Hull KR v Widnes Vikings: Injury-hit Welham hoping for sustained run with Robins

Hull Kingston Rovers' Kris Welham.
Hull Kingston Rovers' Kris Welham.
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KRIS WELHAM laughs when it is queried whether it makes him feel old given he has just been asked if he played for Hull KR against Widnes Vikings when both sides were in National League One.

That very title, opposed to the current Championship, illustrates just how long ago it was.

But Welham – the Rovers centre still just a green teenager when they beat Widnes in the 2006 Grand Final to earn promotion – is amused for other reasons.

The club’s vice-captain, who is finally shrugging off some woeful luck with injuries, explains: “Someone asked me earlier if my pace is still there after my broken leg. I said I think it’s old age that’s catching up with me rather than anything else!”

But he is still only 27 and for the record didn’t face Widnes, who visit Craven Park in Super League tomorrow, in what almost now seems a bygone age.

“I was just coming through that year (2006) and I think I played twice, against Whitehaven and Leigh,” says the England Knights star.

It is all much different now, for both sides. Rovers have been mainstays of the elite ever since that progression and, though it took Widnes a lot longer to be elevated (they arrived in 2012 via the licence process) and they initially struggled for consistency, they are currently in fifth.

All of that said, Denis Betts’s side are still seeking their first win at Hull KR in the summer era.

They were last victorious at Craven Park on November 28, 1993 when Great Britain internationals Stuart Spruce, Bobbie Goulding and Paul Moriarty plus the late David Myers were all on the scoresheet in a 32-10 Stones Bitter Championship win.

Rovers have won eight consecutive home matches with Widnes since but realise that matters little; Castleford ended a similar wretched record in east Hull earlier this season so Craig Sandercock’s side have forewarning.

While Widnes were progressing to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals last Sunday – ironically they were last at Wembley in 1993, too – Rovers had a spare weekend to prepare for this encounter, They had won four successive Super League games, including a rousing derby victory over Hull FC, before coming unstuck in Perpignan on Easter Monday.

“We picked up a few wins back to back in Super League only to slip up at Catalan,” admitted Welham. “That was probably a combination of tiredness and letting ourselves down a little.

“Coming off after that derby win was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had but it’s all pretty short-lived.

“We were travelling out to France a couple of days later and losing to Catalan so the emotions were up and down over Easter.

“But hopefully we’ll be straight back against Widnes. They are doing well themselves and have beaten a couple of the top teams so it’s by no means going to be easy. We know how tough they’ll be.

“But we’ve had a decent break and freshened up. There’s definitely potential here to crack on and get further up this table.”

For once in Sandercock’s often troubled three-year reign – he is set to sign a new contract – the Australian has a plethora of fit players at his disposal.

“Every position – wing, centre, full-back – has real competition which hasn’t always been the case,” admitted the Hull-born player who missed most of last year with a serious shoulder injury after fracturing his leg in 2012.

“So no-one can take their spot for granted. I’ve had Omari (Caro) on my wing recently and he’s going well as is Ade (Gardner) since he came from St Helens on loan.

“But Dave Hodgson’s back fit and up for selection this week while Wayne Ulugia has been going well in training too since coming in from Australia. He’s a confident lad and talks all the time. We can’t shut him up. I don’t know if that’s good or bad!

“When he gets his chance I’m sure he’ll be ready to give it a real go too. Personally, I do feel fine as well, 100 per cent fit and healthy.

“Hopefully I can stay like that the rest of the year and play a full season as it’s something I’ve not been able to do the last two.”