Hull’s half-back search ends, sadly, in Australia

The news this week that Hull FC are set to sign young Australian half-back Jacob Miller from Wests Tigers has been hailed in the East Riding as a sign that the Black and Whites are now looking to the future.

As Miller is only 20 years old, it is fair to say that that is a truism. What may sadden some supporters, of both Hull FC and the game generally though, is that Miller is yet another Australian.

One has to ask questions when a city like Hull, one of the true hotbeds of the game in this country, cannot develop a single half-back who is good enough for Super League.

Richard Horne is a Hull boy, but his presence only highlights what a lonely figure he has become.

Hull Kingston Rovers rely on Australians Michael Dobson and Travis Burns as their half-back hinge, and it has been a long time since a Hull-born pivot really starred for either club.

Former Hull FC half-back Kevin Harkin, whose cousin Paul played in the same position for Hull KR, feels that modern coaching is at least partly to blame.

“Everything’s changed these days. We used to focus on the skills of the game and the game was a little bit slower,” he said.

“I think it’s all coached out of them now, from what I can gather. It’s all about structures. 

“Half-backs were allowed to play with flair and adventure in the days when I played. The half-backs were the playmakers of the sport.

“We don’t produce the footballers now. I don’t really understand it. Maybe the coaching now focuses too much on strength and speed.”

There is not an easy solution to the problem. But there are things which are being done.

Primary Rugby League, with its smaller sides and emphasis on youngsters getting their hands on the ball frequently is a great step forward.

Encouraging more touch rugby as a recreational activity might also help, as potential players get their hands on the ball more and have to think about skill rather than power.

But this has been an issue for too long which is only now being addressed. Let’s hope it will not be too long before both Hull clubs can have more local lads pulling on the number 6 and 7 jerseys before too long.

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