LIFE as a pariah could soon be over for chairman Neil Hudgell if things go the way of his Hull KR club in the coming weeks.
That is how he has described life in the Championship at times this season after last year’s fateful relegation in the ‘Million Pound Game’.
A proud fan before and during his reign at the helm, he has been brutally honest with his appraisal of life in the second-tier as the crucial Qualifiers – and potential redemption – edge ever closer.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Hudgell conceded: “We’ve been sat here since October sort of waiting for July and August to come around.
“Without being disrespectful to the division which we’re in, it’s felt like a bit of penance, a bit of a punishment from week to week when you’ve been in Super League for 10 years to then be sat on the outside feeling a bit like a pariah, really.
“It’s quite difficult; in the same way it’s probably been quite hard for the players to motivate themselves week to week, it has been the same for me and for (joint-owner) Rob (Crossland) as well.
“Some games I’ve not been to, others have been a little like the clock doesn’t move – 80 minutes seems to take an eternity as, ultimately, we want to be in the other competition.
“I know it’s a big novelty for the fans being in here and every away game we have had more supporters than the home side and a lot of weeks our home attendance has been bigger than the rest of the competition put together.
“They’ve embraced it but it is one of those where they’ve seen it as a journey for a year – I’m not quite sure if they’d do it again; I think there would be a significant drop off if we don’t get back in next year.
“In one sense, you could describe it as 23 friendlies but I don’t want to sound disrespectful or disparaging. But you go to some clubs and the facilities are very basic, people trying their hardest but in that second tier there is a real gulf between the top few clubs and the rest.”
If Rovers can win again when London Broncos – their nearest challengers at the top – arrive in East Yorkshire tomorrow then they will have secured first place ahead of the Middle Eights.
“We’re probably near to achieving our first goal which was to top the competition,” admitted Hudgell, who led his childhood heroes out at Wembley almost two years ago.
“The next thing over the next month is to build some intensity into the Middle Eights and the next four fixtures are all very challenging so it gives us that opportunity.
“But we know we’re not playing great at the moment.
“We’ve had quite a few injuries; about 10 of our starting line-up didn’t play last Sunday.
“We’ve got Adam Quinlan, Thomas Minns and James Greenwood – three key players – to come back in and we’re probably still looking for a couple more.
“It’s coming to that critical stage now.”
The Robins hope to follow Leigh Centurions’ lead of last year; they did not settle for the ‘Million Pound Game’ of fourth v fifth but rather beat Super League teams Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR and Salford Red Devils to push on and claim automatic promotion from second place.
Without injured Hull FC loan star Jordan Abdull for up to the next 10 weeks, however, they have a big decision to make there in the half-back roles.
Rovers may look to bring in a new signing although 20-year-old Liam Harris impressed on debut last week.
“The key for us is to get key players back on the field,” said Hudgell, when asked about the prospect of battling to an immediate return.
“We’re confident but we’re not complacent. If you look at the bottom of Super League all the teams are pulling off wins in unexpected circumstances.
“Who’d have thought Warrington and Catalans would be in that bottom four? It isn’t going to be easy is it?
“Whoever it is, it will be very tight. We have just got to make sure we deliver at home, win all four of our Qualifiers there – easier said than done – and pick up a win away from home.”
The Robins have made three changes tomorrow, centre Andrew Heffernan, prop Robbie Mulhernand youngster Joe Cator replacing Liam Harris, Josh Johnson and Will Oakes in the squad.