Hull KR were one of the stories of the season in 2024, being somewhat overshadowed by Challenge Cup Final opposition and eventual winners Leigh Leopards, but Willie Peters side have made plenty of strides to kick on in 2024.
Peters took over at Craven Park in the off-season, a deal that had been agreed way back in the summer following Tony Smith’s decision to depart, and the Australian made an instant impact.
A rigorous warm-weather training camp in the Med saw Rovers fire out of the blocks, opening their campaign up with a home win over eventual champions Wigan live on Channel 4.
That showed the rest of Super League and rival fans what exactly this new-look Robins side was about, something they continued throughout the season making it all the way to Wembley before securing a home play-off match for the first time since 2009.
Ultimately it was a season without silverware, but the fact that Rovers fans can now view silverware as a realistic goal says a lot about the transformation Peters and the board have led.
Heading into 2024 and the goal now surely has to be to go a step further in each respective competition, meaning a Wembley win and a trip to Old Trafford, and they’ve certainly added the quality to their squad to do so.
Here’s how we think the Robins could line up for the 2024 season after a busy recruitment window.
Full-back: Peta Hiku
There’s plenty of options in the back five for Rovers but full-back was a position that troubled them in 2023, and it could trouble them again in 2024. Peta Hiku was initially recruited from North Queensland Cowboys with a view to slot in at full-back, however since then Rovers have recruited former Salford and Castleford full-back Niall Evalds. This will be an interesting positional battle, particularly given that half-backs Tyrone May and Mikey Lewis are more than adept in the role.
Wingers: Ryan Hall and Niall Evalds
Shirt number five has been a constant at Craven Park of late with Ryan Hall a firm favourite for the starting position. He might have just turned 36 but he’s been exceptional for KR, and is of course chasing down Danny McGuire’s all-time Super League try-scoring record. The other wing is less certain with the departure of Ethan Ryan, but replacing him could be former Salford man Niall Evalds. Winger does seem to be a position that lacks depth for the Robins but in Hall and Evalds they’ve have a combined 336 Super League tries, certainly not to be sniffed at.
Centres: Tom Opacic and Oliver Gildart
Tom Opacic arrived prior to the 2023 season with a big reputation, the centre arriving from Parramatta Eels who had just made it to the 2022 Grand Final, but Opacic certainly lived up the hype. Whilst he might have hoped to cross over the try line a few more times, it was his defensive efforts that made him a fan favourite at Craven Park. He looks set for another standout season in the number three shirt. Opposite him though could be the man who caused quite a stir last season, Oliver Gildart. The former Wigan man linked up with Leigh Leopards just weeks before the Challenge Cup final between the two sides, despite having already signed a contract with Rovers. The 27-year-old has been spotted in training camp indicating there’s no bad blood, and if he can mimic his Wigan Warriors form then he could help form one of Super League’s most impressive centre pairings.
Half-backs: Mikey Lewis and Tyrone May
It might be controversial to some but the Robins now have such talent in their halves that early frontrunner for the Man of Steel in 2023, Jordan Abdull, doesn’t make earn himself a slot in the halves. Abdull was brilliant in the opening rounds of Super League but injury plagued him once again, and that allowed the chance for Mikey Lewis to become a superstar. Lewis further cemented his starting role with his incredible England debut, and he’ll now be joined by ex-Catalans Dragons playmaker Tyrone May. The Samoan was incredible in 2023 and helped guide the Dragons to Old Trafford, Robins fans will soon forget about Brad Schneider when they see what May has to bring to the table.
Hooker: Jez Litten
Willie Peters is blessed with two brilliant hookers, the experience and grit of Matt Parcell and then the youth and skill of Jez Litten. On any given week the duo could rotate but with Litten starting to step into his own and Parcell running into the last year of his contract, it could be that 2024 sees the changing of the guard. Either way Peters will know that once he looks to the interchange bench he’s guaranteed an elite player to come on and inject some pace and exert some control on the game.
Props: Jesse Sue and George King
Rovers have invested in their pack ahead of the 2024 season but in spite of that it should be expected that the 2023 starters retain their places. Jesse Sue was brilliant in his first season in England when he was on the field, something Robins fans will want to be a lot more for the upcoming campaign. If he can avoid injury then he looks to be cert alongside Irishman George King who epitomises all that Willie Peters wants. King is a tough tackler and an even tougher ball carrier. Whilst there’s plenty of other faces in the squad this pair will be hard to dislodge.
Second-Rowers: James Batchelor and Kelepi Tanginoa
With the retirement of Kane Linnett the club were able to recruit Wakefield Trinity’s Kelepi Taningona and you’d expect that it will be a straight like-for-like swap into the second row. Another former Trinity man is James Batchelor who was very impressive during his first season in red and white and he’ll surely only get better in year two. Often described by Willie Peters as the sort of player who he loves to watch, doing the work that often goes unseen by fans and neutrals, Batchelor seems to be a favourite of Peters and will surely find himself in the starting thirteen.
Loose Forward: Elliot Minchella
Minchella is one of a handful of incredibly talented English loose forwards and similar to Cam Smith of Leeds, he fell short of England selection to NRL star Victor Radley and both Morgans, Smithies and Knowles. Minchella won’t mind though as he’ll continue to keep his head down and improving, something he did game on game at times during the 2023 campaign. His ability as a ball player is something that has only been getting better and another step in the 2024 season could see Minchella regarded as one of the best in the competition.
Interchanges: Matt Parcell, Jai Whitbread, Sam Luckley, Jordan Abdull
The bench will also pose problems for Peters in regard to whether he carries Jordan Abdull on it or not. If he does then presumably it will see Abdull operate more at loose forward, with Minchella stepping into the second row however it could again be a call dependant on the fixture. A second hooker will be locked in on the bench, in this case Parcell, whilst you can expect at least two forwards to spell on and off for the other big men on the field. The fourth slot truly comes down to if Peters wants to transform Abdull into a thirteen, or if he’d rather double down on the forwards and pack in somebody like Matty Storton instead.
2024 Hull KR possible 17-man squad (numbers simply representative)
1 – Peta Hiku
2 – Niall Evalds
3 – Tom Opacic
4 – Oliver Gildart
5 – Ryan Hall
6 – Tyrone May
7 – Mikey Lewis
8 – Jesse Sue
9 – Jez Litten
10 – George King
11 – James Batchelor
12 – Kelepi Tanginoa
13 – Elliot Minchella
14 – Matt Parcell
15 – Jai Whitbread
16 – Sam Luckley
17 – Jordan Abdull