Tony Smith has got Hull KR’s unlikely lads playing for the badge, says old favourite Scott Murrell

HULL KR legend Scott Murrell sees real similarities between the current side that stands on the verge of greatness and the one he played in that last shook up Super League more than a decade ago.

Micky Lewis scores the Robins second try at Warrington Wolves in th BetFred Super League play off. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

If the Robins can defy the odds again and win at leaders Catalans Dragons on Thursday night, the East Yorkshire club will reach a Grand Final for the first time in their history.

Admittedly, no side has ever made Old Trafford from as low as sixth spot and KR were tipped by many as relegation favourites having finished bottom of Super League only last year.

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However, Tony Smith has created a team ethic and level of performance that has them flying, illustrated by last Friday’s stunning 19-0 eliminator play-off win at Warrington Wolves.

Jordan Abdull scores the Robins' first try against Warrington Wolves v Hull KR. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

The last Rovers team to even get close to these heights was Justin Morgan’s team of 2009 who finished fourth and had four players in the Super League Dream Team – England winger Peter Fox, prolific scrum-half Michael Dobson and Australian second-rows Ben Galea and Clint Newton.

Nevertheless, when it came to the play-offs – top-eight back then – they ran out of gas, losing 44-8 at leaders and champions Leeds Rhinos and then 30-16 at home to Wigan Warriors with their second chance.

Murrell, who played almost 200 games for the Robins, was loose forward in that exciting side and believes Smith’s team mirrors it in many ways.

“Tony’s got a good crop of senior players and youth so it’s a real good blend,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

Jordan Abdull crosses to give Hull KR the lead in the play-offs at Warrington (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“He has some young English lads there that are wanting to learn and play week in, week out and then some good (overseas) pros who haven’t just come over for a final pay day.

“They have come over here to win things and compete.

“It does compare to what we had. We had people like Ben Galea, Mick Vella, Clint Newton...all NRL stars who came over for the right reasons.

“That’s what Rovers have now in Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Kane Linnett and Brad Takairangi, people of that ilk who have all had very good NRL careers but have come here still wanting to win things.

Scott Murrell, right, was part of the last Hull KR team to reach the play-offs in 2009 (Picture: Terry Carrott)

“That rubs off on everyone else. I was a young English lad when people like that came over to KR from Australia and they set the standards of what we needed to be to be a successful team.

“But look at the coaches, too. Morgs was a very good coach who had all the boys playing together and obviously Tony’s record speaks for itself; he has them all playing for the same thing – the badge and the club.”

Murrell, who is still playing at the age of 36 with Keighley Cougars, is a big fan of Smith’s coaching philosophies. It might come as a surprise; the Australian, who won two Super League titles with Rhinos and reached three more Grand Finals with Warrington, released him from hometown Leeds when he was just 20.

Murrell explained: “I only had one season with Tony and then left to go to Hull KR.

“But things that Tony instilled in me back then are still with me today.

“The little things: the standards he brings and the expectations of being a professional rugby player still sit with me now and it’s 16 years since I was at Leeds.

“The professionalism, the one percenters, the things you do for your team-mates that don’t directly help your game but help other people in your team. That’s what he brought.

“You see it through this Robins side now.

“They just had each other’s back the other night and that’s a big thing in the game; no one is out there on their own.

“They are all there working hard for each other and it showed against Warrington.

“Then, you have young people like Mikey Lewis showing what he can do and a little bit of 
confidence to go out there and play.”

Scrum-half Lewis, 20, scored a brilliant solo try to help defeat Warrington on Friday night and has the sort of typical half-back cocky confidence that Murrell always possessed.

“He’s a bit quicker than me!” joked the former Halifax playmaker.

“He plays with a bit of freedom and for a young kid to go out and do that, credit again to Tony (Smith).

“And (assistant) Danny McGuire as well, who’s probably the best Super League player ever in my opinion, and someone Mikey now has around to learn from.

“Obviously, it will be tough to go over to Catalans and win as well but it’s knockout football and anything can happen. I fancy them to do it.”

Although Murrell left the Robins for Halifax in 2013, he remains a firm red and whites fan and would love to see them make Old Trafford.

“It’s not just the playing team but the whole club,” he said.

“As a business and fan base, they have been down in the Championship, up to Super League and back down again.

“It’s a credit to them considering where they have been and where they are now.

“A big part of that is (CEO) Paul Lakin being back working with (owner) Neil (Hudgell) over this last year.

“I was there with Paul when he was CEO in 2006.

“He’s a good bloke. He got a job at Stoke City when they were in the Premier League and went over there but Neil’s brought him back and things are going great.”

Disillusioned long-term owner Hudgell contemplated walking away last year but has reaffirmed his commitment to the club in recent weeks.

Murrell added: “It was quite upsetting really when Neil said he was pulling out of Hull KR given everything he has put into that club.

“But now for him to commit back and work with Paul, it’s only going to mean good things for the club.

“This is the furthest they have ever got in Super League.

“I texted Neil on Friday and he did say that was probably one of the best performances he’s seen in recent years.

“KR are going in with confidence now.

“People had written them off. No one gave them a chance at Warrington.

“But they went out and got a result. They can do the same in France.”