Hull KR: What do they have to do to get to a Grand Final?

To everyone but themselves, Hull KR have been the surprise package of 2021.

Rising from bottom to sixth and a Super League semi-final spot within just 12 months is testament to not only the talent of Tony Smith and his coaching team but the willingness of the Robins squad to adapt and learn.

In the process, they have won an army of new fans for their exciting and positive approach; KR have truly been a breath of fresh air to the competition.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Nevertheless, they cannot now stand still and there will be an expectation on them to deliver further in 2022.

Indeed, owner Neil Hudgell, who has quietly kept a low profile throughout having largely and successfully handed the reins to chief executive Paul Lakin, said as much following Thursday's last-four defeat against Catalans Dragons.

On Twitter, he wrote: “A privilege to be in Perpignan last night. “Congrats to the Dragons, worthy finalists. Enormous credit to Tony, the team, staff and Paul for our progress this year. It’s beyond where we might have expected to be, but sets the baseline now for next year’s standards.”

Rovers fans will expect a top-six finish again and, in fairness, there is no reason why they should not achieve it.

To reach a maiden Grand Final, though, they must improve in a number of areas, not least defensively.

Hull KR's Jez Litten in action in last week's Betfred Super League semi-final loss against Catalans Dragons in Perpignan. (Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com)

Only relegated Leigh Centurions, Salford Red Devils and Castleford Tigers conceded more than their 22.9 points per game.

As an illustration of where they need to get to, St Helens had the best defence this term with their average being just 10.9 points.

Nevertheless, Rovers are in a good position to improve further: they have retained the bulk of their squad, including their excellent left edge of Jordan Abdull, Kane Linnett, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Ryan Hall.

Importantly, hooker Matt Parcell has extended his deal, too, and, crucially, all their overseas signings - Brad Takairangi, Albert Vete and Korbin Sims - have quickly settled and will be better for a season in Super League.

Hull KR prop Albert Vete takes on Catalans Dragons last week. (Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com)

Likewise, so many of their emerging talents who have made their mark this term such as Mikey Lewis, Matty Storton and Will Dagger.

But one reason why Smith will know they can significantly improve and perhaps reach Old Trafford is the signing of St Helens full-back Lachlan Coote.

The brilliant Australian has excelled once more this year for the defending champions and his capture is a real coup for the East Yorkshire club.

Coote, 31, will bring so much added quality to their attacking play but also a calm, authoritative presence to their defence, too, while his experience will be vital in developing another new signing - the Keighley Cougars tyro Phoenix Laulu Togaga'e - and Dagger.

Moreover, Elliott Minchella, their all-action loose forward, will feel like a major new signing when he returns from a knee reconstruction that wiped him out for most of this season.

The departures of Greg Minkin and George Lawler to Warrington Wolves and Castleford Tigers respectively are losses but Smith will feel his squad are stronger overall to build further next term.