TONY Smith admits his list of things that needed to change for Hull KR to move forwards was too long to single one item out.
Not any more, the club is acting as a big club should as they prepare for a tilt at an unlikely Grand Final place.
Owner Neil Hudgell backed the boss to bring in the likes of Ryan Hall, Albert Vete, Brad Takairangi and Korbin Sims – and their mentality added to Kane Linnett and Shaun Kenny Dowall’s has spread through Craven Park.
Not just on the pitch as the Robins head to Catalans for tomorrow’s Super League semi-final after finishing bottom last year.
Former England and Great Britain coach Smith said: “It’s certainly affected some of the people who work at the club. A lot of things had to change to get out of the situation we were in, one of which was investment.
“Other things needed to change, like how we saw ourselves, how we treated each other, how we respect one another and some standards in the workplace.
“It wasn’t all disastrous when I came. There’s been some great initiatives by people for a while, they’re being followed through now.
“We feel like a club that’s growing. There’s been a lot gone sideways, including us for a long time.
“However, we’re only at the start of something. Anything we did this year in terms of the play-offs was a bonus.
“Yes, we came 11th last year, which made us last, and we make no excuses but it was the first time anyone had experienced lockdowns and not having crowds – we missed that more than most other teams.
“We also lost Mose Masoe, the player who made the biggest impact for us on and off the field.
“But the chairman’s financial investment allowed us to recruit better quality players. Their input has come in terms of leadership.
“What they bring are calm heads and attributes that are really crucial. Bringing in the likes of Ryan has helped the likes of Kane and Shaun. They’ve brought a calmness and it’s helped some of our young guys who haven’t experienced too much success.
“It’s been tough at this club but they can appreciate coming out of that area of the table into a different area they much more enjoy.”
Fate sees Tony Smith follow brother Brian in going from bottom to a Grand Final. In 2010, Brian coached Sydney Roosters – then including current Rovers players Takairangi, Kenny-Dowall, Masoe and Kane Linnett – to the NRL decider.
As well as the experience, Rovers’ play-off push has some exciting youngsters like Jordan Abdull – still only 25-years-old – and Mikey Lewis.
Listen to many before the start of the season and they would be down the bottom but belief something big could happen was always there.
But whatever happens tomorrow, there will be a new name at the Grand Final. Hull KR or Catalans will join Castleford and Salford to have reached Old Trafford for the first time since 2017.
That is a sign the salary cap is working, Smith believes, and is not a bad thing.
He added: “It’s fantastic for rugby league, for Super League. It's freshened things up and it’s great. It’s what salary capping was about in the first place.
“People in the sport want to see some new faces and different teams at Old Trafford. For the neutrals, having the same teams there can get a bit tiresome.
“Whether it’s us or Catalans, it’ll be fantastic.”
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