Well what a week that was. I can honestly say I have never felt as nervous or pressured over a game of rugby before and I have been involved in a few big ones.
I am not sure if it was the amount of respect, deservedly so, that we paid Featherstone and how much we built them up but I was nervous all week down in Hull supervising the build of our show stand. Perhaps adding to that was all the banter with the Hull KR fans down here on site working for the various caravan manufacturers.
Even my good mate richo was nervous and kept reminding me how difficult it would be down there. The mood of the Hull KR fans down here visibly lifted after what could prove to be a massive win over Salford. Whilst Richo and the lads watched the Wigan v Saints derby I listened to live commentary of Salford v Hull KR with anticipation.
I make no secret of the fact I wanted Salford to win not just through my friendship with Marwan but them being a local side.
I also must admit that in principle it would likely benefit us more having beat Salford if they took points from Hull KR but that wasn’t to be and Hull KR deserve every credit for their victory and, as their fans down here pointed-out, they have only lost to Leeds who are the big favourites which is a fair point.
As the day passed we were hitting some straps of our own on the show stand and whilst it was Richos birthday I decided to sneak him off to the local boozer to catch the London v Leeds game.
Amazingly the landlord informed us he only had two boxes and they were occupied with Sky Sports News for his football accumulator and the other with cricket!
Now even our very own Mike Latham wouldn’t stand for that!
So with our tails between our legs we headed to a different venue to see if they had Sky, having been told no other pubs in the village had it.
Richo headed in to do a recky and rather bizzareley, whilst waiting in the car park for him, a black BMW pulled up at the side of me wound the window down and beckoned.
“Now then, what are you doing in Hull?”
The voice was that of Neil Hudgell, the owner of Hull KR!
Who would have thought that two club owners about to face each other for a massive game would meet for the first time by coincidence in a pub car park!?
I had a good chat with Neil who is a really nice guy and understandably so was very pleased and relieved with his win.
We didn’t get to watch the game but some credit must go to Hendo for a good performance which saw them keep close to Leeds who had been blowing everyone away.
As we headed over to Featherstone on Sunday I felt no better and even a couple of beers on the journey didn’t seem to calm the nerves.
Chatting to Jukesy on the way didn’t help either as he was feeling exactly the same way. Ultimately I put it down to the fact that the two wins over Salford and London had given us a dream start and we didn’t want that to come undone here.
I arrived at the ground and the first person I bumped into is Neil Hudgell and we resumed our chat before joining Marc Campbell for a beer and a good catch up.
I like Marc - he is a rugby man through and through and I can’t help but feel that over time he will take Featherstone to Super League.
He knows his onions and he will use the increased funding wisely. I believe he will cement their position in the top four and build from there which unfortunately Halifax and perhaps more desperately Sheffield were unable to do.
Fair play to Sheffield however, for having a dig at going full time which hasn’t worked for them, and has left them facing ruin which is something I genuinely hope they can avoid.
An interesting point raised by their CEO in the press was the situation they find themselves in having not maintained the funding, but still responsible for the full time contracts.
He apportions some blame to the RFL for not thinking this part through but I don’t agree that any responsibility lies with them in this regard and the onus should firmly be with the club to ensure it protects itself in the contracts it enters.
I have always known the risk of not making fifth and sixth this year, having funded it last year, and was well aware of the biggest risk I was entering not making the four at all.
You can protect yourself from this, although some players may not sign on that basis, but those are risks you take.
But in my opinion you should only take them if you can afford to and more importantly are prepared to fund them. I hope that the agents involved can assist in negotiating with the club so it can continue as nothing is to be gained from them going to the wall.
So after eight minutes my nerves had found a false sense of security as it turned out as we ran in two quick tries in succession to gain a 12-0l lead.
I thought we were going to have a perfect performance but I couldn’t have been further off the mark.
We lost Big Fui before the end of his first spell, not to return and again.
Ticks put in a sterling stint to make the numbers. In the end we got through it and it was perhaps fitting for Gaz Hock to barnstorm his way through four players to seal the victory that puts us in the perfect place for a chance to kick on after a break.
It will hopefully be long enough to re-grow my fingernails!
This week sees our annual presentation night at the LSV.
It is a prestigious black tie event that will top any other presentation night preceding it at the club.
A champagne reception starts the night with entertainment from a high quality table magician as people settle in before a fantastic three course meal sets the appetite for the nominations of try of the season, players player, coaches player, club man of the year and a special award selected by me.
There are also two other special presentations and a little bit of business may also be concluded on the night.
The stage will then be taken by a top sports comedian, who’s name eludes me in the middle of a field in Hull, before the amazing vocal entertainer Martin Gregory Lambert brings down the curtain on what we hope will be a memorable and well deserved night for our players, staff and equally as important their wives and partners.
Their whose support is outstanding and much needed.
Be sure to follow our Twitter for live updates throughout the night.
I can’t sign off without mentioning the prestigious Challenge Cup Final this weekend, and perhaps more so given that I will be down in Hull watching it.
My mate Scott Tasker sent me a Wembley polo shirt for the black and whites which I agreed to wear if they got to the final.
We have a really good relationship with Hull FC and have had some assistance from them through Motu Tony and Lee Radford whom my coach has built a good relationship with so I am really pleased for everyone connected at Hull.
Part of me hopes they can win the final for that reason.
Equally I have a good relationship with Simon Moran, for whom I have the upmost respect for, what he has achieved and invested into Warrington and I would certainly share a smile for him if he were to be victorious.
It is nice to be able to watch a great game of rugby league with no pressure where I can be happy with either outcome.
So who do I think will be the victors?
Well when Warrington did a job on us in the pre season friendly their defence was rock solid and they attacked with flair and pace.
After that game I tipped them for the double and they are in with a shout of achieving that. Tony Smith is a master in the one off big games and he will have his troops mentally prepared with a mastermind game plan.
On the other hand Lee Radford’s tough, no nonsense persona can be seen in the team he has built that is very physical and extremely tough yet also pacy.
The performance against Wigan was the performance of the season with Gareth Ellis outstanding.
Interestingly the Challenge Cup is one honour that has eluded him and time is running out for him so maybe that will be the edge that can make a difference in such a game.
Whilst Warrington have class in the 1, 6,7,9 slots I believe that when Hill and Simms leave the field Hull with have too much power for them and if they perform like they did in that Wigan game and defend like their last two outings – nilling their opposition – I think they wil edge a very tough physical contest.
In the end the biggest winner will be the great game of rugby league.
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