Castleford Tigers v Hull KR: Ben Crooks out to impress Willie Peters as he targets new deal

Already facing an uncertain future as his contract ticks down, Ben Crooks could have been forgiven for letting out a deep sigh when Tony Smith announced he was leaving Hull KR.

Crooks has been in this position in each of the last two years and on both occasions he was awarded a new deal by Smith.

But Smith no longer has a say on contracts at Craven Park following his decision to move on at the end of the season.

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The responsibility has been passed to Willie Peters after he was appointed on a three-year deal from the end of 2022.

Ben Crooks is tackled during the Challenge Cup semi-final. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Although he will have a watching brief for the remainder of the season as he finishes up at Newcastle Knights, the Australian has taken a leading role in retention and recruitment discussions.

That means Crooks and his off-contract team-mates will be judged by a coach they have not yet met, but the experienced outside back is relaxed about the situation.

“It’s great that the club have got someone sorted for next year and they can start planning for the future,” he said.

“But from a player’s standpoint, our head coach at the moment is still Tony and we’ve got goals for the rest of the year with the team and staff we’ve got around us. That’s our main focus.

Willie Peters, right, worked under Wayne Bennett at South Sydney. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“I’ve still got to go out and play the best I can and try earn myself a contract for next year. If he’s the one I’ve got to try and impress now then he’s the one I’ve got to try and impress.

“But my job doesn’t change. I’ve got to play the way I like to play and get back to some good form, impress and get that contract.”

Crooks had to be patient at the start of the season but made his fifth appearance against Huddersfield Giants last weekend and has a chance to nail down a place in the team as injuries bite.

The 28-year-old has made it clear that he wants to stay on at Craven Park.

Ben Crooks takes the ball in against Toulouse. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“I love being here and I haven’t been shy about that,” he said.

“I’ve made it known over the last couple of years that I love what the club have done for me, my family and my career.

“The future is really bright for this club and I’d love to be a part of that.”

Peters is an unknown quantity in Super League as a coach, although he did experience the competition during his playing days.

Ben Crooks runs out at Craven Park. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Crooks admitted the players are not quite sure what to expect from the former Gateshead Thunder, Wigan Warriors and Widnes Vikings half-back.

“I don’t know Willie,” said Crooks.

“I think a couple of the lads might have spoken to him throughout their time in the NRL but we haven’t got anybody in the team that’s actually been coached by him.

“Skidsy [Shaun Kenny-Dowall] has had a couple of interactions with him and says he’s a good fella and a smart bloke.

“But from a coaching standpoint, it’ll be new territory for everybody.”

Peters will be keeping a close eye on events at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle this afternoon as Rovers aim to bounce back from their painful Challenge Cup semi-final defeat by Huddersfield.

After falling flat in their last two outings, the Robins are looking to get back to the form that recently brought them six wins in a row.

“It was really upsetting to be kicked out of the cup but it was more the way we got kicked out of the cup,” said Crooks.

“You can handle getting beat on the day by a better team but not when you play as poorly as we did. That was the most disappointing aspect.

“But this week is a new week. We’ve boosted morale a little bit and had a bit of fun and now we’re ready to go against Cas. It’s just about getting back to playing well with confidence.”

Rovers have positive memories of their recent encounters with the Tigers, winning the last three meetings including two victories at Craven Park earlier this season.

A former Castleford player, Crooks knows exactly what to expect at the Jungle.

“It’s always a tough game going down to Cas but I personally love playing there,” said Crooks, who scored a double on KR’s last visit in 2021.

“It’s an old school type of field and the fans are on top of you which makes it nice and loud.

“It’s a great occasion to play in and it’s going to be a physical battle.

“They’re going to come after us after the last two losses that we’ve taken but it’s just about us getting back to what we do best.”