With recruitment for 2017 well underway, Hull Kingston Rovers are one club expected to be more active than most in the next couple of months.
In 2016, the club made numerous signing with one eye on the future. Ryan Shaw, Thomas Minns and Robbie Mulhern were all drafted in with a view to developing them for the future, while Shaun Lunt made his move permanent and Iain Thornley added some steel on the fringes. While all the signings were well received individually, the club’s fans were left underwhelmed with their recruitment as a whole, somewhat understandable after Josh Mantellato, Albert Kelly and Terry Campese had all been brought in 12 months earlier.
Although Lunt and Thornley have proved to be astute additions and it remains unfair to judge the remaining three arrivals, Rovers fans are demanding a string of established stars to make their way to the club ahead of 2017. With the new head coach yet to be revealed, it is not yet known who Jamie Peacock will be working for ahead of next season, but there are some obvious areas the club will be keen to strengthen in and the new man in charge will have his own players he is keen to bring in.
In the first of a new series of features, here is our report on what Hull KR fans can expect from their club in the recruitment department ahead of 2017.
Where do they need to strengthen?
Without trying to sound negative, there is room for improvement in almost every position.
With Lunt and Boudebza, the team isn’t lacking a number nine, however one thing the Rovers lack is size in the pack. Hull KR simply don’t match up to the forwards at Warrington, Catalans, and rivals Hull FC in terms of size and go forward, and Rovers need to add strength up front if they are to compete higher up the league. Dane Tilse has played well this season, but Rovers need to have players in their squad that will have that type of impact when the former Canberra star heads for the bench.
Another area that needs addressing is halfback. Although Rovers have arguably the best combination in Super League with Albert Kelly and Terry Campese, injuries prevent them playing with each other enough for Hull KR, so now might be the time for KR to find a replacement, with hopes of the two partnering as effectively as they did at the start of last year dwindling more and more by the week.
More panache out wide would also be ideal, but Rovers have bigger problems to fix up first.
A man repeatedly linked with James Webster’s side is Bradford Bulls utility, Danny Addy. The 25-year-old would provide another option in the halves and added creativity on the edges playing at second-row.
Another Bulls player reportedly on the club’s wishlist list is Mitch Clark. The Australian only joined Bradford at the start of the season following Doncaster’s relegation from the Championship. But he has quickly become a fans’ favourite at Odsal for his uncompromising style of play and blockbusting carries down the middle. In the eyes of many, he is everything Rovers currently lack in their squad.
Similarly, Nick Scruton would bring the same as Clark. The current Wakefield star has been there and done it in Super League, and his experience in a developing Rovers team could be crucial.
Finally, New Zealand Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell is the type of player the fans on the terraces of The KC Lightstream Stadium crave. A popular player in the NRL, a fallout with Warriors coach Andrew McFadden has seen the Tongan international play the majority of the year in the club’s feeder team. There are constant reports of the star heading to Super League, and Rovers would be a nice fit.
Who do they need to keep?
The debate on Terry Campese will rumble on among the supporters, but the key players that the club needs to keep hold of are Albert Kelly and Maurice Blair. There has been plenty of speculation surrounding Kelly in recent months, with reports he had refused to play for the club. But since then he has been excellent for Rovers and provides them a spark they don’t have when he isn’t in the team. Likewise, Blair has been in terrific form this season and his ability to be effective in various positions has been a welcomed boost for James Webster this year.
James Donaldson is a man out of contract at the end of the season, while long-serving star Ben Cockayne signed a new one-year deal with the club in 2015 with the option of another season, but as of now nothing has been announced.