IT IS perhaps not too surprising that if Hull KR’s Chris Clarkson’s partner goes into labour during today’s game, he might actually have to stay on the pitch and ignore all the off-field drama.
After all, the Robins are facing arguably one of the biggest games in their history as they look to potentially secure a vital place back in Super League.
This is the situation; if they beat Widnes Vikings at KCOM Craven Park and Warrington Wolves – who kick-off 15 minutes earlier – defeat Leigh Centurions, then the East Yorkshire club will earn promotion just 12 months after their darkest day.
Granted, if things do not go according to plan, Tim Sheens’s side have two more stabs at success in the coming fortnight but there could be some epic scenes played out later this afternoon.
However, the question of what second-row Clarkson will do if, amid it all, his girlfriend Hollie looks like she may give birth to their first baby has suddenly become quite topical.
On Thursday night, with 65 minutes played of their crucial game at Wakefield and his side narrowly behind, St Helens prop Alex Walmsley rushed off to try and witness the arrival of his first baby only to arrive a little too late.
Saints, of course, rallied to win late on in his absence but what would Clarkson decide if he gets the call today with Rovers two points behind Widnes and heading into the final exchanges?
“I watched that game last night and was telling Hollie to wait until after Saturday and then she can get going!” the former Leeds Rhinos forward told The Yorkshire Post.
“She’s not due until a week on Wednesday but I suppose she – it’s a girl – could come anytime now. Whether I’d stay on or not I’d leave up to Tim (Sheens). I’ll leave my phone on the touchline. But he could keep it from me or let me know. It’s up to him!
“In fairness, my girlfriend understands this is a massive game for us; our futures are at stake with it and she realises how important it all is for everyone at Hull KR.
“I’m pretty certain it won’t happen. She’s had no signs yet or anything. But we’ll see. And I heard Alex Walmsley came off and then missed it all anyway so that might happen as well!”
It would be fitting if everything fell into place given today marks Clarkson’s 200th career game and KR’s opponents are a side he played with during a season-long loan from Leeds in 2015.
But, given he was in the team that endured the misery of defeat in the Million Pound Game last season, the 27-year-old realises only too well that fairytales do not always happen.
That said, Rovers are in a position of strength given they have won all four Qualifiers games so far including a crucial win over their only previous Super League opponent so far Leigh.
Clarkson, whose industry helped KR to the Championship League Leaders’ Shield, said: “Everybody is looking forward to this. We’ve trained all year right up to this point.
“We’d all like to get it (promotion) done sooner rather than later; it’d be perfect to do it Saturday.
“It would be a massive relief, too, to know we’re back in Super League. I don’t know if we could do much celebrating as it would mean someone else would be going down and we know how that felt last year; it was horrible.
“But if it doesn’t happen on Saturday it’s not the be all and end all. We have more chances.”
Their remaining fixtures are also against Super League opposition with Catalans Dragons arriving in east Hull on Friday before a final day trip to Warrington.
Also, if they fail to take any further points, they are already secure of at least a shot at the Million Pound Game.
Some would say today’s contest is their best chance of sealing the deal, though, given Widnes, despite winning their last three games, have lost key playmakers Rhys Hanbury and Danny Craven to injuries.
Furthermore, with great timing, KR welcome back their own playmaker Jordan Abdull, the on-loan Hull FC player, after a broken foot suffered in June.
But Leeds-born Clarkson warned: “I actually think, barring their opening defeat to Warrington, Widnes have been the form team in this competition.
“They’ve got better and better with each game and we know it won’t be easy.
“Hanbury and Craven are two massive losses for them but they have Aaron Heremaia back and other great strike players like Joe Mellor and Lloyd White at hooker. We’ll have to be on top of our own game to get over them.”
Clarkson won two Grand Finals with Leeds but never contemplated leaving KR after being relegated in his first season there.
“I was always going to stay; I felt I needed to give something back,” he said.
Today could see him help deliver the perfect prize.