Rob Mulhern is set to make his 100th appearance for Hull Kingston Rovers tonight, ironically against his former club Leeds Rhinos.
The uncompromising prop endured a frustrating time at Headingley, making just five first-team appearances before he was loaned to Hunslet in 2015.
A year later and he departed the Rhinos, with Hull KR taking a chance on a player who was still unproven at the top level.
Despite Rovers suffering relegation in his first season, Mulhern played a consistent run of games and became a fan’s favourite at Craven Park.
It was in 2018 though when he really hit top form, earning an England call-up after a stellar season for Rovers on their return to Super League.
Injuries hampered his 2019 campaign and the chance of reaching 100 appearances for the club sooner, but it appears the 25-year-old is just grateful to reach that figure.
“I wasn’t really aware until a couple of weeks ago, how many games I’d played, so I’m really proud,” said Mulhern.
“I was really ready for packing in when I was coming to the end of my time at Leeds, so getting to 100 appearances, I’m pretty proud.
“They (Leeds) know they didn’t play well against Hull and they’ll be keen to show that against us on Friday.
“So, we have to be ready for that, and it’s probably going to be a really good challenge for us.”
Both Hull KR and Leeds were embroiled in a nail-biting relegation dogfight in 2019, forcing both sides to recruit heavily in a bid to change their fortunes.
Mulhern recognises the similarities between both clubs and has backed his former side to improve as the season progresses.
“The thing we’ve got in common is, we’ve both got a lot of new signings,” he said.
“You could tell from their game against Hull that there are still a lot of people to gel together. They’ve got new people in key positions.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how they develop, but obviously I think as the season goes on, they’re just going to get stronger and stronger.”
From his own team’s point of view, there is a positive feeling around a Robins’ side who were heavy relegation favourites prior to the season.
But an impressive opening day win over Wakefield and a spirited performance in defeat at Hull FC last week has many reconsidering their pre-season predictions.
“We know we’ve got the players to throw the ball around, and that’s how Tony (Smith) wants us to play so we’ll keep doing it,” Mulhern explained.
“We definitely know we could’ve won the game (against Hull FC), just a few little mistakes here and there probably cost us, but yeah I think, even though we played so well, there’s still much more to come from us.
“We’ll be taking confidence from that performance because we know, in ten games time we’ll be a totally different team to what we are now.
“As the season goes, we’ll keep improving, so that’s where we’ll take the confidence from.”
Mulhern also added that teammate Jamie Ellis has but his game-changing missed goal-kick from the Hull derby firmly behind him after support from those around him.
“I think he was gutted during and after the game but you know, it’s not easy to kick at all, especially in those pressure situations.
“We understood the game, why people might think he might be a scapegoat or a bit annoyed, but it’s just part of the game.
“There were little individual missed tackles in the game, which were just as important as that kick, just that was more in focus.
“He’s not letting it affect him too much, and we’ve all let him know it’s not a problem.”