AMID all the trials and tribulations of Hull KR’s meek start to the Super League season, Iain Thornley has offered a rare ray of light.
The rangy centre who joined from Wigan Warriors over the winter, has made an impressive start for his new club, bringing consistency when so many others have struggled for form.
It perhaps should be no surprise, though. Thornley won the Super League and Challenge Cup double with Wigan as recently as 2013 and, indeed, there were a few raised eyebrows when Warriors coach Shaun Wane didn’t try harder to keep him at the DW Stadium.
That said, he has had an injury-ravaged two years, making just 10 appearances for Wigan during that time. But he is certainly looking the part now.
Thornley will make his seventh successive appearance for bottom-placed Rovers tomorrow as they host Salford Red Devils – where he played on loan last term – and seek to finally secure their first win of the campaign.
The 24-year-old has especially done well considering he has not had a regular half-back to link with.
Injury-ravaged Rovers saw stand-off Terry Campese pull a hamstring on his first game back after a knee reconstruction last Sunday so the captain misses tomorrow’s match as does Albert Kelly, their other Australian half who sits out a third successive game due to his own hamstring problems.
“It has been hard as we’ve not had the same half-backs week in, week out,” Thornley told The Yorkshire Post, KR getting some comfort tomorrow with the return of prolific winger Josh Mantellato for the first time since tearing his retina in the opening day draw with Castleford Tigers.
“(Second-row) Maurice Blair’s been doing a great job filling in before Campo came back and was then out again.
“I expect he’ll be going back there on Sunday but injuries are part and parcel of the game and we have to just deal with it.
“It’s been up and down with Campo; at first they thought it was a really bad tear, then that he might only miss a week and eventually he’s been told it’ll be about four weeks.
“I think they’ll be careful with Alby, too; he’s just pulled his but we don’t want him coming back and tearing it. Matty Marsh has been doing well in his absence and we’re just getting on with everything.
“We know we have to fix things up quickly and, personally, I’m enjoying it all. Obviously, it’s not how we wanted to start out in terms of results, but I’m playing week in, week out which is great and I haven’t missed a match yet.”
Salford, perennial strugglers, have opened the campaign well, clearly improving under former Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens, now director of rugby at the club.
Thornley admitted: “They have started great and this is probably the best team they have had so far. They are really coming on under Sheens, Ian Watson and Martin Gleeson.
“I played for six or seven weeks there last season so I know a few of their boys but they’ve recruited well since, too. It’s going to be a tough game.”
As well as having different halves inside him, Thornley, who originally left Wigan when switching codes with Sale Sharks aged 18 and later played for Leeds Carnegie, is also getting used to his third new coach already at Craven Park.
Chris Chester was stood down last month with assistant Willie Poching taking over for two games. But now James Webster is in charge until the end of the season. He faces his first home game tomorrow and Thornley added: “I really like him.
“A few of the boys knew him before – I think Ben Cockayne played with him at Rovers – and he is a really technical coach and very detailed with what he wants people to do in terms of how he wants you running lines or positioned in defence.
“He is really specific and tells us which people he wants us to get at and how and that’s only going to help us a team.”
As well as Mantellato, young prop Kieran Moran is added to the Rovers squad and winger/full-back Kieran Dixon is recalled with the unused Kelly dropping out of the 19-man squad along with Shaun Lunt, the former England hooker who made his first appearance of the year at Huddersfield but then strained his calf.