all coming back in at the Mobile Rocket Stadium.

Embed from Getty Images

At the time it could be said that they were reintroduced too soon and lacked sufficient fitness, as coach Lee Radford looked to get a win on the board before the top four slipped out of reach.

Last Thursday proved that was not the case.

The bench was youthful perhaps, but Hull had their first-choice 1-5 backline in place and plenty of experience in the forward pack. There was no excuse whatsoever for conceding 80 points.

Anyone who witnessed it will have been in no doubt that there was a total lack of commitment to the cause, as the defence wilted time and again as soon as Warrington approached their try line.

What else has happened this year?

It has been a far from ideal season for the Black and Whites for a number of reasons.

Back in April a video surfaced online of Kelly, who was one of the three players shortlisted for Man of Steel last season, crudely abusing a member of staff at McDonalds.

Embed from Getty Images

The matter was dealt with internally and no major action was taken, and the club may have been blessed by karma when Kelly suffered an injury in the next game and spent a month on the sidelines, by which time the incident had been largely forgotten. The stand-off certainly hasn’t performed at the same level since, mind.

Before that was the furore around Liam Watts, a standout performer over the last few years but a player who struggled at times with discipline.

After being sent off in the home victory over Warrington in early March for a headbutt, the third time he had seen red in less than a year, the prop forward who had been widely tipped for an England call-up was quickly moved on from the club.

Embed from Getty Images

The problems could be seen to have started even earlier, and the tour to Australia along with Wigan for a historic Super League fixture in Wollongong. While the Warriors have proven that the travel had no long-term impact, it did prove to be the beginning of their rotten luck with injuries.

Are player changes needed?

Pearson hit out strongly following that humiliation, saying that they will “move players on who we feel have let the club down over the past two months.”

He said that “three or four proper signings” will be made during the winter, but also hinted at a big problem – that the vast majority of the squad have already been signed on for 2019.

Players like Sika Manu, Mark Minichiello and Danny Washbrook have been great servants to the club but are now into their 30s. All have been handed new deals though, which leaves less room in the salary cap to bring in new blood.


That is indicative of a priority of retention over recruitment in the past couple of years, which is all well and good when things are going well, but now that they’re not it looks like madness. It’s perhaps that very security for the squad, in trying to achieve consistency, that has led to mediocrity.

Will Lee Radford remain as coach?

Radford will have had a large say in transfer policy and will undoubtedly take the flak for recent performances.

Pearson has already given the head coach his backing, and after the success that followed his decision to keep faith once before when the knives were out early in Radford’s reign, that is entirely understandable.

Another game like Wakefield or Warrington might yet change the dynamic but it seems clear, if there is a conflict between coach and dressing room, where the chairman’s vote lies.


The money in the bank attained from back-to-back Challenge Cups and third-placed Super League finishes has now been raided though, and a good start to the 2019 season will be a must, particularly if Pearson keeps his promise and invests significantly over the winter.

What will the future bring?

There is no sign that Hull are prepared to rip up the long-term plan that had, until now, been building very nicely at the KCOM Stadium.

Along with the focus on player retention for the present, the club have been striving to keep retired players in the fold to tap into the experience and dedication from the past.

As well as Radford, people like Richard Horne, Yeaman and Ellis have all been kept within the club after retirement to form the spine of the backroom staff.

And that has been combined with dedication to the future, with a lot of time and effort going into the City of Hull Academy which is already providing a lot of promising young players into the first team.

Some errors may have been made and changes will follow, but the club is still heading in the right direction.

Subscribe to our weekly tips

We'll send you our weekly predictions once they're posted to NothingButLeague!

No spam, you can cancel at any time.

Other Articles

Leave a Reply

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Translate »