AS A STATEMENT of intent with regards their bid to make an immediate return to Super League, hooker Shaun Lunt deciding to stay is as big as they come for relegated Hull KR.
The former England international has become the first Robins player to officially pledge his future to the East Yorkshire club for 2017.
Less than a week after they suffered demotion in agonising circumstances with a 19-18 Million Pound Game defeat to Salford Red Devils, it is a real fillip for Tim Sheens’s side as they prepare for life in the Championship.
Lunt, 29, has long been one of the best hookers in Super League having won the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield with Huddersfield Giants and, 12 months before that, a Grand Final while on loan at Leeds Rhinos.
He initially joined Rovers on loan from Huddersfield last season before signing a four-year permanent deal on the eve of their Challenge Cup final appearance at Wembley last August.
Lunt could have walked away following relegation as that contract is now null and void but he has agreed to honour the remaining three years and help their fight for promotion.
“It was always my intention to stay at the club next season should the worst happen and I’m pleased that everything has been sorted out so quickly,” said the Cumbrian.
“As far as I’m concerned, I was part of the team that got the club relegated and I want to be part of the team that gets the club promoted back up to Super League again.
“I’m loving my rugby here at Hull KR; they’ve really looked after me and I’ve been playing with a smile on my face again.
“Saturday was the most disappointing day of my career but it’s happened now and we can’t change that. We’ve got to be positive about the future and I’m looking forward to having a break with my family over the next few weeks and then coming back fresh for pre-season intent on having a good crack next year.”
Lunt, who scored eight tries in 23 games this season, knows the lower leagues well having initially made his name with Workington Town between 2006 and 2008.
With his enterprise out of dummy-half, in terms of running game, distribution and support play, he is undoubtedly a vital asset who will have attracted Super League clubs.
Discussions with other players in the first-team squad are on-going as the club bids to retain the core of the squad for next season.
Meanwhile, staff in Rovers’ football department have agreed to take voluntary pay cuts to help preserve jobs and ensure the Robins are in the strongest possible position to be playing top-flight rugby again in 2018.
Head of rugby Jamie Peacock – who played alongside Lunt with Leeds in 2012 – added: “Shaun is a hugely important player for us and one of the players we were most eager to keep.
“He’s a consistent performer, a leader out on the pitch and a true professional off the field.
“Hopefully, several more of his team-mates will follow suit in the coming days.
“Those discussions are on-going and they’ll take different amounts of time for each player depending on their circumstances and what plans they had with their families during the off-season.
“We have a plan in place in terms of how we will go about assembling the squad for next season.
“The support of sponsors and the response from supporters to the launch of 2017 memberships has been reassuring and allows us to plan for a certain level of salary cap commitment next season.
“We’d like to keep a core of the side from this year and to have an international-class hooker playing for us in the Championship next season is a really good start in that.
“For the staff in the football department to take a voluntary pay cut next season also demonstrates their commitment to the cause.
“It’s important that we all stick together and do everything we can to bounce back.”
Rovers confirmed yesterday they have lost one player, prop James Green joining Leigh Centurions on a two-year contract, although that was concluded long before relegation with the 25-year-old having turned down a new long-term deal.