Terry Campese: Still opportunities for rugby league to widen its appeal

Hull Kingston Rovers' Terry Campese.' Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Hull Kingston Rovers' Terry Campese.' Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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Hull Kingston Rovers captain Terry Campese blogs exclusively for The Yorkshire Post.

June 8

Hull KR's Terry Campese. Picture: Simon Hulme

Hull KR's Terry Campese. Picture: Simon Hulme

We had a bit of disruption in the camp before our win against Wakefield last week so it was great to pick up a much-needed win.

Big raps to Kieran Dixon because he wasn’t even in the initial 19-man squad but he got a late call up and took his opportunity by scoring a hat-trick.

I was really pleased too for young Matty Marsh at full back. It’s a new position for him and it will take a bit of time for him to settle into the role but he had a couple of really nice touches. I think full-back and hooker are the most important positions these days so the more games Matty can play in that position the better he’ll be.

It was a good team performance from us but we’ve got six more matches before the split and we’ve got some tough teams coming up, starting with Wigan at home on Friday.

They’re a team with quality players all over the park and Sam Tomkins is starting to show some glimpses of getting back to form. He’s coming back from a serious injury and I know that it takes a while to find your groove, but he’s an elusive player with the ability to play what he sees in front of him. He’s one player we’ll have to keep an eye on but Wigan are a top team and we’ll need to up our game.

After our win against Wakey on Thursday night, it was good to have a bit of time off over the weekend. The weather was even nice for a change too!

We went over to Leeds on the Friday for a night out as a team with our wives and partners. It was great for the girls to have some time together and for everybody to let their hair down a bit, not that I have any left to let down!

I then went to watch Coldplay on Sunday night with Josh Mantellato and the girls which was really good. As a band, they’re certainly living the high life as musicians! Unlike athletes, they can do whatever they want the night before a gig, eat whatever they want and then still pull in massive crowds like that! I’m not complaining though, I love playing rugby league.

Looking over at football at the moment, they’ve got the Euros coming up. I’m not sure that in rugby league we’ll ever get to the stage of having such big tournaments like that but we’ve just got to keep plugging away and working on key areas like the Magic Weekend, getting a high quality team down in London and in Cumbria, and probably another team in France.

In 10 years, who knows? I hope it’s as strong as it can be. We’ve got the World Cup coming up as well to put those other countries on the map. Personally, I think there’s enough talent to support a strong international set-up but only if we make players stick to their respective nations and not switch allegiance all the time.

I see Rugby Union doing some great things with the Sevens set up as well and I think there’s some lessons to be learned from that in terms of taking the sport to new places and drawing in big crowds.

As for the Euros, Italy is obviously my team. I’m proud of that heritage and I’ve got an Italian passport so I hope they do well. I think they’ll compete and be there or thereabouts but I don’t think they’ll win it.

Now that I live over here in England, it would be good to see the English do well. Being over here made me realise just how fanatical the supporters were so it’ll be good to see them go well for the fans.

June 1

We’re playing in front of the Sky Sports cameras against Wakefield tonight and I’m looking forward to taking part after missing our game at the weekend.

Wakey are going really well since our former coach Chezz (Chris Chester) went there and they’re throwing the ball around a lot which is good to watch. Hopefully it’s a great spectacle for TV and I’ve heard we’re bringing a decent following over. The two clubs got together with a deal on tickets and the RFL have laid on free travel too with it being a Thursday night so there should be a good crowd and atmosphere.

A lot has been made in the media about us facing Chezz for the first time but I don’t think there’ll be much emotion for either side. That’s rugby league really.

You play against old team-mates all the time or face coaches who used to be at your club, it’s just part of the sport. You learn to live with it and it’s just going to be another game for us. We’re focused on getting the two points and a much-needed win against a dangerous team playing with a lot of confidence.

Anthony Tupou is going well for them and Jacob Miller is one of the form halves in the competition at the moment, so we can’t take our eye off Wakefield for a second because they can really hurt you. We’ve just got to turn up with a defensive attitude, be ready to dig deep and work hard for each other.

We’ve not given up hope of a place in that top eight. We’ve got seven games left and we’re going to have to go on a bit of a run. Wakefield have done it this season as have Hull FC, so it’s down to us to do the same but we’ve got to take it a week at a time. It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s true.

We’re starting to get some troops back too which helps. We’re still missing half a dozen players but this is the healthiest we’ve been for a long time and that will help.

On another note this week, I was disappointed about the State of Origin result in Australia. I’m a proud Blue and New South Wales were on the end of a narrow 6-4 defeat to Queensland in the opening match of the series despite having plenty of ball and some good chances.

It looks set up to be a close-fought series though so let’s hope NSW can get the win in game two and set us up for a decider.

May 26

It was certainly good to get back out there with the boys at Magic Weekend!

It’s been a long time coming but I felt good and really enjoyed it, even though the result didn’t go our way in the derby.

After we scored that try through Graeme Horne at the start of the second half, we had to defend five or six sets on our own line and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game really. Hull FC are a good team and they’re challenging up at the top of the table, but for me it was just nice to be back out there with the lads.

I’m obviously disappointed not to be playing this weekend against Catalans because I wanted to back up and go again.

I returned ahead of schedule and pushed myself as hard as I could to play against Hull FC but having three games in 12 days just isn’t the best thing at the moment, particularly with the travel involved to the South of France this week.

We’ve got a long journey on the day of the game to Catalans and then a short turnaround to Wakefield the following week, so it just doesn’t make sense unfortunately. We’ve sat down with the medical staff and the best decision we’ve come up with is for me not to play this weekend but then be fine for Wakefield and the rest of the season.

The plan for the rest of the boys is to charter a plane and fly in and out of Perpignan direct. The scheduled departure times aren’t too dissimilar to Magic Weekend and I thought we started that game with plenty of energy. The squad will be flying out of Humberside so hopefully we’ve made the best of the cards we’ve been dealt this week.

It will be a tough game and I’m gutted to be missing it. We’re doing it tough with injuries but we could do with the two points if we’re going to make the eight and that’s been the focus for us this week.

Catalans are a big, strong side and they’ve got pretty much a full pack ready to go. They’ve got class all over the field, but it’s a game we need to try and win. They’re without Richie Myler in the halves but Todd Carney is a very good player.

I used to play with him at Canberra for many years so it would have been good to have played against him this weekend. It’s always good to play against somebody you know well, it makes it a bit of a challenge.

When I did my hamstring for the second time this season, I actually spoke to him about his hamstring injury last year. His was one of those neural ones which is hard to detect but we had a chat about what he did for his recovery and what worked for him.

Last year, he was in and out with the team with injury but this season he’s been playing pretty much every week and he’s made a home for himself over in France.

May 20

Fingers crossed, if all went well at our final training session tomorrow, I might be back playing on Sunday against our big rivals Hull FC.

It’s always good to be playing after sitting on the sidelines so I’m really hoping I get to put the mighty Rovers jumper on once again on Sunday. I’m feeling good, I’ve passed all the tests and I feel ready to play.

After the great reception and send off to Roger Millward last week, I wish I could have played in that game against Widnes but it was still great to see everybody turn out and send him off the way we should have.

He’s a legend of the club and you could tell the boys were into it. It was a good performance and we got a much needed win but this week it’s a completely different proposition against the form team in the competition.

They’ve got a fully fit squad to select from so they’ll will be red hot favourites. They beat us earlier in the year and they’ve won a lot of games since then so whatever squad we end up going with, they’ve got to be on their game.

It’s the Magic Weekend and all eyes are on us. We’re the last game of the weekend at St James’ Park on Sunday night and it falls on us to end the weekend with a bang. If I get my opportunity to play, then hopefully I can do the team and the supporters proud.

I love the concept of Magic Weekend and I’ve said a few times that I think it’s something the NRL could adopt. I think it works well and it’s great to see all the fans having a good time. That’s the most important thing and it’s promoting the game in a new area too.

It’s a footy area mainly up in Newcastle but I firmly believe rugby league is the greatest game of all and we get to take this tough, entertaining sport up there and show everybody what it’s about. The more we can do these kind of things, the better.

I will say though that I think the RFL needs to look at the derby and whether we should be playing Hull FC up there. For me, I think we’re playing each other a bit too much at the moment and it does dilute it a bit. Saying that, it will still be a bruising game and both teams will give their all. Let’s just hope it’s a cracker that fans are still talking about in a few years’ time, like that David Hodgson try a few years ago.

A final mention this week to Connor and Mark who are over here staying with me and the boys at the moment. My foundation back in Canberra auctioned off a prize for somebody to come over and enjoy Magic Weekend. One of my good mates back home bought the tickets and he’s donated them to CanTeen Cancer, a charity I’m an ambassador of.

They’ve selected a couple of kids with cancer to come over here. They had to be old enough to travel alone and get the okay from the docs, but Connor and Mark were the ones chosen and they will be our guests on Sunday.

They arrived yesterday and this will be the biggest game of footy that they’ve watched. It will be a special occasion for them and hopefully we can put on a performance for them.

May 12

I couldn’t say anything about it last week, but it’s now been confirmed that the club has retired the No 6 shirt in honour of Roger Millward MBE after he passed away.

He’s a club legend who’s done a lot for the game and it will mean a lot to his family and his legacy. I think it’s a great gesture from the club to do that and it means I’ll be moving squad numbers for the rest of the season.

It’s pretty cool knowing I’ll be the last person ever to wear the No 6 jumper at such a special club with a lot of history. A lot of great players wore that number in the past with obviously Roger wearing it as well. It’s a number that means a lot to this club.

I just wish I’d had a bit more time in that shirt and given it a bit more this year. I wish I’d worn it for more games and done some good things in it this season, but sadly that’s not been the case.

For me personally, I’m not superstitious about numbers or anything like that. I’d worn No 6 all my life before joining the club but I was No 23 last season. I’m a big basketball fan and people like Michael Jordan and LeBron James wore that number so I was chuffed then to be wearing a number that those legends in different sports had worn.

It doesn’t bother me at all now, but I get to wear the No 32 that was worn by the great Dane Tilse last year! I’m definitely stepping back a few levels there, bless him!

My job now is to get out there this season and do the No 32 proud, and my rehab is coming along well.

I’ve had a few days resting the hamstring but I’ve been back on it and feeling good. I’d been pushing myself to get back for Magic Weekend and help the lads, but the Wakefield game is more realistic.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks out on the training field for everybody though. We were gutted to go out of the cup the way we did against Oldham. We all wanted to give it a good crack this season, but it gave us a weekend without a game last week.

There’s plenty of lads carrying knocks who needed an opportunity to rest up, but we used the time productively and the coaching staff were pushing the lads hard on the training field to make some improvements for when we play Widnes on Sunday. It gave us some time we wouldn’t usually have to do some work on our skills and our defence, so hopefully that pays off against the Vikings.

It’s going to be an emotional afternoon at the KC Lightstream Stadium as we all pay our respects to Roger Millward and it would be good to mark the occasion with a win.

May 6

The club lost somebody very special this week in Roger Millward MBE who sadly passed away on Monday.

I never got to see him play live, he was a bit before my time, but he has a great legacy at Hull KR and you can see what he means to people at the club. He’s spoken very highly of by everybody who knew him and they say he was a great guy off the field as well who had time for everyone.

We’ve had supporters coming in and out of the stadium all week to pay their respects and lay flowers in one of the stands. I thought it was a great idea to do that from whoever came up with it at the club and great to see the amount of support he’s had.

People have even given up their Rovers jerseys and hung them in the stand which goes to show the man he was and the kind of support he had.

The club are hopefully going to put a special celebration on for him next weekend when we play Widnes and that’s a great chance for Rovers fans new and old to come out and pay tribute to the man he was and the great player he was for this club.

Personally, I’ve only seen clips and highlights of him when I was doing some research on the club before I signed. I wanted to catch up on some of that history before I came across because the sport has been going a lot longer over here compared to Australia. I wanted a bit of that knowledge behind me.

Even now, my son watches clips of Hull Kingston Rovers on YouTube all the time and Roger Millward crops up a lot. I just type “Hull KR” in for him and he goes crazy watching all the videos. A lot of stuff he ends up watching are highlights from back in the day and you can see what a great player he was.

Speaking of my little one, he goes to school in the dark side of town (that’s the Hull FC part) and he gave me a pretty funny moment a few days ago which helped lighten the mood a little after a difficult week for the club.

I went to pick him up from pre-school and I could hear people singing Red, Red Robin when I walked in. The teacher told me to sneak into the back of the class and there he was leading everybody in singing the club’s song! He’s somehow persuaded the teachers to put it in the class’s end of term school concert!

I was pretty chuffed that he convinced the teachers to do that and it was a special feeling to see how much passion he has for the club and the job that I’m in. It was pretty funny too seeing all the little girls and boys walking out of the class still singing the song. A few of them probably went home singing Red, Red Robin to families who support FC!

April 28

It’s been a big week for the international game in rugby league with plenty of talking points!

First of all, welcome to the Toronto Wolfpack, a new side that’s been set up in Canada who will play in our own League One over here next season. It’s a big step and I think a lot of people are waiting to see how it pans out.

Back home in Australia, the international side has been named to play New Zealand in the traditional Anzac Test and it’s certainly got people talking.

There’s a few of my mates and a few boys I’ve played with who have been selected so I’m pleased for them. However, the big talking point has been Semi Radradra being selected for Australia and changing his allegiance from Fiji. If we are to grow the game of rugby league internationally, we can’t be doing that.

We’re competing against rugby union which has probably got the best international set up in the world after soccer, so to be taking a player from a developing nation and selecting him for one of the strongest countries in the world doesn’t seem right to me.

That’s something they’ve got to look at and I’ve heard they’re looking at getting Josh Hodgson, a local lad from Hull who used to play for Hull KR, to play in State of Origin this year. He’s been the standout player in the comp over there and plenty of people have been talking about getting him involved in Origin, although I don’t know whether it will happen or not.

Again, I think it’s wrong to select an English kid who loves playing for his country for New South Wales. It’s happened before with Queensland selecting some players that I didn’t agree with either.

Over there, it goes on where you first went to school and I’d compare it to the rivalry between ourselves and Hull FC. I don’t see how players can swap from one club to the other because that rivalry is so fierce.

Back in Aus, you have kids born in Queensland who go to school in New South Wales and play for them in Origin, and vice versa. I don’t know how they do that and it’s not something I’d be comfortable with. I grew up supporting New South Wales and was lucky enough to play for them, but I never thought about playing for Queensland.

Closer to home, we had a fans forum on Thursday night for our supporters at the KC Lightstream Stadium and I volunteered to be on the panel.

As club captain, I think it’s my duty to go along and talk on behalf of the players. There’s a lot of people out there who throw criticism at certain players without realising their importance to the team and that’s always hard to take.

We’ve not been good enough at times this year and we’ll hold our hands up and admit that, but we’ve done it tough with injuries too and all the boys have put in the effort.

At the weekend against Castleford, we had the least injuries we’ve had pretty much all year and we showed what we can do. The whole squad went there to cheer the boys on and it was a much better performance.

We had some players back who made a massive difference and the ball bounced our way too, which happens in rugby league. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves though, we’ll take the positives from it, but it’s all about consistency now.

We play Salford on Saturday and I thought they were outstanding against Catalans last weekend. They threw a lot at them and we’ve got to be ready defensively for what they’re going to do.

Similar to us last week, they’ve had a tough week with plenty of adversity after getting docked six points for breaking the salary cap. They can go either way this week, they could put in a massive performance in response or it could affect them a little bit.

We won’t know until the weekend but we’re expecting them to be at their best and we’re just focusing on ourselves. All of a sudden after the season we’ve had, the top eight is within reach now so it’s a bit of motivation for us too to win some games on the bounce and get back in the hunt.

April 21

It’s been a really difficult week for the club on the back of our defeat to Oldham in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup last weekend. First of all, credit to the Oldham lads, they turned up ready to play and deserved their victory.

They’ve been drawn at home against Warrington Wolves in the next round too which is a great game for them. I’m sure they’ll give it their all and hopefully they can make a bit more money from that tie to really help out the club as well.

From our point of view, our performance wasn’t acceptable and there’s not much more I can add to that really. It wasn’t good enough and it’s one of those situations where as a player you just want to get out there straight away, play another game and make up for it.

We’ll have to wait until we play Castleford on Sunday to get back out on the field and we’ve spoken as a group about actions speaking louder than words.

This weekend marks the halfway stage in the Super League competition and there’s a lot of footy still to be played. Nobody is out of the running yet but there will be some teams who need to string some wins together, ourselves included.

It’s been difficult with both myself and Albey Kelly out injured and you look at other teams and the same applies to them. Widnes struggled when Kevin Brown was out and Warrington haven’t won many games without Chris Sandow, so it’s hard for any team when you take the starting halves out.

Injuries have been the story of our season so far but we can’t worry about all that at the moment. We’ve just got to focus on playing Castleford on Sunday and do all we can to get the two points and forget about the horrible week we’ve just had.

Personally, I’m progressing behind the scenes on my hammy. Every day, I’m doing a little bit more and testing it as much as I can.

I started running again yesterday and ended up doing 2.7km on my first run. I kept going because the hamstring was feeling sweet so I’ll get back into it tomorrow and try to go a little bit further and a little bit faster. That’s how you’ve got to approach it when you’re coming back from injury.

April 14

We’re in action in the Challenge Cup this week and it’s a comp that I really enjoy. There’s nothing really like it in the NRL and I’ve been a big fan ever since I came over here.

We made it all the way through to the final last year and that cup run was a special thing to be a part of for everybody at the club. I didn’t get to play at Wembley unfortunately as I’d already picked up my knee injury by then, but being there on the day and experiencing the atmosphere was still something I’ll always remember.

The result went as badly as it possibly could as we lost 50-0 to a really good Leeds Rhinos side in the final, but it certainly whetted the appetite for all our boys to get back there and experience those occasions more often.

For me, I’m just desperate to play in this competition again. It’s straight knockout so it’s about turning up and performing on the day whoever you’re drawn against. Hopefully, the boys can do the business in the first couple of rounds and then I can get back out there on the field and play in the Challenge Cup again this year.

First up on Saturday we’ve got Oldham who are in the division below us. They got promoted at the end of last year but have played pretty well over the last couple of weeks and we’ve prepared like we would for any other Super League side.

We want to play well because our performance against Catalans last week wasn’t up to scratch, but in this competition the result is all that really matters and as long we’re in the hat for the next round we’ll be happy.

I also hope the fans turn out in numbers this week because we need this game to really kick-start our season. We’ve got an important run ahead of us and a victory would set us up for some key matches in the league over the next few weeks.

The lads are still doing it tough and poor James Webster (head coach) is down to the bare bones again in terms of numbers so they need the fans to get behind them. We’ve lost a few players to some niggles this week again which doesn’t help, but on the other hand it’s good to welcome back James Donaldson after a long lay-off.

He started the year really strongly in pre-season but picked up a nasty wrist injury in our opening Super League game, so it’ll be good to see him back out there. He’s worked really hard to get back so hopefully for him and the team he can pick up where he left off.

On a final note this week, I want to congratulate three young players at the club who have been rewarded with long-term deals.

Matty Marsh, Kieran Moran and Joe Wardill have all done really well this season and have a lot of potential for the future. Keep an eye on them as the season goes on because I’m sure they’ll keep getting plenty of game time.

April 7

It’s massively disappointing to be injured again. It seems like this is all I’m talking about every week in this column at the moment!

In hindsight, I now wish I’d held myself back for another week or two and not played against Leeds Rhinos last Friday but it’s easy to say that now.

I felt good last week, I felt ready to go and so did the docs so to pick up another hamstring injury early on in that game is hugely frustrating to say the least.

I’m now looking at a minimum of six weeks on the sidelines again and it’s likely we’ll give it a few weeks longer this time and really make sure I’m right to return.

There’s been a few people out there already throwing some bad comments around on social media, but that’s just extra motivation for me to come back from this and get out on the field.

On the other hand, there’s been plenty of people who have come out in support of me too and I can’t thank them enough for that.

All I’m focusing on now is going out there and proving the doubters wrong and playing well for everybody who’s had confidence and faith in me and who’s helped me over the last 12 months.

That’s my motivation at the moment.

I’m fortunate that most of my family are in Australia and don’t get caught up in all the comments and all the frustration. I have my wife over here and she’s been my biggest supporter since day one. She doesn’t really care what people say, which is one of the biggest strengths in her personality.

My kids are over here too and my little boy is just obsessed with Rovers at the moment. All he talks about is the matches and who we’re playing next. He sits up in the morning and reads every single programme the club has had since I’ve been here and he keeps me excited about getting back out there playing.

You want to play good football for your little fella who loves the game so much. He wasn’t over here in Hull at the start of last year when I was playing and he was too young to see me playing for Canberra in the NRL, so I want to give him some good memories of me playing and hopefully there are still plenty of those to come.

From a team point of view, it’s really pleasing that the lads are starting to show a bit of consistency now. After we beat Salford a few weeks ago, we then should probably have won our games against Hull FC and Wigan after that but injuries and fatigue got to us late on in those matches when we were leading.

Against Leeds last week, it was a much better performance and when they looked like getting back in the game, we shut them out. We can take some confidence from that and we’ve had a few players back from injury last week as well so there are a few positives around the camp at the moment.

We host Catalans Dragons at the KC Lightstream Stadium tonight and that will be a tough game. They’re a big, strong, powerful side and they’ve recruited really well from the NRL for this season. It took them a bit of time to adapt at the start of the year, to get used to the heavier pitches and the style of play over here, but they’ve won four on the bounce now.

They’re riding high on confidence but they’ve got a few injuries as well so it should be a tough battle. They’ve got some big forwards who can offload and that’s something we’ll have to shut down. It’s easier said than done though against somebody like Dave Taylor who’s 125 kilos but does chip kicks and flick passes!

He’s one of those players that you just can’t take your eye off but if we play like we did against Leeds we’ll give ourselves every chance of winning.

March 31

Finally, I’ve had some luck on the injury front!

I’m ahead of schedule in my rehab on my hamstring and I’m all set to play against Leeds Rhinos tomorrow night.

I actually felt pretty good earlier in the week and felt I could have played against Wigan on Easter Monday. I went and trained at 8am and felt good. I walked past our kit man Bonesy in the office and told him to pack my kit on the bus. I had a word with Webbo (head coach James Webster) before the game and put my hand up to play but I hadn’t been named in the 19-man squad and he told me to give it a few more days and wait for tomorrow.

The good thing was when I played against Huddersfield before I got injured again I felt good and things were coming back to me quicker than I expected really.

Hopefully, I can put in a good performance against Leeds and be there for the boys because they’ve really played it tough and gutsy over Easter.

Against Wigan, we had to draft in four guys from the academy because we only had 13 fit players left in our first team squad. That’s pretty unheard of, during all my time in the sport I’ve never came across that situation before.

Kieran Moran had played one first grade game but the other three were on debut and they all came up with a performance that was good enough to have kept them playing in Super League this week.

If they’ve had a couple more games, I’m sure they would have kept a few blokes out of the squad who play in their position but, in the end, Webbo has gone with a couple of guys with a bit more experience this week.

Although young Will Oakes and Joe Cator miss out, Kieran and Joe Wardill have kept their place in the 19 and they’re pushing to be involved again tomorrow night.

All four of them look to have big futures though and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of them during the rest of the season.

As for tomorrow’s game against Leeds, it’s a big match for both sides.

Leeds are a fantastic team and they’ve got some key players back this week. They’re a different team at Headingley too and we know what we’re in for. We’re going to have to be on our game for the full 80 minutes.

I know recently we’ve put in some great 60-minute performances but Leeds can score four or five tries in those other 20 minutes so we’ve got to be switched on throughout.

Lastly this week, a couple of words on a few team-mates.

Over the Easter period, Bobby Blair has been our stand-out player. He’s really been controlling the game for us but a big shout out to our front rowers Adam Walker, Mitch Allgood and Dane Tilse as well as they’ve done some massive minutes for the team over the last week.

They’ve been carrying their own demons with injuries, bumps, bruises and fatigue but they’ve really done a great job for the side. To have three “fronties” do that amount of work in the space of a few days is a huge effort.

On a sadder note, it’s bad news for our winger Ryan Shaw this week as he’s been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury, the same that I did last year.

I know how Shawy must be feeling right now as he contemplates his recovery but I’ll be there beside him the whole time to hopefully guide him over the next few months and get him through it.

It’s always sad to see somebody get such a long-term injury. An ACL rupture is up there with the longest recovery times you can get as a player at six to nine months - and all that for such a stupid little tendon or whatever it is in your knee!

The good news is that you can come back even stronger from them these days so I’m sure that’s what Shawy will be focusing on and we’ll all be behind him 100 per cent.

March 25

It’s the traditional Good Friday derby between Hull KR and Hull FC tomorrow and I’m gutted to be missing out.

I’ve only been at the club a year but I firmly believe already that this game is the biggest derby in rugby league history.

There’s nothing in the NRL that compares - Wigan v Saints is close over here but I still think the Hull derby is bigger than any.

It’s disappointing not to be involved as I’ve not played in one at our ground yet.

I’d hoped to play in this one and have a couple of games under my belt going into it, but it wasn’t to be. I’m excited for the boys though, particularly the new guys who haven’t experienced one like this before.

There’s so much history behind this game and I didn’t realise that until I played in one. My first derby was only a trial game but it was obvious what it meant to the fans and the club. Last year, before our win at their place at Easter, we had some ex-players come in to speak to us and you could see the passion and pride they had for this fixture when they wore the jumper. They still lived and breathed it even now.

That rivalry and how much it means to the fans is what it’s all about. We’ll certainly speak about that going into the game and the banter has started on social media this week between both sets of supporters.

In terms of fans, my little boy is probably more excited that anybody. He loves his rugby but he wasn’t here for the Easter derby last year when we beat them at their stadium. The family were still back in Canberra then.

He asked me yesterday “Is Gareth Ellis’s team going to win again because they win all the time?”. Hopefully, we can set that straight tomorrow and get the victory because he’d be one happy little fella if we could secure the bragging rights!

The key to winning will be keeping our composure. It’s not the team who throws the ball around and executes the tricky plays that wins these derbies, it’s the side that shows the most amount of heart over the 80 minutes.

I go back to that old saying that rugby is a simple game played by simple men. The basics are important and you’ve just go to get through your sets and kick well. That’s how you win these big matches.

I’m sure it will be a great occasion and there are still a few tickets left for fans who want to experience what one of these games is like.

After Hull, we then move into the second part of the Easter schedule and it’s brutal. We play Wigan away on Easter Monday and then travel to Leeds next Friday so it’s a really tough period.

This is the time of year when the competition starts to take shape. The key is to focus on each game as it comes and prepare physically as well as we can.

Hull are first up and we have to do whatever we can to win tomorrow against FC and only then can we start to look ahead to Wigan. After that game, we’ll then allow ourselves to think about Leeds.

The main thing is that you can’t try to be too tricky over this period by preparing different game plans for each opposition. You just don’t have time to work on those game plans so the focus is more on recovery.

It’s about getting your body right with good rest, ice baths and massages and then just keeping it simple out on the field.

March 17

A few words spring to mind but “frustrated” is the one I’ll go with to sum up how I’m feeling at the moment.

After working so hard to get back on the field against Huddersfield on Sunday, there were no signs that anything was going to go wrong in the game. I was actually feeling good skill and fitness wise and I felt I slotted back in reasonably well.

Then in the second half I just landed awkwardly after one of my kicks and I’ve damaged my hamstring.

The docs are saying I’ll be out for about four weeks and I’m gutted to be missing the Easter period as I wanted to be around to help the team get back on track.

It means I’ll miss another home derby against Hull FC too, which I was looking forward to experiencing.

It just about sums up the luck the club is having at the minute.

I’ve never seen anything like the amount of injuries we’re suffering right now and apart from being disappointed for myself, I feel really sorry for the club and the fans.

You don’t want to come over here as a player from overseas and miss so many weeks through injury.

That was never my intention and I’ve just got to do everything I can now to get back on the field as soon as possible.

I am at least glad it’s my ‘hammy’ and not my knee again so I’ve got to knuckle down now, put all that disappointment aside and focus on getting my rehab right.

Then I want to get back on the field and repay the faith shown in me by the club and the supporters because we’re on a tough run of luck at the minute.

Even my car blew up yesterday just to add salt to the wound!

It’s hard on the fans right now because me, Albert Kelly and Shaun Lunt have missed the majority of the season so far and the positions we play are the core ones in the team.

It’s disappointing we’ve not had much opportunity to get out on the field together and the team are suffering because of that.

In this sport, I don’t think one player can make a massive difference but three or four key players missing in the spine of the side does have an impact and we’ve been really unfortunate with the injuries we’ve picked up and the personnel we’ve had missing.

It’s even more frustrating because we’ve got a tough Easter period coming up against some of the best teams in the comp, starting this weekend. We’ve got Salford on Sunday who are one of the form teams in Super League and then we play Hull FC, Wigan and Leeds over Easter.

It’s not an easy month ahead but we have to find a way to win games. We’re light on troops but whoever is selected is going to have to go out there and grind it out.

It doesn’t have to be pretty, but hopefully we can find a way to get over the line.

March 10

It’s been a big week for the club and for me personally. James Webster is our new head coach until the end of the season and he’s jumped straight into training this week.

It’s hard for him coming in at this time of the year and he’s only had a couple of sessions to work with, but so far he’s adjusted a few things and fine-tuned a couple of areas. He’s spoken about how he see things out on the footy field and what he expects from the team, so I’m definitely looking forward to working with him for the rest of the year.

As for me, I’m in with a real shout of playing against Huddersfield on Sunday and it’s been an enjoyable week personally that’s felt a long time coming. I’ve ticked all the boxes during the rehab from my knee injury and there’s a genuine chance of playing my first game in nine months come the weekend.

The body is feeling good but the mind is the most important thing and mentally I’m in a good place too. I’m pushing hard for selection in the 19-man squad but I’ve got one more training session to get through on Friday first. We’ll see how that goes and after that we’ll have a better idea on whether I can get back out on the field on Sunday.

As for any rustiness if I do play, I hope not! I can’t be too hard on myself if there is, it’s been a long nine months, but when I do return I hope that I can pick up where I left off.

I’m sure there will be a few cobwebs, especially in the lungs, but hopefully I can get back to the skill levels I had last season pretty quickly.

Aside from myself, we’ve got a few numbers back this week which is always good for the squad. There’s possibly a few selection headaches for James in his first week in charge and there’s some competition in a few positions too I think, which is what you want.

Up to this point, we’ve pretty much had to run with the same 17 or 19-man squad each week as that’s all we’ve had available but there’s been some boys back out on the training paddock over the last few days and that’s given everybody a lift.

Like me, a few of them have to get through tomorrow first before we have an idea on exactly who’s playing against the Giants but it’s been a positive week regardless.

We’re certainly preparing for a tough game.

Huddersfield have been very similar to us in terms of the injuries they’ve had this season, but they’ve got some troops back as well and they’re definitely a top-four team when they get everybody on the field. They’re a class act and they gave us a bit of a dust up in the trial match back in January so we know this is one where we’ll have to be at our best to get the victory.

Hopefully, our supporters can travel over in numbers this week and match the Giants fans in the ground.

If they can be loud and get behind the boys like they do, we’ve got every chance of coming away with the two points.

March 3

Full credit to the players for the way they responded to a tough few days for the club last week. Our first half against St Helens last Friday was probably the best footy the boys have played for a long time. Even in the Middle 8s last year, we were a bit rusty at times but the lads were really clinical in the opening 40 minutes.

I thought Saints were a bit lucky to be awarded their first try but you always know a team’s attitude when they trap the opposition in goal from a kick-off and that’s what we did in the next set.

We kicked on from there but again injuries got to us in the end. We ended up with one fit player left on the bench in the second half and we’ve added Graeme Horne, Albert Kelly and James Green to the list of guys missing this week against Widnes.

It’s going to be a tough game against the form team in the comp and it’s always a difficult trip across there on that pitch, but I’m sure if we show up with the same attitude we did against Saints then hopefully we can do a job on them.

The good thing about Super League this year is that anybody can win. Last season, the likes of Leeds, Huddersfield, Wigan and Saints were pretty much guaranteed a win each week but this year we’ve already seen plenty of upsets. Teams who were in the bottom half of the table last season in Widnes and Salford are up there in the top half and that’s good for the game.

You know that if you turn up and play some good footy then you’re in with a chance each week and hopefully when we get some key personnel back we can turn our season around.

This week, we’ve got two young kids in the 19-man squad in Kieran Moran and Joe Wardill who we’ve called up from the academy because of the injuries at the moment. If one of them gets a shot Friday night, hopefully they can do what George Lawler did in our last trip to Widnes last year.

He got called into the squad late and he’s grown more than anybody in the side ever since. He’s been rewarded this week with a new four-year contract and he’s a player that you know could be a future captain of the club if he stays here for a long time. Let’s hope George is the inspiration to help a lot more local kids come through the ranks like he did.

Lastly from me this week, I’ve seen some reports in the press from health experts saying kids playing rugby in schools shouldn’t be tackling each other and I have to say I disagree with that.

Absolutely, there’s things that should be put in place so that kids are only ever taught the right techniques and practise under supervision. Coaches and teachers should have the right qualifications too but that goes with all sports. You shouldn’t have an English teacher taking the kids out on a hot day and playing some rugby, it has to be the right people involved but I think that’s already the case.

Most schools have good PE departments these days and as long as it’s done in the right way there should never be a drama about it for me.

I’m already out in the front yard with my four-year-old now playing rugby and tackling with the neighbours. The kids love it and even me and the old fella next door get into it every now and then! He’s a Hull FC fan so I try to rough him up a little bit!

February 25

It’s been a tough week. I’m sure everybody reading this will be aware of what’s gone on with our head coach Chris Chester over the past few days and it’s been a difficult situation for us all.

I’ll leave it to other people at the club to say more when the time is right, but it’s not been the start to the year that we wanted and everybody has to take responsibility for that including the boys on the field.

At the weekend against Wakey, we scored more tries but we just didn’t kick our goals. We probably bombed another five chances too so it’s fine margins and that’s footy for you. Sadly, it can be a cruel game at times.

You know going into this career what can happen but it’s still tough to take and we’re sorry that Chezzy won’t be in charge for Friday night’s game against St Helens.

The boys want to make up for everything and make it back up to the fans, the people who pay their money to come through the gates and watch us play. We need to put all the distractions aside and get on with it really.

St Helens haven’t been travelling too well lately but they have some key players back in their 19-man squad this week. We’ll have to wait and see if they play or not but they’ll give them a big lift if they are back on the field. We’re going to have to be at our best because I know they’re going to come here fired up after losing to the Roosters in last weekend’s World Club Series.

After the results in all three games between the Super League and the NRL, I’ve seen a lot of comments about what everybody thinks the biggest difference is between the two competitions. In my eyes, it comes down to the depth of players available to the clubs.

In the three games Leeds, Wigan and St Helens all had injuries in key areas and the depth of the squad hurt them. It comes down to the salary cap I think because there are Super League standard players in the Championship who can earn more money playing in that competition than in Super League.

The main thing for me that has to happen over here without a doubt is to introduce a minimum wage for players. There’s players over here outside the top 17 at each club who aren’t getting anywhere near the money they deserve.

To outsiders, people think they are well paid but there are lads at every club who rely on living with parents and not having to pay rent to get by.

We need to bridge that gap between the top 17 players and the rest by introducing a minimum wage and trying to bring more money into the sport over here to pay for it, however we do that.

That might help bring some of those top Championship players into the Super League set-up. The best example I can give is somebody like Welly (Kris Welham) who was with us last year and is now at Bradford. I think he’s a class player and he scored three tries at the weekend for the Bulls. He’s a player who should be playing in Super League.

Back to us, hopefully we can get a decent crowd Friday night to cheer the boys on. We should get some troops back on board soon which will strength the side and I’m not far off from being back myself so I’m getting excited now. We’re doing it tough at the minute but there are some positives on the horizon.

February 18

The Aussies are in town this weekend for the World Club Series and I think it’s a great concept to promote the sport with the best of the NRL coming over here to face the best three teams from Super League.

It brings publicity for the game and a bit of extra revenue too, but the big challenge for the Super League clubs this year is to get a victory over one of the Australian sides. Last season was a clean sweep to the Aussies but let’s hope the Super League boys can pick up a couple of wins and show they can mix it with the best in the world.

The sad thing is that St Helens and Leeds have a heap of injuries at the moment so it will be a tough task for them. They’ll go into their games as underdogs, although I’m sure they’ll prepare the best they can to get the victory.

For Leeds, it’s not just the injuries they have to contend with, they’ve also got to find a way of shutting down Johnathan Thurston. You know what he’s going to do but you can’t stop him, that’s the hardest thing.

You watch so much video looking how to stop these sorts of quality players, but he turns up every week and still does what he does.

Maybe the weather could play against him this week as they’ve not been over here recently. The weather in Townsville is very hot and humid so it will be a challenge for the Cowboys in that regard.

Wigan should go into their game as favourites against Brisbane but of course the Broncos have Wayne Bennett at the helm, the new England coach.

He’s the best coach in the world and if you get the opportunity to bring him in why not take it?

That’s what England have done and I don’t really know why they’ve taken a bit of flak for it. It’s probably because England won their last series against New Zealand but he’s coached the best teams in the world, he took Brisbane to the Grand Final again last season and he’s shown what he can do on many occasions.

Sadly, I never had the opportunity to work with him. He coached Australia but I didn’t get the opportunity to play for them then and he’s a Queenslander too so our paths didn’t cross in Origin.

I’d have loved to have seen first-hand what separates him from the rest though.

As for us over at Hull KR, we’re one of the few clubs in Super League action this weekend when we face Wakefield and our focus is just on getting the two points and getting our season kick-started.

People will have seen our scoreline against Warrington at the weekend and think we were well outplayed, but we weren’t as far away as that suggests. We were only 12-0 down at half-time despite having plenty of sets on our line and the boys were really hanging in there well. Warrington scored 16 points in the last 10 minutes to blow the scoreline out and that’s something we need to fix up.

We’ve still got a lot of things to work on but the biggest has to be keeping hold of the ball. We completed around the 60 per cent mark and there’s no chance of getting close to winning a game with that. We need to concentrate on making the same number of tackles as the other team and we won’t go far wrong.