Friday, 9 September 2016

Sunday's Coming: Hunslet Hawks

This Sunday - Hornets Heritage Numbers Day, where we award our ex-players with their heritage numbers - is indeed a historical day. It will be the last ever game played by Hunslet Hawks before the South Leeds outfit ditches its buteon suffix to emerge next season as Hunslet RLFC.

Indeed it is a full on identiy realignment. Not only are Hunslet dropping the hawk, their fans have voted by 54%-46% to adopt the club’s original Rampant Lion badge, over the phoenix that was adopted when New Hunslet replaced the defunct ‘old Hunslet’ club in 1973.

Having visited us on the opening day of the season, Hunslet arrive to book-end 2016 having so nearly pulled off a historical victory over League 1 pariahs TOXIIIC last week.

It took a 78th minute Danny Hulme try to keep Toulouse's unbeaten record intact after the French part-timers* and long-time exponents of fair-play* led 10-6 at the break.

Hunslet edged ahead with George Flanagan's 42nd-minute try, and Simon Brown’s conversion but they fell agonisingly short of holding on Hulme backed up Mark Kheirallah’s break to break Hunslet hearts.

Indeed, the game seems to reflect Hunslet’s season in microcosm: highly competitive, but coming up just short . To compound this, they seem to be hitting form a little too late. Having whacked York 12-33 at Bootham Crescent and taken Toulouse to the brink, missing out on the playoffs (Hunslet are currently 7th) after starting the season as one of the favourites for promotion must be frustrating for coach Matt Bramald and the South Leeds faithful.

After the Toulouse defeat, Matt Bramald described his side as ‘crushed’ and ‘mortified’. Speaking in the Yorkshire Evening Post he said: “The players could not have given any more. The lads tipped absolutely everything into it. I would rather have been beaten by 40 points than for that to happen.”

“We had an 88 per cent completion rate, which was a fantastic effort in terms of skill."

He went on: “We just had to defend one set, but the try they scored would not have been out of place in a Super League game – three or four off-loads and a break, though the final pass was a mile forward.” Hmmm, sounds familiar that, Matt.

Hornets come into Sunday’s game knowing that a win over Hunslet - and a Barrow defeat at Toulouse - will see Hornets crowned ‘British Champions’ of League 1: the best UK side in the competition. In any other year Barrow and Hornets would be slugging it out for the top spot, but with the RFL now parachuting in fast-track Super League sides-in-waiting, it does tilt the equilibrium of the competition somewhat.

A Barrow win in France would see them return there next week for the promotion final - Hornets gaining a week-off and a home tie in the playoffs. A defeat opens the door for Hornets to get dragged down to Blagnac for another shot at Toulouse, before being chucked straight back into the playoffs.

Clearly, we would never ever suggest that there are advantages to finishing third (no exhausting travel, a week off to get some bodies back on board) - but the Super 8s format clearly needs some scrutiny if finishing second in phase 1 of the season and in the 8s gives lower placed teams playing and logistical advantages.

Sunday also sees the launch of the Hornets Heritage Numbers - where every Hornets player ever has been allocated a sequential heritage number.

Hornets will be welcoming over 100 ex-hornets from the 50s to the present day - and they will be introducied on the pitch before the game.

It promises to be a fantastic, nostalgic day that celebrates not only our club's rich heritage, but the guys in whom we invest our own passions for the game - who wear the shirt with pride and take the knocks on our behalf. Please do get to the game early and show your appreciation for these very special members of the Hornets Family.

Introductions of the ex-players is expected to begin at around 2.30.

*Not necessarily true.