Yesterday we started with the new team in Super League, as Wolfpack fans gave us their thoughts ahead of the 2020 season. Today we turn to an Old Faithful club and head over to the city of Kingston upon Hull to speak to Dan Tomlinson and David Cass. David helped out with our preview last year and returns to give his views for this year. Dan is the editor of ‘Up The Cream‘ – the Hull FC fanzine, website and podcast (www.upthecream.co.uk).
Our thanks to them both for finding the time to answer the following…
First of all tell us a little about yourself…
DT: My dad introduced me to Hull at the Boulevard in the late 90s. I spent most of my time there being chased by my Nan at the Airlie Street end and I haven’t looked back. Home and away ever since. Ran the Hull fanzine “Up the Cream” since 2015. I believe we’re the only one still printing.
DC: I’ve watched my club for as long as I can remember, probably coming up to 20 years. My first game was at the Boulevard vs Salford and I’ve watched Hull FC every year since. I try to make it to as many games both home and away as possible depending on work etc.
Sum up last season as a Hull FC fan.
DT: Twenty-Nineteen. Well it wasn’t as catastrophic on the whole as we all probably made out. Hull would be brilliant one week then defend like arthritic cardboard cut outs the next. Jekyll and Hyde. There was no in-between. The bad was really bad but there was some bloody good moments too; Golden Point at Wigan, unleashing Ratu Naulago, winning at Catalans twice, and putting a record score on the old enemy. Unfortunately they were comprehended with inconsistent performances and that derailed the season. Missing out on the play-offs was a right kick in the knackers, but this year will be different.
DC: Last season started pretty well, we wasn’t expected to have a good season by the media, other fans and even some of our own fans but at first I think we exceeded expectations. We was up and around top 4 for pretty much 3 quarters of the season. However it ended disappointingly losing pretty much all of our remaining games after losing the CC semi final to Warrington. Maybe it was a season too far for some of our ageing players and this was clear to see towards the back end of the season.
We welcome Toronto into Super League for the first time, meaning we now have 2 teams from outside of the UK taking part in Super League. So in three parts: a) What are your thoughts on Toronto’s promotion, b) would you welcome more expansion teams from across Europe and/or North America and c) what would your ideal ‘domestic’ Rugby League competition look like in 20-30 years?
DT: a) Toronto have had a great start but they’ve got a lot to prove yet. I won’t consider them a success until they are rolling out Canadian players and Canada are competing on the international stage, otherwise what’s the point? That will take time though, it’s still early days, but they’re doing everything right so far. They deserve their promotion. Toronto v Hull will the first Super League game in Canada too. We’re going and it’s another part of the world to see. I wish them well.
b) Rugby League is obsessed with expansion and that’s fine, but as long as it’s done right. Red Star Belgrade want to join League One soon. That’s all well and good, but they got smashed by Millom in the Challenge Cup last year. I want quality, not just expansion. Expansion teams have to add to the competition. Toronto did. That’s why they’ve worked so far.
c) That’s the key word isn’t it: domestic. The way we’re going Super League won’t be a domestic competition much longer, but a northern hemisphere one. We’re a working class sport that has always struggled with money. We need to be careful. Do we follow Super Rugby’s example and go all over the place, or do we get to a stage where North America has its own premier competition and they meet with both Super League and the NRL in some “World Club Challenge” like tournament? Personally I think I’d prefer the latter. I’ll go get my flat cap now.
DC: a) Firstly, I welcome Toronto to Super League as I think they bring something different, they play a great brand of rugby, encourage youngsters to get involved and also are great for the sport on social media. They earned their way into SL and wasn’t just put straight in, they deserve it and good luck to them.
b) I would welcome more expansion teams into Rugby League, it can only be a good thing, as long as they start from the bottom as did Toronto.
c) In 20/30 years I’d have loved to see rugby league on a more worldwide scale, all teams of their own country’s playing in their own strong domestic leagues would be great but I don’t think this is realistic. I’m happy with the way Super League is at the moment and as long as they earn their way in, other expansion teams would be welcome in my opinion. Catalans and Toronto are great examples for maybe a team from Spain or New York to work towards.
How do you think the Airlie Birds will go in 2020?
DT: Last season Hull got themselves into a superb position then blew it, so the absolute minimum expectation this year is a play-off place. Personally I want more than that. Hull have pushed the salary cap to the border of its legalities, so a top three finish and a final appearance must be the goal.
DC: For the first time in a few years I’m really optimistic going into this season. We have a very strong squad on paper, some new coaching staff to help our attack, which became a little predictable at times and we’ve sold as many season tickets for next season as I think we ever have at KC. I think we will win a trophy this season, I really hope it’s the year we go on and win the Grand Final, we certainly have a squad which is capable. I can speak for most Hull fans that the minimum expectations at this club is a top 4 finish and a good cup run. It’s the same every year but this year even more. A good attacking style of rugby league would be great to see.
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve?
DT: Hull’s recruitment for 2020 needed to be outstanding and luckily it has been. There’s eight new signings; Manu Ma’u, Josh Jones, Chris Satae, Ligi Sao, Mahe Fonua, Adam Swift, Jordan Johnstone and Joe Cator. You can’t not be happy at that. The squad looks sublime. It’s the pack that needed improving and the club have addressed that. If I’m nit picking, I want to see Hull play both an expansive and attractive brand of rugby, but as long as we get two points I don’t really care.
DC: Our recruitment for 2020 couldn’t have gone any better. I think we’ve made the best signings of any club in SL. Manu Ma’u, Josh Jones and Mahe Fonua obviously are the stand outs, but Tevita Satae, Ligi Sao, Adam Swift, Jordon Johnstone and Joe Cator are all great additions to what was already a strong squad. We have completion for places all around the pitch and I couldn’t have asked for a better off season.
Golden point was used in Super League last year – what are your thoughts on the system?
DT: I like it, how can you not like it when you’ve got Marc Sneyd in your side? Good old fashioned draws were rare anyway, and Golden Point adds both drama and excitement to the competition. That can only be a good thing.
DC: Golden point was a good addition to Super League in my opinion. Maybe I’m only saying this because we have won both our games but I feel it makes a win feel even bigger if you manage to win the game in GP, Marc Sneyd’s drop goal away at Wigan in 2019 was one of my stand out memories for the whole of the 2019 season.
Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?
DT: The third instalment of the Hull Manu’s; Manu Ma’u. He’s way too good to be playing Super League, as you’ll know if you watched Parramatta last season. Money talks though. He’s got some massive boots to fill as well. Sika Manu was immense for our club. Willie wasn’t bad in his time either. But this guy is top notch.
DC: The player to watch out for this season is Manu Ma’u. He comes with a really strong reputation in the NRL and was arguably playing some of the best rugby of his career for Paramatta and Tonga, I can’t wait to see him in SL 2020.
Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?
DT: Jordan Lane has won the clubs Young Player of the Year award two years running, and you’d be a brave man to bet against him making it a third. Jordan Johnstone or Joe Cator could make a case though, but that will depend on Danny Houghton’s fitness.
DC: I think Joe Cator will have a really big year this year. He was nominated for YPOTY in the championship last season and I think he’s ready for the step up into Super League. I believe he will start hooker in place of the injured Danny Houghton to start the season and he’ll be hoping to keep himself in the 17 each week afterwards.
Right, can you give us predictions…
DT: Top 5: Saints, Wigan, Hull, Warrington, Catalans; Grand Final: Saints v Wigan; Champions: Saints; Challenge Cup winners: Hull – we love a good cup run. Relegated: Given Huddersfield’s signing of Aiden Sezer, it’s hard to look past our noisy neighbours. Cheers Ken.
DC: Top 5: St Helens, Wigan, Hull, Warrington, Castleford; Grand Final: St Helens vs Wigan; Champions: St. Helens; Challenge Cup Winners: Hull FC; Relegated: Hull KR
Who will be Man of Steel? Do you agree with the way the votes are given out?
DT: Manu Ma’u really is going to be a revelation, but if Saints are going to pick up from where they left off then Jonny Lomax has to be up there. He was the best I saw last season, but he wasn’t even considered or in the Dream Team. It’s just a few blokes’ opinions though, so it’s pointless getting mad about it, but a system that awards a Catalans player points when they’ve just been spanked 50-10 by Hull needs questioning.
DC: Jonny Lomax. I agree with the way votes are now given out, the point scoring system focuses on how players perform each week whereas when the players voted, they may have only remembered what happened in the last couple of months of the season. Also some clubs/players didn’t take the vote seriously and voted for friends or even players who didn’t play all year!
Photo kindly supplied by Dan Tomlinson and published with his permission