George King has urged his Hull KR teammates to put their disappointment from last weekend’s Challenge Cup final defeat behind them, and wants the side to ‘flip the switch’ ahead of Friday’s trip to St Helens, confident they can still go on and achieve great things.
The Robins lost out 17-16 under the arch in the first-ever Challenge Cup final to require golden point extra time. While the victorious Leigh Leopards celebrated following Lachlan Lam’s one-pointer to win it, numerous KR bodies were strewn on the Wembley turf with tears in their eyes.
Despite bragging rights within the family after beating brother Toby at the semi-final stage, King has now lost three finals in the same competition. Although he admits the pain never lessens, he says he’s never been as optimistic after a defeat at the national stadium than he is now.
George King: ‘I know we will get there again’
The Ireland captain said: “It’s very deflating, especially when we invested so much energy, time and effort, and the whole week building up to it had been great. You put all the emotion into it, and it’s obviously devastating to lose the game in the manner that we did.
“I wouldn’t say [we have] regrets, there were just crucial areas in the game where we could’ve been better, but everyone’s effort was fully there from one to 17. We lacked smartness at times, didn’t control the golden point period, but everyone tried really hard and that’s one focus we’ve had this week to keep that intensity up.
“They never get easier, they get harder every time that you lose one, but I’m a really big believer. When I came 0ff the field, I was more optimistic than I have ever been previously when I’ve lost a final.
“I know that with this good core group of players here, we will get there again, and we’ll do our fans proud. They’ve been absolutely terrific for us on the road, they definitely turned up in numbers [for the final], and they all did the club proud.”
Hull KR must ‘flip the switch’ to be successful in 2023
Huddersfield-born, the 28-year-old arrived at Craven Park in late 2020 ahead of the 2021 season. He penned a new deal last month to keep him in East Hull until at least the end of 2027.
The utility forward, able to play in the back row and as a prop, reached the play-off semi-finals in his first year with the Robins. This time around, even after the disappointment of their defeat to Leigh, he remains confident they can go even further.
King added: “We really reflected on the game, but we’ve got to start concentrating on the upcoming games because we’ve only got 6-8 weeks left of the current season. We’ve got to move on as quickly as possible, and dwelling on the past won’t be beneficial for us in the future.
“We’ve had lots of players who have lost Challenge Cups, but then gone on and been successful in terms of reaching a Grand Final or actually winning one. We’ve got to be focused on the task in hand, which starts against Saints.
“Naturally, with such a big final and the manner in which we lost, there’s huge disappointment, but we’ve got such good leaders in our team and we know we have to flip a switch to galvanise so it’s more positive.
“We took all the positives from it, and how we can improve from it too. Accumulate that all in one, add your leaders and a good group of core players, hopefully that’s a recipe for success.”
Robins striving for the top
Defeat to Catalans Dragons in those 2021 play-offs was an all-time best for Hull KR, who previously reached the last six back in 2009 when the league had 14 teams and a longer end-of-season structure than we’re accustomed to now.
Current boss Willie Peters spoke earlier this year about needing to change the culture at the club, and that would appear to be in progress with King today affirming that their targets don’t have a real ceiling.
The former Warrington Wolves man added: “It’s more about putting in a good shift [against Saints on Friday] and a real good performance. If we do that, it’ll speak for itself.
“We’ve got to flip that switch, we’ve got to, we’ve no choice. We’ve got six games left and are on the cusp just about in the play-offs, if we don’t flip that switch, it’s going to be harder and harder.
“Next minute, you’re playing catch-up and we don’t want to do that, we want to be one of the frontrunners. No one’s happy to be 6th, we want to be up there pushing towards 2nd and even 1st.”