HE looks more like a rugby union lock, all rangy and towering.
However, Hull KR’s Dane Tilse – all six foot seven of him – is very much a rugby league prop and one who knows his job is imperative tonight.
Facing a renowned Hull FC pack, and with his own side potentially missing both regular half-backs in a crucial derby, the Australian acknowledges the home forwards must take control if they are going to get the win that will keep their top-eight hopes alive into the final week of the regular Super League season.
Lose and chances of challenging for Old Trafford are gone; they will be facing the likes of Championship clubs Leigh Centurions, Bradford Bulls and Sheffield Eagles instead, desperately trying to avoid a relegation dogfight.
“I’m six foot seven inches, or about 200cm,” explained Tilse, who arrived in East Yorkshire from Canberra Raiders in April after fellow countryman Mick Weyman was forced to retire early due to injury.
“I was the tallest player in the NRL but I don’t know if I am over here. I was a second-row when I was younger but played all my first-grade at prop and didn’t even play union.
“I probably should have – my build is probably a bit more suited to that – but because things worked out, I never really thought about changing.”
Rovers are thankful he didn’t; Tilse’s experience will be vital come the business end of the season, whichever competition they are in, and with a Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington Wolves looming at the start of next month.
Whereas Rovers have lost their last two games, though, Hull, who occupy eighth spot just two points ahead of their opponents in ninth, are seeking a third successive win.
The stakes are high. The Black and Whites can perhaps afford one more loss but Rovers – without Terry Campese and fellow half-back Albert Kelly battling to shrug off a knee injury – have no such luxury.
Tilse, one of only 10 players to make 200 appearances for Canberra, said: “We know it’s do or die for us and Hull do have a strong pack with a lot of experience.
“I played against Gaz Ellis as well as Mark Minichiello (two second-rows expected to return) in the NRL for a few years.
“It’s not only what they do; it’s their calming influence and steering the blokes around.
“But if our pack can get some quick play-the-balls, do our job up the middle and lay a good platform it makes the halves’ job a lot easier. We don’t want them to be playing on the back foot, our job is to roll our sleeves up and lay a platform in what is a huge match.”
It will be Tilse’s first experience of the famous derby having missed out on the Magic Weekend affair – an embarrassing 46-20 defeat – due to a broken thumb suffered just two games into his Rovers career.
“I’d heard all about it and everyone’s been coming up to me in the street,” said the 30-year-old.
“There’s a bit of dislike among the fans, that’s for sure, and they let you know.
“I was in a cafe the other day and they asked if I was Rovers or Black and White. they said, only jokingly, that they wouldn’t serve me next time.
“There’s definitely a lot on the line so I’m looking forward to the big-game atmosphere on Friday.
“I went up to Newcastle (Magic) and saw the derby – the big sea of fans, all the red and white and black and white and the signing.
“It was hard to watch because the boys got a bit of touch-up put on them so I’m looking forward to getting out there and helping them out this time.”
He has played the last three games and added: “The big reason Rovers signed me was because I’m pretty good with injuries generally.
“Out of my career the longest stint I’ve had off was four weeks – and then I had five weeks off with this thumb. It was frustrating for myself and the club but you can’t do anything about it.
“I’m starting to settle in now. It takes a while to get my match fitness back, being a big bloke, but I’m confident I can get some rugby in for the rest of the year.”