Season Review 2020: Robins survive and are ready to prosper

Five things we learned from Hull Kingston Rovers’ season

1: A big squad doesn’t necessarily lead to success. The Robins used 33 players in 2020, largely because of injuries to their leading players, but so much chopping and changing inevitably didn’t lead to success and the club finished at the bottom of the 11-team Super League in November.

2: The loss of two key leaders was a bitter blow for the Robins in pre-season. Mose Masoe suffered a career-ending neck injury and Weller Hauraki suffered an ankle injury that needed surgery in the pre-season encounter at Wakefield on 12 January. On the field the Robins failed to fully recover from that double blow, although Hauraki did eventually manage to play in eleven of their 19 matches.

3: With the way it reacted to Mose Masoe’s injury, the club showed it had great heart, doing all it could for its stricken co-captain, raising money for him, helping his family and announcing that it would keep on paying his contract, despite having the right to terminate it in a situation in which a player cannot continue.

4: Hull KR may have ended up at the bottom of the table, but they demonstrated that on their day they were a match for anybody, in particular when they defeated Wigan 34-18 on 3 September at Headingley, while St Helens were only able to beat them 21-20 in golden-point time a week later.

5: The fact that there was no relegation at the end of the season was a great help for coach Tony Smith, who was able to give runs to some of the young players in his squad to judge whether they would have what it takes for another season in Super League. Those players staying with the club will be all the better for that experience in 2021.

Finishing position
The Robins had a disappointing end to their season, finishing in eleventh place (out of eleven) and their season ground to a halt after nine players were ruled out of action on 2nd November because of coronavirus testing, leading the club to announce that it could not fulfil its remaining fixtures. The following day, SLE announced it was bringing the regular season to a halt.

Best result
Undoubtedly their 34-18 victory over Wigan on 3 September at Headingley, which saw Greg Minikin score three tries and Elliot Minchella touch down for two tries. As it turned out, they would only win one more game during the season.

Worst result
On 25 October the Robins travelled to Wakefield to take on Trinity in a game that would have a massive bearing on which of them would collect the wooden spoon. But the Robins were blitzed 48-18 as Trinity led 26-0 at half-time. The Robins were without their coach Tony Smith for this game, as Smith was self-isolating at home and it guaranteed that they would finish at the bottom of the table.

Best player
Elliot Minchella was one of several players the Robins had signed from Bradford Bulls before the season began, and the 24-year-old, who began his Super League career with Leeds Rhinos, took his chance with both hands, playing 16 games and giving plenty of variety to the Robins’ attack when he was on the field, while he was reliable in defence, with only eight players in Super League making more tackles than him in 2020.

Best young player
Matthew Storton was another player who signed from Bradford Bulls in the close season and the 21-year-old backrower made a big impression, especially in the early part of the season in the absence of Mose Masoe and Weller Hauraki, showing enough promise to suggest that he has a big future in east Hull.

Best overseas player
Kane Linnett has been an outstanding signing for the Robins since he joined them in 2019. In 2020 he played 17 games for the club, alternating between centre and back row, but regardless of his position he was a constantly solid throughout and gave a great example to some of the younger players in the squad.

Try of the year
Hull KR’s second game of the season was against Hull FC at the KCOM Stadium on 7th February. Although they went down 25-16 that day, the Robins scored perhaps the try of the season in Super League when Ben Crooks touched down out wide on the left at the end of a move which started inside their own half on the right edge and saw the ball go through ten pairs of hands for a truly spectacular score.

Quote of the year
“Lockdown has given me a chance to reflect on the sport, the club and my personal situation. Hull Kingston Rovers has been an all-consuming journey for me for the last 16 years and I have decided that now is the right time for change.
“Coming back to play brings with it a return of the same old stresses and anxieties. The weight of expectation for a club of our size and support base is enormous and needs more than I feel I am now able to give.
“With all that in mind, I do not believe I can do justice to it any longer, which would be letting down the magnificent support base of our great club.
“Therefore, I will be relinquishing my position as Chairman of the club with effect from 1st December 2020.” Hull KR Chairman Neil Hudgell announcing that he would be giving up the reins in a statement issued on 24 August.

Image of the year
The continuing image of Mose Masoe, first of all paralysed by the neck injury he suffered in the pre-season game at Wakefield, but then making a gradual recovery until he was eventually able to walk again, albeit haltingly. We would all like to wish Mose all the best for a continuing recovery in the New Year.

Defining moment
Oddly enough, the defining moment for the Robins in 2020 was probably the withdrawal of Toronto Wolfpack from the Super League competition in early August, which meant that the threat of relegation was removed from Tony Smith’s side, giving the coach the chance to focus on the development of his playing squad rather than the threat of being relegated to the Championship.

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