Hull KR boss Tony Smith "puzzled" by Toronto Wolfpack latest

Hull KR head coach Tony Smith (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)Hull KR head coach Tony Smith (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)
Hull KR head coach Tony Smith (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)
HULL KR head coach Tony Smith completely understands the decision of “disillusioned” chairman Neil Hudgell to step down - and says it is no surprise given the “puzzling” expected decision surrounding Toronto Wolfpack.

Hudgell made the surprise announcement earlier this week that, after 16 years at the helm, he will be stepping aside from the role on December 1.

For a lifelong fan who loves the club so dearly and has invested so much of his own time and wealth, clearly it was a major decision to reach.

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Smith confirmed there are no new investors waiting in the wings but he remains confident the building blocks have been laid for the club and it is now up to them to sell itself and attract that interest.

However,he also paid tribute to Hudgell who brought him to the Robins as Tim Sheens’ successor in June last year and then agreed a deal with him until the end of 2022.

“Neil’s part of the reason why I’m here at the club,” said the former Leeds Rhinos and England head coach.

“I like him. I admire him and have done for a long time.

“He speaks honestly and he speaks the truth and is very loyal to his club.

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“He’s supported his club for a long time now as best he can. And I admire that.

“But he’s probably done that for longer than he probably should or could afford to so it’s got to the point where…

“And I can tell he’s tired, too. I could tell even when I joined the club.

“I think we connected pretty well and I think I gave him a bit of energy when I first came.

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“Some things have proabbly sapped some of his energy since then. Not myself. I’m not suggesting that; we’ve been really strong and talk openly and honestly with each other.

“But I could see him getting disillusioned with some stuff throughout challenging times.”

Toronto, of course, pulled out of Super League just days before the competition was due to resume on August 2.

They cited financial problems stemming from Covid-19 and players revealed they had gone unpaid for months.

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Although Toronto’s withdrawal saw relegation taken off the table - easing some fears at the Robins - there is growing speculation that they will be included once more in the top-flight in 2021.

That would leave Smith perplexed and he believes it left Hudgell in a similar frame of mind as well.

“Some of the things have been out of our control, such as the pandemic,” he said.

“But some are things you could never have imagined would test us, some of the things that are within our control,too - some of the way our sport is administered and run and some of the goings-on.

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“At the moment we’re all getting ready to put a club back into the competition next year that opted out and hadn’t paid players for months and months.

“We’re about to make a decision and, by all accounts, it sounds like we’re going to put them back into the competition.

“It’s things like that are very, very puzzling.

“There’s some young people out there who haven’t been paid for months and months and months and have mortgages and rent not paid and we’re even considering putting that team back in the competition.

“It makes you scratch your head about a whole lot of things.”

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Smith added: “I understand where he (Hudgell) is coming from and totally support his decision.

“We’re going to miss him - I’m going to miss him - but it’s time for him to go and enjoy some of his parts of this life he deserves to enjoy.

“I’m sure he’ll enjoy watching us become successful in the future - and we will. We’ve just got to find the right investors to come in and try and take us to that next step.

“That’s what we need to do. We think there’s a bright future for us here and we’re going to work hard to make that successful and us successful for the future as well.”

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Rovers play their first game in three weeks on Sunday when they face champions St Helens yet then only have a four-day turnaround until tackling Wigan Warriors on Thursday.

Their only fixture since the resumption was a 40-10 loss against Warrington Wolves on August 8.

Smith said: “I’d have loved for us to play another game last weekend, for instance.

“They’ve been able to reschedule games for other teams at last minute. Unfortunately when we got some free weekends they weren’t able to for us.

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“But we just have to suck it up and move on. We probably don’t have the say of some of the bigger clubs. We just have to embrace it and we’re excited by being back playing.”

He expressed his dismay for Ben Crooks, the winger who has been plagued by injuries and is now facing another six weeks out after tearing a calf in training.

Greg Minikin is set to return, though, and former Bradford Bulls wideman Ethan Ryan could also feature in the next week.

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