It’s a rarity these days to see clubs enter a public war of words.
However, Salford had no issue standing their ground and hitting out at Hull Kingston Rovers last week after their attempts to sign Rob Lui.
The Red Devils were unimpressed by the Robins’ last-minute bid for their halfback, with head coach Ian Watson accusing the late move as “mischievous.”
Whether Watson is correct or not is one thing.
But that’s not the real question that needs answering in this situation.
More to the point, why, with less than a week to go until the start of the season, are Hull Kingston Rovers still scrambling around to find a halfback?
It’s not been for a lack of trying. The Robins have chased a number of players both domestically and overseas. Todd Carney was mooted as a possible arrival before he went back to Australia, Drew Hutchinson was another name linked before he joined Leigh. Even a return for Jamie Ellis was suggested before he went to Castleford.
But for one reason or another the Robins will start the season without the halfback they crave. Of all the positions to be short, halfback is perhaps the last position you’d choose. They’re hard enough to sign at the best of times, KR know this themselves. Trying to find one in the season will be even harder.
What is for certain is that it’s far from ideal for a club that has only just returned to Super League to be heading into the league with a squad they aren’t entirely satisfied with.
The fans are all too aware of the situation, too.
A section of the club’s fanbase have aired their concerns throughout the off-season and others have even criticised the business the club has done.
Frustrations have only worsened by the lack of developments since December. Club owner Neil Hudgell sent a tweet out almost two months ago suggesting the club was close to making an announcement. Since then, the Robins haven’t made a single signing. That won’t have aided the situation.
And that’s before some good news on the team strengthening front ..thank you all https://t.co/toQ6Fd67n9
— Neil Hudgell (@NeilHudgell) December 10, 2017
There’s no doubting the club has made efforts throughout the off-season, Hudgell and head coach Tim Sheens even jetted out to Australia to try and secure a signing, but they ultimately have been unsuccessful, and that’s only going to be detrimental as the season progresses.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the whole situation is that it’s another blemish on their recruitment record. The club excellently crafted together a side worthy of promotion last year and for that they deserve credit. But some of their recruitment in the years leading up to that fateful campaign in 2016 left a lot to be desired. Of course, the flip side to that is the club’s policy of signing big-name stars during their last stint in Super League played a part in their downfall. The Robins certainly can’t be criticised of panic buying this time around.
The club, of course, is now working under a new coach and a new football manager, so making that link is perhaps an unfair case of being guilty by association. But after so superbly making the most of a fresh start last year, this latest issue damages that.
Thankfully for the Rovers, they have until the end of July to finally find their man. It should also be noted that in Matty Marsh and Chris Atkin, the club has two young halfbacks who have the potential to take the club forward in years to come.
The only problem is that the Robins need answers now.