Tony Smith’s long-term strategy vindicated by Wigan victory

Tony Smith believes Hull Kingston Rovers’ 34-18 victory over Wigan on Thursday vindicates the club’s strategy for the future.

The Robins produced the shock of the season as they picked up their first Super League win in eight attempts since their round 1 victory at the end of January, as they stunned the league leaders.

A number of the club’s young stars, including Jez Litten, Jordan Abdull and Elliot Minchella, all of whom were recruited in the off-season, starred in the match.

Smith’s appointment saw the club change its recruitment policy in order to improve its long-term prospects. Though their win over the Warriors was just their second of the campaign, he believes the performance is proof that they’re heading in the right direction.

“We didn’t recruit a lot of high-profile players but accumulated some really decent, ambitious people,” he said.

“That was part of our recruitment programme, to get some good up and comers and get some experienced blokes around them. That was the direction that we decided to take, as well as supporting our Academy.

“That’s an important part of this; while we went for a lot of young people we want to produce our own, rather than go outside to recruit.

“We want to do all that from our Super League status, that’s why performances like this are important for us and our future when relegation returns to the fore.”

Smith believes that with relegation no longer a threat, it has given his young players a more productive environment in which to improve.

“There’s pressure on them to perform, but not while they wonder where their livelihoods will be,” added Smith.

“And I think it’s a better way to develop young people.

“There are some exciting young players there for our future. We saw Jez Litten, who we think is an exciting player for our future. And we’ve probably not seen the best of Mikey Lewis, because he went off, but we think he’s going to have a bright future.

“Matty Storton is also developing into a solid Super League player at such a young age.

“The coach finally put Elliot Minchella in his preferred position and he excelled. Greg Minikin, while he’s played a lot of first grade he’s doing well. Ethan Ryan has held his own in the Super League games he’s played, and then there’s Matty Gee and Jordan Abdull. We’ve seen Jordan play Super League before, but to see him express himself like that was fantastic.

“We know we need to add some experience around these guys, but in the future if we can keep hold and add to them with some more young guys through the Academy, then we think we can ride through the next few years and have a much brighter outlook for our long-term future.”

Adding experience will require recruitment, but Smith isn’t rushing to add troops for next year.

“We’ve thrown in a little twist that our owner has called it a day; that needed to happen for him and the club and I’ve massive respect and gratitude for Neil (Hudgell) and what he’s done.

“It probably slows us down a little in terms of recruitment, but we have a budget and with investment that could become better and that’s what we’re hoping. But rather than go crazy at the moment, we might delay slightly to see what we can play with.

“It’s great that relegation isn’t staring us in the eye and we don’t have to make rash decisions under those pressures and instead we can make calculated decisions.”

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