Having bounced back into the top tier of at the end of last season, it’s been a slow start to Super League XXIII for Hull KR.
While there are plenty of games still to be played, four points from their opening six matches suggest that another relegation battle remains a possibility for 2018.
The table is incredibly tight at this stage of the campaign with the Robins one of five teams with that four-point tally but, while they remain above the qualifiers on points difference only, there have finally been signs that Tim Sheens’ side may be about to turn the corner.
A comprehensive, 38 points to six victory over Huddersfield Giants left Hull KR fans feeling that they belonged back in the elite after all. The club may remain a distant 500/1 option with Betway to win the Super League title at the end of the season (as of March 23) but, in reality, that isn’t the goal. Survival and a slot in the Super Eights will suffice and, while there are some tough fixtures ahead, there were some individual displays within that dominant team performance that suggests Sheens’ XV are on course.
As they face up to those battles and look to achieve those goals, who are the players most likely to see Hull KR to a comfortable mid-table slot during the regular season?
Adam Quinlan was, for some, the best player from across the entire division in week six and a man who comfortably made it into the team of the week. The 25-year-old Australian back produced his best performance to date in a Hull KR shirt, scoring one try and delivering three assists. Quinlan also returned 11 carries and bust four tackles and, if he can maintain that form across the 2018 season, the Robins should be more than safe.
The former St George Illawarra man has previous Super League experience, having spent 2015 on the books of St Helens but it’s been a stop-start career for a player who featured just four times for the Dragons in 2016. If Quinlan is to progress and catch the eye of the Australian national selectors, then he needs a big season and, based on his performance against the Giants, Hull KR could be the ones to benefit.
Pace and Guile
Andrew Heffernan also impressed in that victory over the Giants but, unlike his compatriot Adam Quinlan, this Australian has been far more consistent since arriving at Craven Park. Heffernan has 19 tries in 29 matches since first appearing in Super League rugby in 2017 and his sheer pace, coupled with baffling footwork, will play a big part if Sheens’ squad are to have a comfortable campaign.
Robbie Mulhearn also stood out for the Robins in week six but the standout performance came from Ryan Shaw, who crossed over twice and added seven goals for a combined 22 points from Hull KR’s overall total of 38 against the Giants. While four individuals shone, it was a solid team effort and while one game doesn’t make a season, things are suddenly looking far more positive at Craven Park in the wake of that comprehensive win.
Recent news hasn’t been overwhelming good, however, with confirmation that veteran prop Nick Scruton would miss round seven and a tough clash at home to St Helens through injury. There has been no indication as to when the 33-year-old would return to action but he only appears to be suffering from a knock so Scruton should be back in the starting XV shortly.
After sixteen years in the game, the former England international brings valuable experience into what is a relatively young squad and Sheens will be eager to include the player from week eight onwards if possible.
We know that St Helens can be beaten but Hull KR will be looking beyond that fixture and a host of winnable games that will hopefully keep them in a more secure mid-table place. It’s been a slow return to top flight rugby for the Robins but that big win over the Giants in week six suggests that better days are ahead and, while ultimate Super League glory may have to wait for future campaigns, there is enough potential in this squad to steer clear of the bottom four.