IF HULL KR are to have any hope of building momentum into their season they must overcome Super League’s form team tonight and, in particular, a player who continues to improve with age.
Warrington Wolves have won their last five games, revitalised under new coach Steve Price with the only British club in better form being York City Knights, who are doing wonderful things in League 1 on the back of a six-match winning sequence.
Underpinning it all is Kevin Brown, the 33-year-old England stand-off who, last month, announced his retirement from international rugby league with immediate effect.
Certainly, Warrington are already benefiting from the effects, the former Huddersfield Giants captain’s link with Australian half-back Tyrone Roberts quickly up and firing, while ex-Castleford hooker Daryl Clark is regaining his 2014 Man of Steel form, too.
Rovers, on the other hand, have had a rickety ride back into the top-flight after promotion, delivering just three wins.
Importantly, though, one of those came against Widnes Vikings last Saturday after a barren Easter weekend.
He plays it in the right spirit, is really competitive whenever he crosses that line and has been one of the best sixes around for the last 10 years or so.Kevin Brown on rival Danny McGuire
Garnering points at Warrington will be a sterner test but Brown, for one, is not under-estimating the East Yorkshire club.
“They’ve done well so far and there’s been some real close games in there,” he said.
“They are definitely going in the right direction. I watched them against Hull on Good Friday and then they got that win against Widnes last Saturday.
“They’re a good side. Obviously Tim (Sheens) is a very good coach who has done everything in the game; when you play his teams you are always on guard defending against his trick plays whether that be a scrum move or a kick play from nowhere.
“But we’re five in five now and things are picking up. If you look at how we’re getting wins, they’re built on hard work and effort; everyone contributes. That comes from Steve. That’s the focus: the team. I’m really enjoying it.”
Brown’s first season after Warrington bought him from Widnes last year proved a difficult one as the usual high-fliers finished in the Qualifiers during what became the celebrated Tony Smith’s final campaign in charge.
But Price, the former Canterbury Bulldogs coach, has clearly helped instil a new belief.
For Rovers, Danny McGuire made his return from injury last week, the former England stand-off who, at 35, has been an adversary since Brown’s debut season with Wigan Warriors in 2003.
“Maggsy is a great player,” he said about Super League’s record try-scorer, who won eight league titles with Leeds Rhinos before finally moving in October.
“But it’s also the way he plays the game; he plays it in the right spirit, is really competitive whenever he crosses that line and has been one of the best sixes around for the last 10 years or so.
“He’s carried that on at KR and we’ll have to make sure we don’t let him do what we all know he can. I enjoy going up against the best halves, though, and Danny’s certainly one of those.
“It’ll be nice playing Danny Tickle as well. He’s one of my best pals and we’ve known each other for a long time now back at the start for me with Wigan, then Widnes and the odd England camp. Potentially, he’ll play right edge. I’m left so we’ll come up against each other like the old days with Hull v Huddersfield.”
Tickle is included in Sheens’s 19-man squad along with fit-again prop Nick Scruton, full-back Adam Quinlan and Matty Marsh.
Brown has no regrets about calling time on his international career even though the decision surprised many given he started the World Cup final against Australia in December.
“It was a decision to keep me healthy really,” he said, after a number of concussions over the last 12 months.
“It makes sense and, hopefully, I’ll see the benefit in terms of career longevity.
“I do feel great now. I played three 80 minutes over Easter and I do take pride in being professional; I don’t drink much, don’t smoke, eat healthy and train hard.
“I don’t see why I can’t play on for some time yet.
“My contract’s up this year but I have an option for another year so we will so how it goes.”