OPINION: Bring back the reserves!

As a Hull FC supporter, Sunday 22nd July 2018 went down as a very bad day for myself and thousands like me.

Having our beloved back-to-back Challenge Cup winning team ripped to shreds by Wakefield Trinity, coached by one of our previous Challenge Cup winners was more than just a bad day at the office, it was embarrassing. You could see it in club captain Danny Houghton’s post match interview that the players were embarrassed as well, and they felt the fans pain!

In his post match press conference Lee Radford accepted full responsibility, he said he had rolled the dice on certain players, bringing them back from injury maybe a bit too soon after some of them had been out for months.

Go back 12 months, almost to the day, Hull had been busy teaching Leeds Rhinos a lesson in attacking rugby league in a Challenge Cup semi-final. Two weeks before that semi-final a certain Mr Gareth Ellis had returned from long-term injury, in a game at Brantingham Park playing for Hull FC Reserves, to gauge his fitness, before playing in Super League and then the cup semi-final.

Against Wakefield, Lee Radford brought back Jamie Shaul, Marc Sneyd, Joe Westerman and Fetuli Talanoa from varying lengths of time out, and all looked very undercooked, as has been very well documented in the press and on social media, but did Radford really make the wrong call?

I believe not, he had to bring them back at some point, at the time Hull were facing two games when they had already qualified for the Super 8s, have a week off coming up at a time when they haven’t had that luxury since 2015, it looked almost like a bit of a pre season chance before the serious business starts.

However one thing I know that would have helped Radford, if he had still had the option, would have been an opportunity to test those players in a reserve league first, just like in previous years when he has had the likes of Gareth Ellis, Steve Michaels, Dean Hadley, Josh Griffin, Curtis Naughton etc playing in the reserves, against players like Danny Richardson, Brad Dwyer, Tom Lineham etc!

Having covered a lot of reserves games for Hull FC media, I know how much players benefited from it, when they could arrange games. I think Hull’s heavy defeat at the Mobile Rocket Stadium shows exactly what is wrong about not having a reserve league, something which needs fixing asap!

When I interviewed Neil Hudgell recently, he said he believed a reserve league is in the planning, and Super League CEO Robert Elstone had previously ventured to say that a club maybe shouldn’t be allowed in Super League if they didn’t have a reserve team.

Certain parties have been happy enough with the dual registration agreement between clubs. I’m not one of them. For me dual registration is an insult, a few months ago Hull FC signed teenager Liam Harris from their dual registration club Doncaster. He made his debut for the Black & Whites in their victory over Hull KR at Magic Weekend, and has indeed played more games since, making a big contribution with tries at Magic, and a sublime effort at home against Widnes Vikings.

As far as I’m concerned Liam Harris is a Hull FC player, and has been since he signed a two-and-a-half-year contract at the KCOM Stadium. But with the ridiculous idea of Dual Registration, since signing, and playing and scoring for Hull, he has gone back to Doncaster on dual registration and recently set two club records in one game for them, kicking 15 goals and scoring 38 points.

Another dual registration farce has been the backwards and forwards moving for Luke Briscoe between Featherstone Rovers and Leeds Rhinos. At times he’s played for Leeds during the week, then backed up a few days later playing for Featherstone. It can do his development absolutely no good whatsoever, he has signed a contract for Leeds, he should be playing for Leeds, or at least for a reserve team at Leeds, against players of the experience of the likes of those mentioned earlier.

A few weeks ago Brad Dwyer scored six tries in a game for Featherstone, because he couldn’t get a game for the Rhinos, a former Challenge Cup finalist and Grand Finalist, signed on probably a decent whack from Warrington, unable to get a game with the club he signed a three year deal with. It is ridiculous.

You also have to take into account the effect it has on players at Championship and League 1 clubs, they will be left out to accommodate players from Super League clubs, although at least certain ones do have the luxury of reserve teams to play for.

There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the thumping handed to Hull by Wakefield, a team who are very upwardly facing and were hungry enough to hand out that beating. The main one being that we need a reserve league. The sooner it happens, the better!