MORE than 20 years after painfully seeing any chance of signing for them disappear due to a “naughty” agent, Hull KR head coach Chris Chester faces his home-town club Wakefield Trinity Wildcats tomorrow looking to add some pain of his own.
Both sides await a first Super League win of the season and, rather foolishly, some onlookers are already stating it is “must-win” for each, despite the campaign being just two weeks old.
However, it perhaps shows how vulnerable both teams are perceived to be that, while most of the competition takes a weekend off to showcase the World Club Series, there is so much emphasis on the importance of this fixture for its protagonists.
There are plenty of links between them; as Hull KR start their 10th season of Super League, Wakefield were their first opponents among the elite on February 10, 2007.
Ben Cockayne, in his second spell for Rovers after a career-reviving spell with Trinity, scored the match-winning try in a famous 14-9 win, Chester playing loose-forward for the East Yorkshire club that day, too.
Chester concedes he does have a great fondness for Trinity, given a lifelong affinity with them, and the former Wigan Warriors player revealed how much he did once hope to represent them.
“I always wanted to play for Wakefield; they are my hometown club,” he said.
“I’ve been a Wakefield fan all my life, a season-ticket holder, my dad used to go down with my eldest brother while my grandad used to be the bus driver for the team coach all those years ago when Neil Fox and those people were there.
“It’s a club where, when we haven’t got a game, I will still go watch and support them and all my family live there.
“When I was leaving the amateur game, I always wanted to sign for them but an opportunity just never came up.
“There was an agent at the time whose name I won’t mention but who was a little bit naughty. He said I had bad knees. There was nothing wrong with my knees but every time people came to watch me that kind of put them off. That agent’s not around any more.”
Chester, an England Schoolboys captain, instead joined Halifax from Stanley Rangers and then, aged 21, went on to Wigan before arriving at Hull KR via Hull FC.
Asked about his recollections of that famous night at Craven Park when Rovers arrived in Super League with a memorable win, the 37-year-old admitted: “I can’t remember what I did yesterday, never mind 10 years ago!
“But what sticks out for me all those seasons ago was the atmosphere and the fans singing ‘Red Red Robin’.
“It was a great night claiming the club’s first Super League points against Wakefield. We snatched it at the last minute.
“I remember going down the short side (for Scott Murrell’s try), but I haven’t watched the game since. It was just a special night and very fitting we got two points in what was then Craven Park.”
Rovers – who are without six first-team regulars tomorrow – drew their opening game this year 16-16 against Castleford Tigers before crashing heavily at Warrington on Sunday.
Trinity, bottom last term, were vanquished 40-6 at Castleford having also lost against Widnes, hence both sides’ need for success. Chester insisted: “It’s important but I wouldn’t say must-win.
“There’s no must-wins in the second or third week in February and we’ll be working hard on the things that let us down at the weekend – ball control and kicking options. Our defensive work told in the end. We made too many errors and Warrington had 12 more sets than us.
“Wakefield have got eight or nine new faces in this season and I know through past experience last year that it takes time for a team to gel together.
“They’re not far away – they played very well against Widnes the other week in large parts of the game. They’ll be disappointed losing the derby game against Cas but I thought they showed pretty good signs in terms of what they’re doing with the ball, which makes them pretty dangerous.”
Hull KR could give a debut to versatile back Ryan Shaw after he was called up into the 19-man squad as their only change, replacing Donaldson.