Hull RUFC and Wharfedale putting communities first ahead of their clash at the top of National Two North
The club currently sit fifth in the division ahead of today’s away tie against fellow high-fliers Wharfedale, after attaining an impressive four wins in seven games.
Despite this opportunity for long-awaited optimism, Hull’s director of rugby Mike Umaga remains cautious about their prospects as he aims for more long-term success – even to the extent of de-prioritising immediate promotion.
“There’s definitely an appetite for playing at a higher level, but this year is about resetting,” he said.
“If you want to make that step up to the next level, you want to be able to be there for a little while and not just one season, so it’s about getting those things in place.
“If I’m being honest, then probably going straight back up isn’t our top priority at this stage.”
This austerity appears to have been at least partially influenced by the recent troubles of other clubs, with Umaga experiencing the effects of this directly after his son Jacob was impacted by the financial collapse of Premiership side Wasps last year.
Shocked by that, the 57-year-old emphasised that survival is currently a central focus for clubs like Hull.
He said: “It definitely makes people take stock of what’s happening in the game.
“Hull, like all clubs, will be looking at how they can be mainstays in the communities that they’re in.”
The former Samoa international took up his present role with the club halfway through last season but is no stranger to Yorkshire, having previously spent seven years with fellow division rivals Rotherham Titans.
This affinity is not lost on Umaga, who welcomes this year’s strong White Rose contingency in National League Two – including eight other clubs from God’s own county.
The most notable benefit is the reduced commute, he explained: “There’s no secret that the travel is quite taxing, so it’s nice to be able to have those games that are only a couple of hours at most down the road. We’ve got some guys with young families and that was a big pull on a lot of players last year. (Now) we’re home at a reasonable time.”
Today’s hosts Wharfedale are another club in the ascendancy, with five wins and two losses so far this season placing the Grassington side just above their opponents in fourth.
Nonetheless, player coach Jake Armstrong revealed that this surprise start to the term is more about mentality than any tangible quest for promotion.
He said: “You have to hold yourself to a standard, and we’ve tried to introduce a standard of ‘promotion behaviour’. If we don’t get promoted, we’re absolutely fine with that.
“A few people laughed at me when I spoke about promotion, which is also absolutely fine because I know it’s very ambitious – especially in such a competitive league.”
This positivity is not merely restricted to the side’s on-pitch efforts. Armstrong expressed his pride in Wharfdale’s progression as a community hub, from developing their women’s team to the buzzing atmosphere created by its junior outfits for both boys and girls.
That, for Armstrong and the club, is what makes it all worthwhile.
He said: “It’s way more than just a rugby club. It’s a lot of people’s lives and weekends.
“I’ve played at multiple different clubs, and there is no community feel like there is at Wharfedale.”