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Tony Smith says Hull KR signed one of their greatest ever signings ‘on the cheap’

Hull KR

The tide has certainly turned in Hull with Hull KR now the dominant force relative to their neighbours FC in West Hull and plenty of the current success began under former Black and Whites coach Tony Smith, who has now revealed the star player the Robins signed ‘on the cheap’.

Tony Smith coached Hull KR from 2019 until the middle of the 2022 season and took the Robins to their first-ever Super League playoff semi-final, the first of a string of semi-finals that the club have now made.

It might have ended badly but Hull KR certainly improved under Tony Smith with plenty of the building blocks established during his tenure at Craven Park, including the arrival of NRL star Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

The former Kiwi international arrived at Hull KR in 2020 and would go on to make 93 appearances for the Robins and has now taken on a role in helping develop the club’s young talents, but Tony Smith has now revealed that KR actually got the former NRL winner ‘on the cheap’.

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Tony Smith points to the signing that transformed fortunes at Hull KR

Hull KR

Credit: Imago Images

Speaking as part of Sky Sports‘ preview of the Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos game, Smith spoke about his time in both halves of the city, including the arrival of Shaun Kenny-Dowall. He used the centre as an example of elite recruitment, something that Hull KR have become masters of with current signings such as Peta Hiku, Tyrone May, Kelepi Tanginoa and Niall Evalds all having extraordinary seasons.

Smith explained that landing just one star such as Kenny-Dowall can help turn the tide on recruitment, something that Hull FC will be hoping arrivals such as John Asiata will do for them.

He said: “I was fortunate enough at my previous club before this one, at Hull KR, to get Shaun Kenny Dowall over.

“They turned a corner on that and made it much more attractive, much more attractive and you start to develop a culture and he was a big part of that. And he didn’t come for big money, he came at the end of his career, NRL career, to come over here to make a difference and to leave a legacy, he bought into that.”

Kenny-Dowall was so good during his time in Super League that Wigan head coach Matt Peet would label him as one of the best-ever overseas signings, noting: “I think Shaun Kenny-Dowall is actually underrated as the impact he’s had on Super League. I’m a massive fan of his and I think he should be known as one of the best Super League obviously signings that we’ve seen.”

How can Hull FC turn their future around?

Hull FC coach Tony Smith

Credit: Imago Images

Not only did Kenny-Dowall help transform Hull KR’s fortunes, he did so for relatively little cost as Smith explained that he arrived on a cut-price deal due to his desire to conquer Super League.

Talking about elite overseas stars, Smith explained: “Of course, there’s not many about Brian you know and if they are, they’re expensive.

“The good thing about Shaun, he won’t like me saying it, but he didn’t come for probably what he was worth. He came cheap. He wanted to do it. He came for the experience of it and he wanted to contribute and leave a legacy and he’s still there.

“He’s still working there and creating a great culture over there and that helps change things, and when this turns here (Hull FC), people will get more attracted to come here as well.

“In the meantime, you need those sort of people and you take some risk on some others and you hope that they just work out. I think given time, they will. Some of these young guys that probably are getting the start that I think they could have still developed into being good players for this club.”

Of course, Hull FC would go on to land their first win since early March when a Tony Smith-coached side beat London Broncos. That victory over Leeds Rhinos has mounted the pressure on Smith’s nephew Rohan though with Rhinos fans in meltdown over the loss, as seen here.

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