Hull KR ready to play with freedom as spectre of relegation disappears

FEW sides can be relishing the restart to Super League quite as much as Hull KR.

On the way back: Rovers captain Weller Hauraki. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Yet, only a week ago, there would have been excitement but also some trepidation knowing they had a genuine battle to avoid another relegation fight.

The Robins, who only avoided the drop last term due to a superior points difference to London Broncos, were on a five-game losing league run when the sport was shut down in mid-March.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Their solitary success was an opening-day victory over Wakefield Trinity and only winless Toronto Wolfpack sat below them in the admittedly embryonic table.

GAME ON: Hull KR head coach Tony Smith. Picture: Simon Cooper/PA

Some respite had been earned with a 22-19 Challenge Cup triumph over Championship Leigh Centurions in their last outing on March 15 but there was already a realisation that a long, arduous campaign lay ahead for Tony Smith’s relatively young and inexperienced squad.

Moreover, they had a crippling injury list to contend with, remarkably losing four players to injury in their final league game at Wigan Warriors, having already been without eight first-teamers at the start of that contest.

However, as they approach their return to action, the news that there will now be no relegation this year has immediately lifted that pressure and given the East Yorkshire club a chance to play with relative freedom.

Toronto’s decision last week to withdraw from the campaign caused chaos to the fixture list and no little embarrassment for the competition but undoubtedly brought some relief for the Robins.

BNACK AT IT: Hull KR's Matt Parcell breaks free in the clash against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley earlier this season. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“It definitely will help as it will at all the clubs,” captain Weller Hauraki told The Yorkshire Post.

“Knowing there’s no relegation, we all know we can start from scratch now, get back all that was lost during this Covid time and start building towards next year.

“But every club still wants to be successful, no matter what year it is or what’s happened. All will still go out and give 100 per cent.”

Rovers would have quickly faced two pivotal games against Toronto given they were due to face them not only in Sunday’s triple-header opener at Emerald Headingley but once more after playing Warrington Wolves.

So, ironically, after five months out of action, the Robins are now going to have to wait a little longer to get back on the field.

Veteran back-row Hauraki, 35, conceded: “It is frustrating but you can’t help it. It’s rugby league.

“There’s always massive hurdles in this sport. I just feel for the players at Toronto and the coaching staff and the fans for what they have had to go through.

“I don’t wish anyone to be in that position so, hopefully, they come out okay on the other side.”

In the meantime, Rovers will turn their attention to Warrington at Headingley on Saturday week with Hauraki especially looking forward to being back.

The former Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers forward had missed the start of the campaign due to an ankle problem picked up in the same pre-season game that saw team-mate Mose Masoe suffer a career-ending injury.

Hauraki returned in that win against Leigh – only to see the pandemic close the sport down the following day.

“It will be like the start for me,” conceded the New Zealander.

“I’m just trying to spend these next few weeks building the engine back up and getting back into the wrestle and contact side of things as well as the skills.

“It’s like a mini-pre-season and I’m really looking forward to that first game against Warrington; it will be a good test for us as a team.”

With regards how Rovers will fare upon their return, there are plenty of positives.

The sheer doggedness and determination of Smith’s side was illustrated in that game at Wigan when – despite all their injury woes – they only trailed 18-16 approaching the hour mark.

They defended their line ferociously and no-one can deny the spirit running through their squad. It was only that lack of interchange that eventually caught up with them as they lost 30-16.

They had been lacking some cutting edge and finesse with the ball in hand and improving in those areas will be important as will concentration levels.

But, significantly, they have an almost fully-fit squad now with just Greg Minikin and Harvey Livett set to miss the restart.

“That’s a massive boost for us,” conceded Hauraki.

“And we’re essentially starting from scratch so anything can happen. Anything is achievable with everything open at the moment. It’ll be a good competition to watch and all the players are hungry as well after Covid.

“Hopefully, we can build on some of the good things we were doing.”

Editor’s note: First and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you. James Mitchinson, Editor