Liam Watts’ cross-city switch from Hull KR to Hull FC was confirmed last week, but we ask are transfers between rival clubs sensible?
Player transfers can easily spark up discussion between fans and pundits as to whether it was the correct move for the player, but when it comes to transfers to rival teams, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
The player could face criticism from their previous fans for not showing commitment to their respective club or even disturb a team dressing room with the thought that someone is signing for their next door neighbours and biggest rivals.
Ahead of his move, Watts requested a release from his contract at Craven Park, and prompted coach Craig Sandercock to come out and say he is not wanted at the club.
From a player’s point of view, if the transfer enhances their career then surely he can only be thankful to his rivals for their help.
He’s not the first to make the move between the two clubs.
The most high profile case of the two would be Paul Cooke, whose controversial cross city transfer brought with it a lot of negative publicity. The loose forward scored the winning try for Hull in the 2005 Challenge Cup success over Leeds but things went downhill for Cooke after the teams triumph. Intense speculation arose in 2007 when he handed in a resignation to the Black and Whites and announced his intentions of signing a three-and-a-half-year contract at Hull KR, the team he had supported since he was a boy.
This dream move for Cooke was at first left in tatters after the Rugby Football League blocked the move saying that he was still a registered and contracted at Hull FC even though he had revealed that he never signed a new three-year deal that he was offered. Luckily for the Black and Whites, the RFL found that there was evidence against Hull FC that they had accepted Cooke’s resignation with immediate effect which meant he could move to his boyhood club after all. The RFL’s actions saw Hull plan to take legal action against Cooke for a breach of contract but nothing materialised and the transfer went through with the stand-off making his debut for Hull KR against Huddersfield.
Cooke sent a statement out saying that he was unhappy with a number of aspects of his contract at Hull leading him not to sign a contract extension, which some fans may not have believed bearing in mind he had only said this when he wanted to leave, not earlier in his long career at Hull FC. Fast forward three years, and rumours speculating that Cooke was to make a contentious move back to the Black and Whites were quashed by Hull FC’s Chief Executive, James Rule, who told the BBC: “Paul Cooke has no future at Hull FC, has not signed a contract nor will he ever be offered another contract at this club.” Clearly, the members of staff that were involved in the saga were still possibly bitter at what had happened and had not forgotten the whole incident.
On the other hand, if we refer to one of Cooke’s former teammates at Hull KR, James Webster, who between 2005 and 2008 played for both Humberside teams, very little was said of Webster that affected his career. The Australian had previously played for Balmain Tigers and Parramatta Eels in the NRL before transferring to Hull KR who at the time were in the Championship. In his first two years of the former Eel signing, his impact was there to see, as he was part of the side that won promotion in 2006.
From then on, he was held with high regards as he helped Rovers maintain their Super League status in 2007 and 2008 with eleventh and seventh placed finishes respectively. Unfortunately for Webster, his time at Craven Park was cut short when he ended the 2008 season with a shoulder injury resulting in fellow Aussie Michael Dobson replacing him in being one of Hull KR’s three permitted overseas players.
The scrum-half’s exit from the club, where he had played 98 games, was a tough decision for Chairman Neil Hudgell to make. But Hudgell only had praise for the man from Sydney, telling the BBC, “James has been a leading light in the improving fortunes of this club. He came to the club at the most challenging of times and has built up a great reputation in and around the city. Not only has he been a front-line performer on the field, he has been a fantastic ambassador for the club off it.”
Webster had left his mark in Hull and from there; he was signed by neighbours Hull FC only to make a solitary appearance for the Black and Whites. From extensive research, it seemed the commitment and impact that Webster had at Hull KR saw him to become well respected in Hull, so much so, that his move to Hull FC did not seem to worry Rover fans at all.
Other players to have changed allegiances in Hull include Shaun Briscoe who is now at Widnes Vikings. Craig Hall, Josh Hodgson, Graeme Horne and Scott Wheeldon have all moved from Hull FC to Kingston Rovers over the last few years whilst Shannon McDonnell has been rumoured to be moving the other way, towards Hull FC.
These two cases that have been looked at show that depending on the nature as to why you want to leave a club, for a rival, is really the focal point as to how fans, pundits and members of staff at the club will react.
While someone like Webster had contributed greatly to the Rovers cause before leaving the club, Watts’ reception on his first visit back to Craven Park is likely to be in stark contrast.