Hull KR: Much depends on Michael Dobson as Rovers look to return to the top eight
Hull KR Coach Craig Sandercock has turned to the NRL to bolster his squad for a play-off push in 2013.
Last Updated: 01/02/13 2:23pm
On the face of it, the Robins fell off their play-off perch in 2012. Having finished seventh the season before, they had to settle for 10th, five points back of eighth-placed Wakefield.
However, new coach Craig Sandercock did a good job just to keep Rovers in the hunt for as long as he did. The Australian's first year in charge wasn't helped by a raft of injuries to key players and the departure of forward Liam Watts to city rivals Hull.
Yet despite the lengthy absence of both play-maker Blake Green and captain Ben Galea in the early months, KR still managed to score 753 points in the campaign. Once again, Michael Dobson was their creative spark. He led the competition with assists with 35 and also knocked over 103 goals.
So, considering they managed more points than the four teams directly above them in the final league table, what was their problem last year? Consistency - it took them three months to manage back-to-back Super League victories.
A thrilling Magic Weekend win over neighbours Hull, sealed by a late, late try by David Hodgson, came in a four-game winning run that also included an upset of Warrington where they overturned a 22-6 half-time deficit.
Yet any hopes of a play-off berth were dealt a serious blow when they lost at home to the Airlie Birds in late July. They did get the better of Widnes the following week but then failed to muster another victory in their final five outings.
Ins and outs
It has been a busy winter at Craven Park and there have been some big-name departures. Stand-off Green headed along the M62 to Wigan, while Scott Taylor has also become a Warrior, though only after a "substantial settlement fee" was paid to acquire the England international.
Galea has also gone too, joining full-back Shannon McDonnell in making the much shorter journey to the KC Stadium across the city. Jake Webster has a new home in Castleford and Joel Clinton, Dave Peterson and Jason Netherton have all joined Mackay Cutters in Australia.
Scott Murrell, a member of the team that was promoted to the top flight has dropped down to the Championship to ply his trade for Halifax, so Sandercock had plenty of spaces to fill in his squad.
The former Newcastle Knights assistant returned to his old club to bring in Evarn Tuimavave, a sizeable prop who has made one appearance for New Zealand.
Cory Paterson has also come from the NRL to bolster the pack and Sandercock seems set to turn to Travis Burns, a player he worked with at Manly earlier in his career, to try and replace Green as Dobson's half-back partner.
There have been some arrivals from closer to home. Centre Sean Gleeson and winger Omari Caro come in from Salford and London Broncos respectively, but the pick of the bunch could be Greg Eden. The full-back was outstanding in the early months last year for Huddersfield and his signing could be a real coup for the Robins.
Charlie Mullan has been following Rovers for the Hull Daily Mail since 2006. He also covers both amateur rugby union clubs in Hull as well as Evo-Stik Premier League side North Ferriby United. Originally from a seaside town in Northern Ireland called Portstewart, Charlie has played one game of rugby league for Hull KR 'All-Stars' against Hull in a charity derby at the Boulevard.
Here are his thoughts on the season ahead...
"There is an air of quiet confidence surrounding MS3 Craven Park as they look to improve on last season. Nobody is making bond predictions as to where they think they should finish. Instead, they are getting about their business without any fuss.
The club's transition period continues with another large turnover in players with 11 out and eight brought in.
Gone are some big earners who didn't quite deliver when they managed to get onto the pitch. In their place comes a mixture of hungry young British talent and promising NRL players including Penrith stand-off Travis Burns and North Queensland second rower Cory Paterson.
Sandercock hopes it's the perfect balance to take the club back to the play-offs. Of the new signings, Paterson has made an immediate impact with his hard hitting tackling and powerful running and will be an important player for the Robins. Burns will add aggression to the half-backs alongside skipper Michael Dobson.
Young centre Liam Salter and second rower George Griffin continue to impress and 2013 could be big seasons for both of them.
If Rovers are to make the top eight, they are going to have to find a way of winning the close games they lost last season. Nine of their 16 defeats were by six points or less.
Last season Sandercock was forced to use 33 players including a lot of kids to get through games especially towards the back end of the season and he'll hope this year isn't as injury hit as last season was."