CO-CAPTAIN Josh Hodgson reckons Hull KR can hit the ground running when they face Leeds Rhinos on Sunday – and will have to.
Rovers are expecting a stadium record crowd of more than 10,300 for their First Utility Super League opener and Hodgson admitted they could not have been handed a much tougher start.
The last time Leeds failed to win their opening Super League fixture was back in 2000 and their 13 successive victories in the best first-round record of any team in the competition.
Hull KR have been the victims twice during that run, but both those games were at Headingley Carnegie and Hodgson is confident they can turn the tables with home advantage in two days’ time.
“It’s good to be at home in the first game,” said the 24-year-old hooker. “Leeds are great opposition and always have been over the years.
“We know they are going to come with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm.
“It is not often they get beaten in the first league game of the year, so it will be a tough day and we know we are going to have to be at our best.”
Rovers boss Craig Sandercock has rung the changes, bringing in eight new players in the off-season, with a similar number leaving the club.
The East Yorkshire outfit will have to cope without half-back Michael Dobson, who has joined St George-Illawarra Dragons, but Hodgson is confident they can more than match Super League’s top teams, including Leeds.
“It has been a good off-season,” he said. “Our conditioners have been brilliant with us and they’ve got us into fantastic shape. Quite a lot of the boys are the fittest they’ve been throughout their career and we’re all raring to go.
“It has been a long one, but an enjoyable one. There’s been a lot of additions to the team and a lot of people coming in and getting to know people.
“We had a warm-weather camp in Tenerife and that was important for us to gel and spend a bit of quality time together. That was a big thing for us and I think we’ve definitely benefited from that.”
Hodgson doesn’t see Dobson’s exit as a major issue. He added: “I am confident in the signings we’ve made and in the half-back who’s come in to replace Michael Dobson, Kris Keating.
“He is a world-class performer and a professional and off the park he’s a really good bloke, which is one of the big things you’ve got to have in a player – he has to be a good person off the field as well as on it.
“I think he has got that in both respects, he is a brilliant player and I have no doubts he will do a job for us.”
Hodgson has been handed the captain’s arm-band this year, along with co-skipper Travis Burns. He will lead the team out for the first time on Sunday and said: “It is a huge honour for me and definitely the highlight of my career.
“It is a milestone for me and I’m looking forward to leading the boys out with Travis.
“He is a great professional, he has been there and done it and I am sure he will help me along the way in teaching me a few things.
“I could think of nobody better to lead the team out with that Trav.
“He is passionate and he wears his heart out on his sleeve.
“It should be a great occasion. The new stand – which has brilliant facilities – is opening and I am looking forward to it being a full house.”