Hull KR's Elliot Minchella looking to be better than ever after seven months out

THE SIGHT of Hull KR vice-captain Elliot Minchella back running in training will be a reminder to Robins fans of what they have to come in 2022.

Hull KR loose forward Elliot Minchella (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

Quite rightly, the signing of Australian full-back Lachlan Coote - fresh from achieving the three-peat with champions St Helens – has captured headlines for Tony Smith’s side as they look to build on a campaign where they surprised many coming to within just 80 minutes of a maiden Super League Grand Final.

However, the knowledge that Rovers will also see talented loose forward Minchella back in action next season will almost feel like another new signing, too.

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He cruelly ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament at St Helens on April 2, only the second game of their campaign, and had to sit on the sidelines thereafter.

But the Bradfordian, who had emerged as one of Super League’s brightest No13s, is confident of being back in time for the start of next term having stepped up his rehab’.

“I should be back in full training in mid-December, just as we go on our pre-season camp to Tenerife,” Minchella told The Yorkshire Post.

“I should be able to do everything from then on if everything goes according to plan. The friendlies will probably be too early and it’s probably too much of a risk that we don’t need to take so we’re aiming for Round One.

“I’ve not made a tackle in more than seven months so doing that sort of thing again will be weird but I am excited for it.

“The way it’s fallen I will be able to get rid of the rustiness and hopefully by then I should be pretty sharp.”

Minchella, the ex-Leeds Rhinos player who stepped back up to Super League after joining Rovers from Bradford Bulls in 2019, was impressed with what his colleagues delivered this year.

“Of course, it was frustrating being injured,” he recalled.

“But then you’re watching and they are winning and doing so well. You want to be out there and involved in it but it’s just so good to be around the boys.

“It has given me even more excitement for this coming year.

“We’ve made some good signings and we want to build on that and improve; we know we’re not the finished article and we want to get better.

“But hopefully in 2022 I can play my part in doing that.”

The ex-Sheffield Eagles forward feels he was in career-best form when injury struck.

Indeed, there are many in the game who believe the 25-year-old is a potential England player.

Minchella added: “Yes, I don’t think I’ve played as well as that before my injury.

“I know it’s difficult but I do want to pick up where I left off and, if anything, kick on a little bit more. I do think there’s more to come out of me yet; I’ve not reached my full potential and I’m aiming to get back to where I was before and better.

“Cootes is one of best full-backs in the league so to get out and play with him and hopefully our attack all clicks. We have three quality half-backs as well in Jordan Abdull, Mikey Lewis and Rowan Milnes so it is exciting and I’m sure we’ll all click at some point. I can’t wait for it.”

In further good news for Rovers, the club yesterday revealed young scrum-half Lewis has signed a new long-term four-year deal until the end of 2025.

He enjoyed a breakthrough season with some quality performances, scoring eight tries in 13 games including a memorable solo try in KR’s famous play-off win at Warrington Wolves.

Lewis, 20, also stepped out at Wembley for York City Knights before making an impressive England Knights debut against Jamaica last month.

“It was an easy decision for myself; it didn’t take me long to sign the contract,” he said.

“It was a rollercoaster year; to play at one of the greatest stadiums in the world (Wembley) was a fantastic feeling and then going 80 minutes close to a Grand Final was a great achievement.

“But Tony (Smith) has kept me level-headed every step of the way to make sure I’m doing my job to the best I could.

“I’m very excited for 2022. We’ve seen a few glimpses of what we can do as a team. With the recruitment we’ve done, the team we’ve got, and injured boys coming back like Elliot (Minchella), it’s very exciting.

“We think we can go that one step further this year and it starts with this pre-season.”

Smith added: “It’s terrific news for both Mikey and the club. He’s really stepped up another level.

“He’s got a few more to come and he’ll certainly achieve those levels.

“He’s earned it (new deal), he deserves it and he’s going to continue to improve.”