HULL KR’S James Donaldson does not mind conceding the club’s players have been “smacking” each other this week.
There is no worrying infighting or lack of team spirit in the ranks to concern the Robins’ faithful.
However, there has been a need for some semblance of physicality ahead of tomorrow’s friendly against derby rivals Hull FC after an embarrassing no-show against Huddersfield Giants last Sunday.
Rovers were vanquished 38-6 on home soil by their Super League rivals and, even though it was all in aid of assistant coach David Hodgson’s testimonial, it was hard to stomach.
With barely two weeks to go to their league opener versus Castleford Tigers, back-row Donaldson told The Yorkshire Post: “Obviously that was not the best preparation for us but we needed that wake-up call.
“We now know where we’re going wrong and are looking forward to getting back out there this weekend and there’s no better game than the derby to make up for it.
“Everything won’t be squeaky clean in the first game, but we do have to make sure it is come round one.
“Everyone loves a bit of contact in the derby so I’m sure our boys will be fired up, trying to put some shots on, and so will theirs.
“We have needed to get some bodies in front of each other in training this week and had to smack each other a bit, but that’s just the reality of where we are in our pre-season.”
The former Bradford Bulls player reached Wembley during his first season with the East Yorkshire club last season following his move from Odsal.
However, Donaldson knows that was not sufficient success; Rovers endured a record 50-0 loss against Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup final and then also failed to make Super League’s top eight.
Things must change in 2016 and the East Yorkshire club are desperate to avoid the tension of having to go through another Qualifiers campaign like last year when they had to fight for top-flight survival against the Championship’s top four.
Cumbrian Donaldson admitted: “Our ambition has definitely got to be the top eight. It was nice to go all the way to Wembley in the Challenge Cup and we wish to do that again.
“But for the club going forward we have to make sure we’re in that top eight and contending with those teams. We have to make sure we’re on the up.”
Head coach Chris Chester has not made too many signings ahead of the new campaign.
However, one is two-time Grand Final winner Chris Clarkson, the industrious Leeds Rhinos back-row who spent the last campaign on loan at Widnes Vikings before joining Rovers on a three-year deal.
Donaldson, 24, said: “The work ethic Clarky’s brought to the club is just what’s needed.
“It’s nice to work alongside someone like him as we have similar types of games.
“He’s a bit bigger than me, though, so probably has got a bit more strength in his carry.
“But I think we both bring something different to the team and it will be exciting to play with him this year.”