Hull KR v Wakefield Trinity: Blair feels Robins should target top-eight finish

Maurice Blair of Hull KR.
Maurice Blair of Hull KR.
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THERE will be a certain sense of satisfaction for Maurice Blair, and a handful of team-mates like him, when Hull KR make their return to Super League tonight.

The highly-respected Australian second-row is one of those Robins players who have been there throughout their recent tumultuous odyssey.

Blair played in that fateful Million Pound Game that saw them relegated in 2016 but opted to stay on when, as newly-crowned club player of the year, he could so have easily moved elsewhere.

Instead, the former Gold Coast Titan pledged to help them win immediate promotion back.

He did just that, lending his quality and experience to Tim Sheens’s side as they fought their way back out of the Championship at the first attempt.

And fittingly Blair is there now, also, as Rovers, back where they belong in the elite, prepare to feed at the top table once more, Wakefield Trinity being opening night opponents at a packed-out KCOM Craven Park.

“It would have felt hollow if I’d have left,” the 33-year-old told The Yorkshire Post.

“I wanted to stay. I wanted to help get us back up.

“And I’m glad I did. It does feel good now.

“But having been through all that there’s no way we want to be going through it again.

“The aim obviously is to stay up this season and avoid the Qualifiers. But we can do more than that.

“We feel we can be challenging and going towards the other end of the table.”

Some would suggest that is fanciful thinking but when you look at Rovers’ squad there is nothing to suggest they cannot make a push for that top-eight and beyond.

Not only have they brought Leeds Rhinos captain Danny McGuire in to steer the ship but they have retained the consistently-excellent hooker Shaun Lunt who, like Blair, stayed loyal after the drop.

With the imposing forward Mose Masoe and similarly robust winger Justin Carney the Robins have big-game players to call upon although, admittedly, they are perhaps a little light this evening.

The hosts are without injured forwards Nick Scruton, Danny Addy and James Donaldson who would all be in their first-choice 17.

Their squad depth, therefore, may get an early examination by a Trinity side who certainly have no such issues. Far from it.

That said, they have the venerable Sheens overseeing it all, a legendary coach whose vast experience, nous and tactical awareness will be invaluable as the campaign goes on.

Blair, who joined at the end of 2014, said: “I think we’re actually in a lot better position now compared to when we went down.

“We’ve come back up stronger on and off the field.

“Tim Sheens has been around years and his record speaks for itself; the guys learn off him every day.

“Wakefield had a good year last year and they’ll be looking to do the same. They are a big set with a big pack and they’re the comeback kings.

“They seemed to bounce back a lot last year late on in games and we know they’ll keep going.

“But we know what we’re about and what we need to do to get the result we want.”

Blair is entering the final year of his contract and turns 34 at the end of the season.

But the player, whose versatility at being able to play centre and stand-off could come in useful again, has no plans to hang up his boots just yet.

“I want to carry on,” said the ex-Penrith Panther.

“If my body feels good and strong and ready to do it again I’d like to stay here at KR again.

“We’ll have to see what happens but I’m ready to go now and can’t wait for it all to start again.”

Just like everyone of a Hull KR persuasion.