Hull KR v Salford: Talisman Terry Campese determined to keep Hull derby rivalry alive

IT says plenty about the enormity of today's fixture that even Hull FC fans have been telling Hull KR captain Terry Campese they want his side to win.

Jamie Peacock for Hull KR
Jamie Peacock for Hull KR

Given the intense rivalry between the two clubs, it shows just exactly what the ‘Million Pound Game’ means to all who are unfortunately involved.

Rovers host Salford Red Devils this afternoon when the pressure will be as intense as it is incalculable; whoever loses will be relegated from Super League.

Campese, the Australian stand-off who has played for his country and also featured with New South Wales in State of Origin, admitted: “After the siren, it’s probably bigger than any other game.

Jamie Peacock for Hull KR

“Elsewhere, if you lose, you’ve still got your job. This week you don’t.

“That’s the scary thing about it. You try not to think about it but it’s hard not to.

“Everyone’s thought about it at some stage but you try to focus on the job at hand as it burns energy thinking about things, stressing, getting nervous and that’s what you can’t have in such a big game.

“I went to my son’s rugby on Sunday and there were a few FC fans there that have kids in his team. They want us to stay up as well because of the derby and the rivalry.

Hull Kingston Rovers' Terry Campese

“It brings the town together as well. It’s important to a town like Hull. Hopefully, we’ll put in a performance that gives these people the derby next year.”

Of course, Rovers have already had one stab at securing their position in the top-flight but failed.

Just a point in their last Qualifiers game against Huddersfield Giants a week ago would have been enough but they crucially lost 23-22 and it was their joyful opponents, instead, who celebrated a win that kept them up.

The East Yorkshire club, who finished fourth rather than third, have another chance now as they host the side who came fifth in the Middle Eights but there is no safety net this time.

Jamie Peacock for Hull KR

For Campese, who said he could not have played “any worse” after some significant errors versus Huddersfield, he just wants to get out there and take control.

“I was probably a bit harsh on myself straight after the game,” recalled the 32-year-old.

“There were a few good things and some bad things but I’ve just looked to work on for this week because I want to try and perfect my game as much as possible.”

If Campese is at his best, it is hard not to envisage Rovers winning what is essentially now the biggest game in their history.

Hull Kingston Rovers' Terry Campese

When the talented No 6 clicks, there are few better playmakers in Super League.

Indeed, some would argue the Robins only find themselves in this precarious position because Campese has been sidelined by injuries for so long.

His return at London Broncos, when the former Canberra Raider player controlled their Qualifiers win, was only a fifth appearance but it is hoped their talisman will deliver when it matters most.

After coming back from last year’s knee reconstruction only to be dogged by hamstring injuries, did he ever think he would not return?

“You always try to be optimistic and try to push,” explained Campese.

“I had my time set for Leigh and it was the week after but at least I can play my part this weekend. I’d much rather be out on the field than sitting in the stands. It’s in my hands what I can do and what part I play in the success on Saturday.”

Before Campese’s return, Rovers won 29-12 at Salford when they met earlier in the Qualifiers but previous form means nothing ahead of a game of such consequence.

He maintains there has been no different preparation in readiness for it and added: “You try not to talk about it. Or think about it.

“The good thing is my wife doesn’t talk about it at all.

“She doesn’t really like football to be honest. But my little fella is at me all the time, so it’s hard to get away from it.

“He’s always asking me why I don’t score tries and kicks goals and do back-flips and all sorts. He’s just obsessed with it.

“They’re the reason you play; for the young ones and the family.

“When you talk about losing jobs, they’re the ones you think of.

“When you talk about the enormity of the game, that’s what I’ve thought about: what do I do next year with two little ones to answer? That’s pretty much at the back of my mind all the time.

“My kids are aged six and four so are very young but they’ve started school over here and built friendships and things like that, so it is hard.”

Campese has another year to run on his contract since joining from Canberra and hopes to keep Rovers in Super League – they were promoted in 2006 – given the impressive plans in place.

Former Australia coach Tim Sheens, who has stood down as Salford’s director of rugby this week, will take over at the helm come what may once the dust has settled today.

With head of rugby Jamie Peacock, who came out of retirement at London to aid injury-ravaged Rovers, pulling the strings and current interim head coach James Webster staying on as assistant, Campese knows the future is bright.

“There were a couple of times this year when we only had 17 to pick from,” he said.

“Hence the reason JP’s had to step back in. I’ve never been at a club like it where you’ve been hit by so many injuries.

“I’m sure if we can have a healthy squad we can do some good things in the future.

“You just look at the teams that have been successful this year, they are the ones that have probably had the least amount of injuries.

“That’s the difference over here compared to the NRL.

“In the NRL, you’ve got 40 players to pick from each and every week and you’ve got feeder teams that you can take players from.

“Here, you’ve just got your squad and that’s just about it.”

That may be so but it is the squad of 17 players that Campese leads onto the field today who are now of utmost importance; being in charge of ensuring Hull KR remain in Super League ready to flourish.