2021 was one of the best seasons in Hull KR’s recent history. The Robins finished sixth playing some outstanding rugby capturing the imagination of their fan base on their way to the Super League semi-finals for the first time. With the arrival of Lachlan Coote amongst other exciting signings, there’s no reason the Rovers can’t kick on from here and take one step closer to Super League glory in 2022. The depth of their squad following the exciting arrivals in East Hull makes Tony Smith’s job all the more exciting but also more difficult when it comes to settling on a 17. That said, we’re giving it a go today and predicting the line-up Tony Smith will go on to trust next season.
Fullback: Lachlan Coote
Since his Super League arrival in 2019, Lachlan Coote has been one of the best yet most underappreciated players in the competition. The former St Helens number one and three-time Grand Final winner has everything. With a creative spark, the ability to organise and defensive smarts, he’s the complete fullback and could give the Robins the winning mentality which underpinned the recent success at St Helens.
Wingers: Ben Crooks and Ryan Hall
Ryan Hall has been Super League’s best winger since he racked up 32 tries in 31 games in 2009. He’s gone from strength to strength since and was outstanding once more last season as he returned to the league after an injury-hit season in the NRL. If he can replicate the form that saw him poach 15 tries last season, he’ll be pushing for a place in the World Cup squad at the end of the year and should be considered undroppable at the moment. On the other flank, Ben Crooks will persist. A very different winger from Hall, he also has great try scoring pedigree and will start the season as Smith’s first choice right winger but the currently injured Ethan Ryan will be eyeing up his spot on the wing after impressing last season whilst versatile new signing Sam Wood will also be pushing for a place on the wing or potentially at centre, a position Crooks also plays to good effect.
Centre: Brad Takairangi and Shaun Kenny-Dowall
But I believe Smith will put his faith in experienced and exciting duo Brad Takairangi and Shaun Kenny-Dowall. The pair were major attacking threats for Hull KR last term thanks to their ability to bust tackles and offload the ball to teammates in space. Whilst Kenny-Dowall helped form arguably the league’s best left edge, Takairangi moved around the side with his wide skillset making him a threat all over the field. He only played a handful of games at second-row last season despite the fact he sported the number 11 jersey, and Smith will again play him wider to get the best out of him next term.
Halfbacks: Mikey Lewis and Jordan Abdull
Hull KR are lucky to have three quality halfbacks at their disposal all of whom are young especially England Knight Mikey Lewis and fellow youngster Rowan Milnes. Both enjoyed spells at stand-off last season and both caught the eye with their creativity and ingenuity. The task for Smith is to decide who will be better partner for Man of Steel nominee and England international Jordan Abdull who was simply superb in 2021 and will be looking for another big year next term. After finishing the season alongside Lewis as the duo led Hull KR to the final four, it’s likely the pair will start next year as Smith’s starting halfbacks.
Props: George King and Matty Storton
Both George King and Matty Storton impressed in 2021 producing some of their best rugby last season as they established themselves as regular starters for the Robins. The pair are both hard-working and have the ability to step in at 13 as well. Their graft and tenacity will give Hull KR a good platform at the start of games and the other options in Hull KR’s squad will only bring the best out of them as they look to cling onto the starting jerseys.
Hooker: Matt Parcell
The same could be said of Matt Parcell with Jez Litten breathing down his neck where the number nine shirt is concerned. The duo dovetail masterfully offering speed around the ruck and great organisation. Despite the fact they’re capable of playing alongside each other taking turns running from dummyhalf, the question still remains, which one starts. For most of last season, Parcell was the starting hooker and it stands to reason that he’ll start next year as such as well.
Second-rowers: Kane Linnett and Luis Johnson
Kane Linnett was excellent for the Robins last season scoring 13 tries which was far more than any other forward managed in the league last season. He helped form a devastating left edge with Hall and Kenny-Dowall as he continually tore through defences week on week. He was often joined by Luis Johnson who made Warrington rue his departure with some magnificent performances on Hull KR’s right edge showing good work rate and skill.
Loose-Forward: Elliot Minchella
It’s hard to say Hull KR missed Minchella last year as they finished in the top six, but Hull KR’s best player in 2020 and a vital leader for the Robins, he could’ve given them something extra last year that could’ve made them even better given his brilliant skill set and ability to conjure something from nothing. Back to full fitness, he could return to the loose-forward role next year.
Substitutes: Albert Vete, Korbin Sims, Dean Hadley, Jez Litten
In Albert Vete and Korbin Sims, Tony Smith has two magnificent impact forwards capable of exploiting tired defences with explosive runs. Both could quite easily push for a place in the starting 13, but their ability to test tired defences could be key for Hull KR late in games. Meanwhile, Dean Hadley is another player who’d be right at home in the starting 13 but when you can name a player of such quality on the bench, you’re doing something right but he’ll still be hoping to push Minchella for the starting loose-forward role whilst Jez Litten will be hoping to push passed Matt Parcell to take the number nine jersey but his ability to offer extra energy around the ruck late in games also makes him the ideal impact sub.