ALTHOUGH the pressing need for valuable points is uppermost in the minds of all Hull KR’s players tomorrow, the trip to Featherstone Rovers has special importance for Ben Cockayne for other reasons, too.
Most of the Robins side will never have played at Post Office Road but the experienced full-back spent an invaluable spell with the Championship part-timers in 2011.
Having been released by Hull KR mid-season, the winger/full-back dropped down a level to play with Daryl Powell’s side and went on to score 11 tries in nine games.
It reminded everyone of Cockayne’s talent and secured him a deal back in Super League with hometown Wakefield Trinity the following campaign.
Memorably, his form proved so stellar there that Steve McNamara drafted him into his England training squad.
Ahead of tomorrow’s crucial Qualifiers game, which Hull KR must win to keep alive their hope of securing third place and an automatic spot in Super League for 2017, Cockayne told The Yorkshire Post: “I had a real good time at Fev, first and foremost because I had a great coach (Powell) who really got the best out of players.
“We went on to win the Grand Final that year, which was great.
“The people of Fev are real rugby league fans, too. It’s not far from where I was brought up and they are a really family-orientated club. I did enjoy it there.
“There’s not many lads left from my time, to be honest, just Tim Spears and Ian Hardman off the top of my head. I played with Ian at Hull KR, too.
“But I’m really pleased for Fev that they got this chance in the Qualifiers.
“They came up on the rails a bit, but to get there was a massive achievement considering the competition strength of the Championship nowadays.
“They’ve not quite had the results maybe they would have liked in the Middle Eights, but we’re expecting nothing other than a really competitive game on Sunday, a good old ding-dong.
“We’ll have to work hard for anything we achieve.”
Featherstone, who finished fourth in the Championship and sneaked in to the Qualifiers with a last-day win over Bradford Bulls, have lost all six games so far.
Their biggest defeat came at Salford Red Devils a week ago, losing 70-16, but they have been more competitive at home.
Hull KR are level on points with Huddersfield Giants – who host unbeaten Leeds Rhinos tomorrow – but have a marginally superior points difference.
They will look to improve that markedly against Featherstone and, if Huddersfield do lose against Leeds, that will put Hull KR in a position of real strength ahead of next Saturday’s final game against the Giants at Craven Park.
Hull KR might not have to win both to avoid the Million Pound Game of fourth versus fifth, but Cockayne, who re-joined in 2014, insisted: “You can’t relax at all.
“One thing we certainly won’t be doing is relying on Leeds.
“If you look at their form against Huddersfield this season Huddersfield have beaten them in the league and cup.
“We have to look after our own backyard and make sure we perform at Fev.
“We have to get a solid result and then look to next week afterwards.”
Cockayne is the sole surviving member of the Rovers side who won promotion to Super League in 2006 and cannot contemplate the prospect of losing that valued status.
“I can’t think of anything worse than being part of the team that took Hull KR up and then, 10 years on, being in one that goes down again,” he said.
“We don’t need any other incentive really and I know I don’t want to be part of a side that is talked about for the wrong reasons.
“It’s up to us to do a really good job at Fev, but we will have to play at a very decent level.”
With their head of rugby Jamie Peacock, the former England captain, coming out of retirement in Sunday’s win at London Broncos and captain Terry Campese also making a successful return from injury, they are well-set to do that.
Furthermore. Maurice Blair, arguably their player of the season, is back in the 19-man squad after missing the London game to return to Australia for his brother’s funeral.
Head coach James Webster has added Ken Sio and Blair to his 19-man squad. The duo replace Joe Wardill and Kevin Larroyer, but Albert Kelly remains absent following his suspension.
Featherstone’s Tim Spears is back in contention. Bradley Tagg is available after suspension and there could be a call-up for former Leeds Rhinos hooker Robbie Ward.