Rugby league needs more Hulls: but are FC in danger of relegation? – Paper Talk

James Gordon
Rugby league needs more Hulls

Photo by Craig Cresswell/News Images

Big crowds, a shining example for IMG and relegation. It’s all the talk about Hull in the rugby league papers this week.

There’s plenty of positivity following an exciting Easter weekend, that saw six Super League games with packed crowds which broke the competition’s round record.

The kick-off of the Women’s Super League also set a new attendance record for the women’s game.

With the IMG vote looming on April 19, is rugby league on the verge of making a step forward?

MORE: Super League breaks attendance record with bumper Easter weekend crowds

Rugby league needs more Hulls

As we await the forthcoming vote from clubs on the IMG proposals, Gavin Willacy has a brief analysis on some of the headline statistics surrounding the current Super League clubs, particularly around attendance and population.

He identifies the top six clubs as Catalans, Hull, Leeds, St Helens, Warrington and Wigan, whatever the metrics – though we should point out this was written prior to Good Friday’s derby walloping by Hull KR.

There is some discussion over clubs who have population areas to themselves, as well as clubs that have nearby rivals – not just in rugby league, but in other sports to attract fans from. Sheffield, as an example, have to compete with two professional football teams and top tier ice hockey and basketball clubs.

But the biggest point is the success story of the city of Kingston-upon-Hull – with the two teams attracting 5.5% of the local population between them based on their average attendance figures.

A bumper crowd watched the derby on Friday at the MKM Stadium, as usual.

Willacy writes in The Guardian: “Yet Super League kicked off in 1996 without either of them. Basically, rugby league just needs more Hulls.”

But are Hull FC at risk of relegation?

Hull’s dismal form since winning their opening two games of the season has some speculating that they could be drawn in to a relegation dogfight.

That would be a more realistic prospect had Wakefield not suffered a horrendous start to the season themselves, losing eight of eight, only scoring eight tries in the process, and being kept scoreless four times.

League Express editor Martyn Sadler writes in his weekly column: “If I were coaching Wakefield, I would have my eyes set on Hull as the team I could realistically overtake in the battle against relegation.

“For several years, Hull have been in the habit of letting their fans down badly at home, often losing by cricket scores. It says a lot for their supporters that they stick with them and that they were able to attract such a wonderful crowd on Friday.

“It looks like a long, hard road ahead of the black and white half of the city.”

Sao staying on

Meanwhile, big Hull prop Ligi Sao signed a new deal with the club in the off-season, reports Hull Daily Mail.

He signed for the club in 2021, but the club has taken up an unreported one-year option to keep him at the club until the end of 2024.

It comes after speculation that the Samoa international could be leaving the club after their tricky start to the season.

Drinkwater deserved more respect

Warrington half-back Josh Drinkwater had the last laugh as he returned to former club Catalans and came away with the two points at the weekend.

Drinkwater was discarded by the Dragons at the end of last season after three years in the south of France.

But he was soon picked up by the Wolves, in the market for a new, experienced partner to marquee man George Williams – and with eight wins from eight, it’s been the perfect start.

Speaking to The Mirror before the weekend, Drinkwater said: “I thought I deserved a little more respect the way it went down but I understand rugby league is a business and he had to do what he had to do. I don’t hold any grudges. I’ve landed on my feet at Warrington.”

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