Peta Hiku on full-back struggles, kicking issues and the key to success for Hull KR

As Hull KR tore St Helens apart last Saturday, one thing stood out: the balance of the team.

Rovers have had a potent left edge for several years now but did not carry the same threat on the opposite flank.

That has changed under Willie Peters, as evidenced by the manner of the 40-20 win against the best defensive side in Super League.

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Saints simply could not handle KR's attacking shape and multitude of strike weapons.

Kelepi Tanginoa and Jack Broadbent shone on the left – marshalled superbly by Mikey Lewis – but teams now have to worry about a right edge of Tyrone May, James Batchelor, Peta Hiku and Joe Burgess.

With Niall Evalds injecting pace and skill into the line from full-back, it is little wonder that Rovers lead the way for tries scored in 2024.

The Robins have posted 246 points on their way to winning seven of their last eight games in league and cup, a run that has coincided with Evalds and Hiku switching to their natural positions.

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Hiku began his career at full-back but struggled to play his best rugby in the role in the opening four rounds of this season.

Peta Hiku has caught the eye since his move to centre. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/ Hiku has caught the eye since his move to centre. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/
Peta Hiku has caught the eye since his move to centre. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/

The Robins have not looked back since the New Zealander's move to centre.

"I think it was a muscle memory thing," said Hiku when asked why it did not work out for him at full-back.

"I was sort of overthinking things, whereas I played in the centres the last 10 years and when I'm there it's just more comfortable and natural. It looked that way and I felt that way when we were swapping in and out (during games).

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"When I went back to full-back, it was more about not wanting to let my team-mates down. It's a role I do enjoy but I was overdoing it.

Hull KR savour the win over St Helens. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/ KR savour the win over St Helens. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/
Hull KR savour the win over St Helens. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/

"It wasn't like that muscle memory where people play their natural position and natural game. We spoke about it and thought centre was where I looked more comfortable and how I felt more comfortable."

Hiku has scored nine tries in 12 games after overcoming a shaky opening night in KR colours.

The 31-year-old earned the tee during pre-season but was wayward in the round one derby against Hull FC, kicking one goal from five attempts.

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Things are looking up for the Robins on the goalkicking front after Mikey Lewis nailed six from seven in the win over Saints – and Hiku has been happier and healthier without the responsibility.

Peta Hiku races clear against London. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/ Hiku races clear against London. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/
Peta Hiku races clear against London. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/

"The kicking didn't really bother me in a game," said Hiku on the mental aspect.

"I had surgery on my right knee in 2017 and have always had a problem. The kicking put a load on it.

"I don't know if I was overworking my knee but since I've stopped it, I've felt more comfortable and there's less stress on the knee.

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"To be able to focus on my game and enjoy it has been good for my body. Mikey and Jez (Litten) are doing real good at the moment so it's nothing for us to stress about."

After seeing off defending champions Wigan Warriors and Super League's most successful club St Helens on consecutive weekends, KR's next challenge takes them to second-placed Warrington Wolves.

Peters' side still have work to do to convince some people that they are the real deal – particularly away from home – but Hiku is not concerned about how Rovers are perceived.

Hull KR celebrate their recent win over Wigan. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/ KR celebrate their recent win over Wigan. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/
Hull KR celebrate their recent win over Wigan. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/

"I think there's always been that around us," he said ahead of Thursday's reunion with his former club, which is followed by a Challenge Cup semi-final against Wigan.

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"With the way the team presented themselves last year, they did very well and led the way, and I wanted to stay with them and match them. I feel like that's something we've been doing.

"When you start thinking about the outside noise, that sort of affects the way people get their mindset into games. If we can focus on what we do at training and everything else we can control, we'll be good."

Hull KR and Warrington are two of six teams locked on 14 points after 10 rounds to highlight the competitiveness of Super League, at the top end at least.

As far as Hiku is concerned, KR's destiny is in their own hands as they fight for silverware on two fronts.

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"We played Wigan, Wigan played (Catalans) Dragons and Dragons played us within three weeks and they were all different results," he added. "It just goes to show that whoever turns up on the day, the best team wins.

"That was a wake-up call, not just for me, but for our team. If you turn up with the right attitude, anyone can win the game. That's what the table shows. It's just a mindset thing at the moment.

"The way we've started this year, we've noticed that our best games are when we start firing in the first 20 minutes and when we don't do that we're not so good.

"The key for us is how we start games because we know we've got points in us and can play for 80 minutes."

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