I have never been as emotionally drained watching a game of rugby league as I was after the game at Hull KR.
Strangely enough I didn’t feel anywhere as nervous or pressured as the week before against Featherstone. Perhaps that was because the Featherstone game was a must-win game and one we knew only too well could be a banana skin and were always a danger of getting caught under-prepared.
Jukesy and his staff prepared meticulously and perhaps it was that which had me so nervous about that one. This game had less of that pressure as there was no need to focus or get anyone up for a visit to a Super League club live on Sky.
Whilst we were focussed on getting a win, and were well aware of the importance of a win, it wasn’t going to end our challenge if we didn’t pull it off.
I had spent all week playing the game down to all the Hull KR fans who were down working on the caravan show. There was some real banter and an air of anticipation. I started the day back at the show at 5.30am with some last minute finishing touches and got some friendly banter from the KR lads singing: “You’re just a small town in Wigan!”
Needless to say as I sit here on my stand writing this column they can’t be seen – let alone heard. I had an old friend of mine, Derek Thompson, as my guest. I met him about 15 years ago and he is a staunch KR fan.
We enjoyed the hospitality of Neil Hudgell and took our seats in the stand. I had heard earlier in the week at the show that one of the Willerby lads had raised some money to send a plane over the stadium championing the Black and Whites’ Challenge Cup victory. Sure enough as the game was about to start everyone was looking up. That’s what I love about this sport – pure banter.
As the game got under way Degsy, as I call him, was very excited taking a picture of me and my son Rocky each time they scored.
I can take the craic as he knows but Rocky wasn’t impressed and moved to sit with his mum. At that point we were 12-0 down and had been on two team warnings and I have to say I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to be our day, although I didn’t let Degsy know that.
We got into the game and played the most of it from then in their half and got some just rewards with an excellent finish from Sam Hopkins. At the interval, trailing 12-6, I was very confident we would win the game although one look at my fingernails would suggest otherwise.
I have said before that to many people think it is a given that a Super League team will ultimately beat a Championship side in the end but we are a Championship side full of Super League and NRL players, and to be fair Hull KR looked lost and shocked that we had come back and had them under the pump.
As Degsy quietened down and the Hull KR fans started to depart, the fantastic Leyther following raised the roof with: “Are you watching Super League?” It made the hairs on my neck stand up. It was a fantastic feeling and whilst initially I had no plans to go pitch side, I felt the sudden urge to do so.
As the hooter sounded and the celebrations started Gaz Hock shouted “Degsy” and was heading towards me.
It was like slow motion as I anticipated he was going to jump on me so I made the first move and thankfully he caught me. It was a great moment and one rightfully celebrated at the time before coming down to earth with the understanding that the job is still not done.
The winning song was the best of the year and there was a real sense of achievement. It’s hard to contain yourself and keep a lid on situations like that but Jukesy, Ando and Cookie manage to do it quite comfortably.
Jukesy reminded the boys where we were at in our schedule and everyone was in Sunday for the Cryo chamber and immediately focussed on the job in hand.
For me there was a sombre moment as I replied to the masses of messages on my phone whilst the ever calm Mike Latham drove. I always had the goal the same as last year’s which was to finish in the top six, to build on that and my personal risk with going on the full cap next year was not making that and having to up my personal investment again.
For now we can recruit on the full cap safe in the knowledge that the worst case is that my investment stays the same, but there is now a very real chance that no investment will be required at all and I must confess to that I poured a very large expensive Cognac.
The job is far from done but I believe it was a stage that deserved some celebrating. Saturday is now a massive game and sees the return to Leigh of a top quality former half-back of the club in Jamie Ellis and we all know how good the master Danny Brough is.
Huddersfield are full of top quality players and will be perfectly prepared to halt our winning run. We will need to be at our very best to have any chance of realising our dream and doing it in a way many thought impossible without the need of the MPG. Be sure to be there just in case!