Hooker Carlile determined to grasp opportunity at Hull KR

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THEY say good things come to he who waits. Keal Carlile has certainly done his hanging around.

If joining Hull KR last season and making just three brief appearances off the bench was not maddening enough it came on the back of an even more frustrating – and worrying – 2011.

Back then, while trying to push his claims at Huddersfield Giants, the young hooker underwent heart surgery to finally cure a valve problem that had initially been diagnosed at the age of three but had worsened as he began training daily as a professional rugby league player.

It meant the stocky rake from Pontefract, who started out under Steve McNamara at Bradford Bulls, would be sidelined for six months. All in all, there have been some difficult spells in the 22-year-old’s still fledgling career.

Before this season and since making his debut – and only game – for Bradford in 2008 he had mustered just six Super League games.

It means his current run of five consecutive appearances off the bench for Rovers – ever present this term, no less – is all the more satisfying.

“It’s been pretty good for me personally playing these games now,” Carlile told the Yorkshire Post. “I was always confident that when I got my shot I’d do well. It was just a matter of biding my time and, when I did get to play, taking it.

“It has been tough but I always realised I had to grasp this when it came as there’s so many good players here. If I messed up, it could be crucial to my career so I’m glad I’ve done okay.”

It is pleasing to see Carlile finally getting an opportunity to fulfil all his early promise. He played in the same England Academy side that was captained by current Leeds Rhinos star, and now full international, Kallum Watkins when they headed to Australia in 2008.

Also on that trip was Liam Farrell, the Wigan Warriors second-row this week named in Steve McNamara’s England elite training squad, plus Carlile’s former Odsal team-mate Elliott Whitehead who is also knocking on that door.

Other tourists such as Huddersfield’s Michael Lawrence, Bradford winger Jamie Foster, Leeds Rhinos hooker Paul McShane and another ex-Bulls colleague Jason Crookes, now across at Hull FC, have all since established themselves as Super League regulars.

Thwarted by a raft of high-quality hookers at Huddersfield – just ask Shaun Lunt about that situation – Craven Park seems Carlile’s best shot at being able to prove he has a similar pedigree.

He is likely to earn his first Rovers start when they head to London Broncos tonight in a televised contest.

England Knights hooker Josh Hodgson is suspended for one game while Australian dummy-half Lincoln Withers is still recovering from a toe injury suffered in training so Carlile should play plenty of minutes.

He has also shown his versatility, fitting in at stand-off at times this year while Rovers awaited the availability of Travis Burns, their star NRL signing who first had to complete a 12-week ban incurred at Penrith last season. Burns made his belated debut in the morale-boosting 
26-12 win over Warrington Wolves last Sunday, a victory that raised spirits considerably after a tough start for the East Yorkshire side.

“He had a big impact,” admitted Carlile. “He’s experienced in the NRL and I reckon he’s only going to get better; the more he plays, the bigger impact Travis will have.

“Obviously, he hadn’t played for a long time due to his ban but it’s pretty exciting to think what we could see from him for Rovers.

“It was brilliant to get that win under the circumstances but it’s gone now and that will mean nothing if we don’t back it up in London. We’re confident we can score points – always have been – it’s just a matter of strengthening our defence and we started to do that against Warrington. Our main issue is making sure we don’t give away cheap penalties. You’re always going to be on the back foot otherwise. The more you defend, the more tired you get. It’s about attitude and wanting to make the extra tackle.”

Defensive appetite is something Carlile has always boasted while his assured handling from dummy-half is sharp and swift.

He never truly doubted that heart operation would scupper his career and he is currently proving the point.

“It was pretty tough to take at the time but it was all positive,” he recalled. “The docs said I’d definitely play again. They were 100 per cent sure of that. But it’s nearly two years ago now and I’m 100 per cent fit and well.

“They always knew about it and I get a check-up every year but that has always been the case.

“It’s just a matter now of performing consistently. I’m a big believer you’re only as good as your last game. If you play well then have a shocker you could be out.

“There’s nothing guaranteed in this sport.”