The year 2021 was arguably Hull KR’s finest season in Super league history.
Granted, they didn’t top the fourth-place finish they secured in 2009, but they did finish sixth and a win over Warrington in the play-offs took them to a first ever Super league semi-final where they lost to league leaders Catalans.
Throughout the year, Hull KR entertained fans across the country with an attacking brand of rugby which appeared capable of beating any side. A true Tony Smith team, there was a suspicion growing throughout the year that they could surprise a few in the play-offs and make it all the way to Old Trafford such is Smith’s pedigree as a coach and his ability to get previously underperforming teams – look at Leeds and Warrington prior to his arrival – and guide them to Old Trafford.
At the heart of Hull KR’s success was of course that attacking style which pivoted around halfbacks Jordan Abdull, Mikey Lewis and Rowan Milnes all of whom caught the eye in 2021 with youngsters Lewis and Milnes scoring mesmeric tries against Warrington and Hull FC respectively.
With those three still at the club alongside fellow stars Ryan Hall, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Kane Linnett and hookers Matt Parcell and Jez Litten with new recruits like Lachlan Coote adding further quality, there’s no reason Hull KR can’t build on last year’s success and push for success again in 2022 especially if Tony Smith’s track record is anything to go by.
Speaking exclusively to Serious About Rugby League, halfback Rowan Milnes echoed these beliefs noting the club’s ambitions going into 2022.
“There’s no secret about it,” Milnes told Serious About Rugby League, “We want to be pushing at that top end of the table again and the play-offs, we’d be stupid not to.
“Every team’s goal at the start of the year is to win that trophy, and we’re no different. We want a trophy at the end of the year.”
He noted that the new arrivals at the club are a big reason he believes the Robins can push on in 2022 identifying one signing who has impressed him in pre-season: “We’ve had some really good additions this year. Sam Wood has been really good in pre-season, he’s looked really sharp and obviously there’s [Lachlan] Coote, everyone knows what he brings, three Grand Finals to his name, he has that experience.
”Everyone’s just ready to go now, we’ve done all the hard work in pre-season and we’re ready to play.”
However, personnel is only half the battle and performances are ultimately what leads to the trophies Milnes and Hull KR are aiming for in 2022.
The halfback noted this as well identifying consistency as key to Hull KR’s ambitions going into the new season. He did however indicate that it may be harder this year now that teams expect more from the Robins after such a successful year in 2021: “It’s just consistency really. Last year I think some teams wrote us off a little bit, overlooked playing us but this year it’s not going to be the same. People are going to know we’re coming and going to know what to expect so it’s about being consistent.
“We made the home ground a fortress last year so probably the away games are something we need to capitalise on as well if we want to be up at that end of the table this year.”
Ultimately however the past is in the past in Milnes’ eyes and he and the rest of the squad are simply looking forward at what they can achieve in 2022: “We haven’t really spoken about last year too much to be honest. Obviously, it’s good what we managed to achieve last year and we were happy with how far we’d come from the year before and finishing bottom but you’ve got to look forward.”
Speaking on the squad, Milnes noted just how important competition for places is in a side hoping to be successful.
“It’s not really a rivalry with the other players,” Milnes said, “It’s probably the opposite. We all really get along. It’s healthy to have competition for places it brings the best out of us.
“I wouldn’t call it a rivalry, we’re really close on and off the field. That’s the squad as a whole and I think we’ve added some real strength in depth this year which can only be a good thing because it brings the best out of everyone.
“Abo [Jordan Abdull] killed it last year and was close to the Man of Steel and Mikey [Lewis] had a fantastic end when he came back from York.
“We’re all the same position but we’re all very different players so we can learn from each other. Something you’re maybe not as strong at, one of the other boys has it as a strength. It’s good to pick each other’s brains.”
Beyond the fantastic trio of talented halfbacks, the Robins also have perhaps the best halfback in Super League history on their coaching staff in the shape of Danny McGuire.
The former Leeds skipper is the league’s all-time leading try scorer and holds the record for the most Super League titles won at a single club with eight titles won with the Rhinos alongside Rob Burrow who shares the record.
He then joined Hull KR in 2018 and starred for the Robins over the course of a two-year stint before joining the coaching staff.
Milnes believes that McGuire has been key to the development of the halfbacks currently at Craven Park telling Serious About Rugby League, “It’s mad. It’s weird because you can see it in him, in his head he’s still a player and sometimes at training he’ll join in and he’ll do something and you’ll think ‘Jesus you could still hack it at this level.’
“His career speaks for itself and me, Mikey and Jordan get a lot out of him, it’s the little details I think that he says which stick in the brain.
“Since he’s come in I think my game’s come on leaps and bounds. I think he’s had a lot to do with that alongside the other coaches David Hodgson and Stanley Gene.”