Ben Crooks is hoping to prove a point to Hull KR’s critics after bagging four tries in a 30-12 win over Wakefield on Friday night.
Rovers were widely tipped to struggle this season, but they made a winning start, with an away derby against Hull FC next on the horizon this Friday.
Crooks told League Express: “To start the campaign with a win like that – after critics have tipped us to be bottom – is a really positive outcome. At the same time, we are not getting carried away with ourselves. We have a lot to work on.
“First and foremost, we are proving a point to ourselves, and if, on the back of that, we can prove a few people wrong along the way then that’s even better. But we know what we are capable of as a group. And we have shown how tight we are.”
Looking ahead to the derby, Crooks – a former Hull FC player and family member of Black and Whites legends – said: “It’s always a special game. Anyone who has played in a Hull derby will tell you that.
“You don’t need family ties or connections in it for it to be special. I’m really excited for the guys who haven’t been a part of it before.
“When you play the derby, it’s out the window what form you are in. Anything can happen and that’s proven over the years.”
Reflecting on his tries against Wakefield, he said: “It’s great to get them like that. But they all came off the back of really good defence.”
Rovers’ efforts were timely, considering the depleted nature of their pack.
They received an inspirational message from Mose Masoe before the Wakefield game, and he will continue to motivate the group.
Crooks said: “He is still a big part of what we are doing. He is still having input. And he is very positive. And I don’t think anybody has the right to feel sad or down or let that affect them, when it is not affecting him.
“He is a massive inspiration and he will continue to be throughout the year for us.”
Tony Smith, the head coach, had sprung a surprise by naming Jordan Abdull at loose forward.
Discussing the role, Abdull told League Express: “Having a couple of injuries down the middle, it was one of those where it was going to be the best thing for the team, trying to play a bit more expansive, backing our skills and – if we came up with errors – working hard in defence. The game plan worked.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be playing that role again, but I’m happy to play wherever I’m needed. I had a really good year last year at halfback, but I’m happy playing in the middle.”
Having returned to his hometown, Abdull senses the buzz ahead of facing his former club Hull FC. He said: “You can feel the build-up to it in the city.”