Saturday the 29th July saw Hull FC beat Leeds Rhinos 43-24 in the Challenge Cup semi final in Doncaster and it also saw Tom Briscoe targeted by Hull. Time and time again he was exposed to high kicks by Albert Kelly and, mostly, Mark Sneyd and he was found wanting, being at fault for allowing many of Hull’s points to be scored. Many Rhinos fans and rugby league supporters cast doubts over Briscoe’s ability and confidence and questioned whether he should be in the first team picture.
Coach Brian McDermott stood by his man, defended him in the press and stated that the winger and his teammates were working on helping develop Briscoe’s ability in this area. As the season got to the business end and the pressure increased as the Grand Final began to loom large, his improvement was evident – against Hull in the semi final he was targeted early in the game and came up trumps, as he did in the majority of games leading up to that.
To cap off his vastly improved second half of the season, the former Hull winger delivered arguably his performance of the season in last night’s 24-6 win over runaway League Leaders Shield winners Castleford, scoring two tries for the Rhinos in a dominant performance. He could count himself unlucky to not have got a hat trick after having another try disallowed in the first half but, regardless, he seems to have got his confidence back and is now showing the ability which saw Leeds bring him over from Humberside to wear the blue and amber. I think last night was a fitting end to Briscoe’s season and his two tries were a deserved reward for knuckling down and battling through his rough patch in the summer to help his side recover from a disappointing 2016 to win their eighth grand final, beating their West Yorkshire rivals in the process. He can now go into the off season with his head held high and, hopefully, hit the ground running when the 2018 season comes around.
Briscoe is an example to all who struggle and how to overcome difficult periods and, last night, he reaped the rewards of his hard work – and Rhinos fans around the world will have stood and applauded him for it.