Tony Smith insists Hull KR tenure will not be judged on Challenge Cup outcome

A veteran of countless Challenge Cup semi-finals, Tony Smith will not be holding his Hull KR players back in the moments before today’s Elland Road clash with Huddersfield Giants.

A high-stakes event in a big arena is new territory for Smith’s side, although they did get a taste of semi-final rugby when they lost to Catalans Dragons in the Super League play-offs last September.

Rather than treat it as just another game, Smith has encouraged the Robins to embrace the occasion.

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“Enjoy it and let it be the motivator to push yourself a bit harder,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “Let it be the noise to help you make good decisions.

Tony Smith has encouraged his players to embrace the occasion at Elland Road. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“By all means, enjoy the atmosphere but remember what your job is and the way you’ve got to go about it.

“We’ve had a couple of sell-out crowds recently - the Warrington game and the FC game - and that helps.

“We’re going to a different scale now but at the same time, it helps you with some of the practical stuff in terms of communicating when crowds are loud and boisterous, and being able to handle the occasion and still perform. That’s where I hope it’s most useful.”

Rovers came up short with a Grand Final place on the line in front of a full house in Perpignan, a first semi-final experience for several members of Smith’s squad.

Tony Smith during Tuesday's press conference at Elland Road. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Smith is hoping the memories of that night spur the Robins on at Elland Road.

“If you don’t play well against good teams, you get beat and it’s over,” he said. “Whilst they’re not nice lessons, they’re good lessons.

“We’ve got some good veterans in our side that have been exposed to big games and won them.

“It’s great they’ve already got that experience but those same players that have experienced winning have experienced some defeats too.

Hull FC celebrate their stunning Challenge Cup win over Leeds in 2005. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“Some of the younger guys in the team needed to experience some of the defeat, probably before they experience the winning.

“I’m hoping that because they tasted that last year, they won’t want to taste that again.”

Smith himself bounced back from a painful Challenge Cup final loss to Hull FC as Leeds Rhinos head coach to lift the trophy three times with Warrington Wolves.

Whereas some believe that the competition has been devalued in recent times, the magic is still there as far as Smith is concerned.

Tony Smith holds the Challenge Cup trophy aloft with Adrian Morley. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“I’ve won it three times and been in this competition many more than three times,” he said. “I’ve covered all parts of the spectrum.

“It’s a great competition. It’s do or die and that makes it special.

“It’s got a romance about it because it gives everyone a chance from the best team in the comp to a team at the other end.

“I’ve had plenty of ups, downs and in-betweens.”

The 2022 Challenge Cup represents Smith’s final chance to deliver the trophy to Craven Park following his decision to move on at the end of the season.

Although he would dearly love to bow out a winner, Smith does not need validation in the form of silverware.

“I’d like to think I’ve had an influence regardless of whether we get to the final or not,” said Smith.

“We’re making progress. We’re playing in another semi-final. Last year it was a good experience for us and a bad experience at the same time. I think it helped us. It was good for our players to be exposed to a semi-final.

“I want to be a coach that gets teams to semi-finals and finals as often as possible. I also want teams I coach to do that beyond my time. That’s a good indicator of impact during your time at a club.

“Whether we make it through to the final or not, I think we’ve made progress again this year. That’s part of my remit.”

Smith’s next destination has yet to be determined but he has made it clear he wants to continue a coaching career that began at Huddersfield in 2000.

In the here and now, he must find a way to get over the top of his old club.

“They’re a strong team,” said Smith.

“They’ll punish you if you make errors and are pretty good at not making errors themselves. They starve you of ball and field position. They’re disciplined, hardworking and a good defensive team.

“There’s a whole lot about them that make them tough to beat but if we’re disciplined and create some opportunities and decide which ones to push and which ones not to, that may well determine the outcome.”