EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Hull KR coach Tim Sheens on their promotion challenge

On the eve of their opening Qualifiers fixture against Halifax, our man Aaron Bower sat down with Hull Kingston Rovers coach Tim Sheens to discuss the season so far, his hopes and expectations for Hull KR and of course, the race for promotion to Super League..

TotalRL (TRL): Tim, first of all – for an ex-NRL and World Cup-winning coach, how have you found 2017 in England’s second tier?
Tim Sheens (TS): It’s been different, there’s no doubt. But I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time here at the club so far and the expectations are still to do well and achieve something. We achieved our first goal of finishing top of the Championship but now, all those points are gone, and everything we’ve done previously means nothing with everyone starting on zero.

TRL: It’s been a good season so far really but it’s all roads lead to here and the Qualifiers, isn’t it?
TS: They’ve worked very hard and that’s shown in the performances this year. We’ve had every opportunity given to us by the club to achieve and it’s all eyes on this weekend and the next seven games.

TRL: Has it been difficult to put the Qualifiers to the back of your mind or have you actively discussed it?
TS: It’s been discussed in recent weeks but not to the point where it’s been distracting. What we do every week is going to lead to what we do in the big games but we’ll never take anything for granted. We’ve performed well here at home and only been beaten once: I think we’ve got a bit to make up there.

TRL: Who’s the pressure on more – the chasing sides like yourselves or the Super League sides battling to avoid the drop?
TS: It’s a good question – it’s something you’d have to ask them. I would say for sure that they would be very worried about relegation; I’m sure clubs like Warrington are sat there thinking they’ll skip through it and they might get a surprise or two. There will be some sides more worried than others I think but in saying that, there’s pressure on us too because we were in Super League last year and finishing first puts a bit more pressure on you. The other three weren’t far behind us so we’re not like what Castleford are in Super League.

TRL: Has the quality or experiences of the Championship surprised you at all given your impressive CV?
TS: On its day yes, I have been surprised. Some days have been terrible – and not only the opposition, but us too. We’ve managed to lift in a couple of outings we had against Super League teams in the Challenge Cup but they’re only two games, and we got beat by one of them in Salford. They’ve been playing at a higher level all year and they have that advantage. It’s more intense and things like that but in our recent DNA, we’ve got experience in the bodies of our guys. They know how to go to that level and we’ll have to go to it if we want to get out of this division.

TRL: Do those strong performances against Leigh and Salford in the cup mean anything in the here and now?
TS: In the back of your minds you remember them but it was a long time ago. Some of the games we played earlier in the year were better than some of our recent ones but it all means nothing. If you don’t get your eyes out of the rear-view mirror, you’ll crash and burn. It’s what’s ahead of us which is important.

TRL: The response from everyone at the club after relegation has been impressive, hasn’t it?
TS: Everyone has done their job. The fans have supported us, the management have backed us on and off the field and the numbers in our squad are good in that regard – but now it’s up to the team. It falls on us now.

TRL: You know from experience that Sunday’s opponents, Halifax, are to be underestimated at your peril..
TS: Yeah, of course. We underestimated them and we were sloppy but credit to them on the day. We need to be more switched on than we were that day. Was it a lesson learned? We’ll soon find out this Sunday.

TRL: Team news-wise, is Mose Masoe likely to come into contention?
TS: Mose will feature, whether it’s off the bench or starting will be determined on Saturday. He only landed on Tuesday but he’s trained well. You’ve got to know the rhythm of the game but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how he’s fit in. He’s had to do fall into the way we play: but I’ve been impressed with how quickly he has gelled with the boys – which is something that’s important – and how he’s handled himself in training.

TRL: Finally Tim, where would promotion with Hull KR rank among everything you’ve done in your career?
TS: I’m not wanting to talk about that sort of thing. If we get there? Ask me that question by all means. Between drinks, I’ll let you know.