With all the talk about underperforming and underachieving teams currently dominating the narratives of Super League right now, there hasn’t been all that much chatter about the teams who have improved dramatically this season. What’s even more of an oversight is that two of these sides are in the same city. Hull is very much doing its claim for Rugby League capital of England a world of good with both its two Super League sides coming back from disappointing campaigns to be riding high this year.
Last season, both of the Hull sides finished outside of the play-offs, and indeed Hull FC endured perhaps their worst season in a decade. so far this season, it’s looking a little rosier on Humberside. As of this morning, Hull FC are second and still unbeaten. Only points difference is keeping them off the top at the minute Perhaps even more surprisingly, Hull KR are currently fifth with only the one defeat and one draw blotting their resumé. Both sides have been doing pretty well in the attendances department as well, with FC averaging just over 13,500 and KR getting in around just over 8,500 a game.
For FC, the rise this season is fairly explainable: they aren’t decimated by injury, and they have actual halves controlling the play. Having Richard Horne back is a massive boon to them, and he appears to be ably supported by Chris Thorman. Their injury problems last year may also have proved a blessing in disguise, as the legion of locally produced talent that they relied on last season has now matured into a core of talented Super League-ready players. With a back-line mostly made up of players who have come through the Academy system, it now seems that Hull FC have gone from having a threadbare squad last season to having a well-stocked roster that looks well equipped to get through this season.
Of course, it should also be pointed out that last season was an aberration anyway. The Airlie Birds have consistently been amongst the top sides in the competition and are the only side outside of the ‘Big Four’ to make the Grand Final. It’s worth noting that since the turn of the millennium they have won just as many trophies as Wigan. With a seemingly decent Academy set-up and a large core of local support in a modern stadium, Hull FC have everything needed to be a major side and once again they are proving worthy of the title.
For KR, it’s not quite so obvious where the change has come from. They haven’t brought in all that many players (although the few they have done pretty well). I suppose it’s mostly to do with the fact that Michael Dobson has had a full preseason in which to impose his rhythm of play on the side. Also their pack is really on fire this season and laying a foundation for their backs to work from. Perhaps most importantly of all, they’ve just had another season with Justin Morgan scheming away. Rovers’ position this season is fairly consistent with the improvement that they had last year, and after really shaking things up last year it seems that the relative stability of the last preseason has done the Robins a world of good.
The season is still fairly young, and there’s still plenty of time for both of these sides to completely tank. However I think both of these sides should finish in the playoff positions and Hull FC in particular should probably finish in the top 4. I’m sort of hoping that we end up with a Hull derby in the playoffs: if you see the passion that both teams show in a regular season Hull derby, can you imagine the levels of intensity when their season is at stake?
Hmmm, undone by gut feelings this week. I got both the Leeds-Wigan and Quins-Warrington games spectacularly wrong, and I unfortunately picked the wrong team with the right margin in the Cas-Giants game, which doesn’t count. I was saved by a clean sweep on Sunday, meaning that there’s no change in my prediction rate. My margin rate is going right down though.
Results: 20 / 35 (57.1%)
Margins 1 / 35 (2.9%)