I don’t know if any other Hull fan agrees with me, but I think the trip to Wembley this year is full of a lot more excitement than last year. Last year, everyone was still petrified of the little monkey on our back of that song from the Dobbins across the river – this year however, things are different.
The monkey has famously disappeared off our shoulder and surprisingly, the Rovers fans have been a lot quieter, especially since they have to shout from the league below. Since we no longer have that added pressure, we can go into the game knowing that whatever the outcome, we can just enjoy the day and the occasion. Myself especially, was so nervous last year that I feel I couldn’t really enjoy the whole occasion and the day until after the final hooter, when about a tonne of weight fell off mine, 17 players and 20,000 other Hull FC supporters’ shoulders.
Obviously, playing Wigan, every fan will turn their head back to the Challenge Cup final in 2013, where Wigan famously nilled FC and won 16-0 (well, it’s not quite 50-0 is it!). This season though, the story is completely different. The majority of the FC squad are arguably in the form of their careers and, despite a few ups and downs, are still well in the mix to win the Grand Final.
Wigan have had, to their standards, a pretty poor season, currently sitting 7th in the Super 8s table. It must be said, injuries have hit them extremely hard this season, with the majority of the starting 13 missing at least 2 games through injury.
Having said that, the youngsters who have been drafted in like Liam Forsyth, Liam Marshall and Tom Davies, have all made very good accounts for themselves and are arguably the reason why Wigan made the Super 8s. Not only that, but their ability to perform in big games is something that every team desires, and so often from absolutely nothing Wigan are able to pull out a top draw performance.
This final won’t be as clear cut though. Let’s just say, if that final was to be played now, Jamie Shaul would not have been caught by Josh Charnley! The addition of Albert Kelly at the start of this season gave FC the flair in attack which has been missing for a very long time, and the forward pack, on their day, are unstoppable.
Look at the semi-final against Leeds. Although the first half was very open, in the second half FC just blew Leeds away, with Albert Kelly and the maverick Marc Sneyd grasping control of the game, alongside the forward pack who battered Leeds. So, from a playing side, this game will be a lot closer than 2013’s final, with Hull FC fans certainly taking a lot more confidence into the game.
Just a word on the Hull FC Fans; what an incredible bunch. The graphic to the right shows how many tickets Hull FC have sold, with red areas being sold out. Just look at that. What makes it even more special, is that graphic has been released 2 weeks before the game, so there is still plenty of time for that West Stand to fill up even more. Last year was the best day of about 20,000 people’s lives, and it has made them hungry for more. The fans are now expectant of success.
For once, I actually believe Hull FC go into this game as favourites, which, 4 years ago, was nowhere near the case. The tides have turned, and I think it’s time for Hull FC to turn this into greatness. That Challenge Cup is ours, and it’s here to stay.