This last week has been pretty quiet with the deadline having passed and the last of the new recruits Mitch Brown arriving safely and settling.
As previously stated the lads were off Monday to Thursday and the coaching team and myself were busy freshening the place up, ready for the players’ return on Friday morning for a players’ meeting.
Oh how far this club has come since the pre-season meeting back in November.
I remember opening that meeting up talking about the focus on achieving Super League and having a clear, determined, single-minded approach to it.
On that day I was followed by the head coach who wanted to put that to one side and not talk about it, claiming doing the right things each week will ultimately bring goals.
To me it felt more like hiding from something and I remember a couple of exchanges in the press where I jokingly likened myself to being from the cloth of the likes of Connor McGregor, putting out there what you are going to do then doing your utmost to achieve it.
I suppose looking back to some extent what was to happen down the line should perhaps have been pretty obvious.
This meeting was different.
The coaching team are driven and hungry to achieve Super League, as are the lads and we were all of the opinion that we should set our stall out – that it is clearly our intention and from that came the strapline #superleague 2017/2018.
We have freshened the whole place up taking it to a different level with investment in new furniture, significant signage as a timely reminder of what our focus is in every area of the ground down to the training bibs the players wear.
The Playstation is replaced with numerous laptops with OPTA software so the players can spend their spare time reviewing themselves and their opponents.
Neil Jukes set out clearly what was required and what changes were to occur.
There was a real buzz around the room a real positivity of togetherness.
Now make no mistake about it we are very focused, yet widely aware of how big of a task this is to achieve and perhaps more so this year than last year – hence the 2018 on the strapline as it isn’t a given or a gamble that we must achieve the status this year.
It is something we are committed to doing and will keep improving and driving towards until we ultimately do and if that sees the signs change to 2018/2019 and so on then so be it.
It has always been out there that this club is ambitious and that we want to be in Super League and be there as a competitive team, so we are not going to hide behind that goal.
We are also well aware that is the goal of many other Championship clubs and the fact that none of the Super League clubs will want to lose their status.
To that end our focus, as Neil put it, is #noregrets.
I have no regrets that I have done everything in my power to support the club financially, adding to the squad at the appropriate times, strengthening it whilst dealing with the continuous issues that reared their heads.
I have no regrets with the investment and freshening-up of the club, taking it to a different level.
As Fui said it is like being in the NRL and the new players coming in couldn’t believe how professional everything was.
We are in the best possible place we can be.
We have learnt a lot from last year. Last year we did nothing at this stage of the season.
It was never suggested to strengthen, we didn’t look around – there was almost an air of arrogance that we would walk into Super League and not surprisingly everybody on the outside wanted to see us fail.
This year we have gone quietly about our business and have experienced how tough the competition is and tweaked things along the way.
We have continually reviewed and improved everything that we have done off and on the field.
Neil and the two Pauls have done an outstanding job and we come into what we are billing as seven cup finals in good condition with everyone fresh and fit.
Fui’s illness means he has missed a lot of games and is fresh. Jamie’s seven-match ban means he has a lot in the tank, likewise Gaz missed three and has also been rotated as have many players including Riddy, who has started hitting some straps at the right time and is fresh.
By contrast, last year he and many others were burnt out and playing bust up.
So here we are prepared mentally and physically for a very exciting and challenging middle eights. Do I think this year will be the year we will do it? I think it is going to be very, very tough indeed.
Last year Hull KR won every round and were in the Challenge Cup final during the period.
Huddersfield have consistently been a top-four team for the last few years and Leeds who need no introduction are now hitting the kind of form that saw them win the treble last year.
Then there is Batley who have already claimed our scalp earlier in the year, so they know they have what it takes to come good against us after running us close at LSV.
Similarly, Featherstone gave us a really close game on both occasions and are really flying high and will benefit from the intensity they come with from their last three games.
It is never easy going to Featherstone.
Then there is London, who dipped at the end having been right behind us all year but finished strong with a good victory at Halifax in the last round.
They too have strengthened perhaps most notably with Soward who is obviously a real threat.
Then there is Salford, the team that I believe will take the most beating. It could perhaps be ironic that the points deduction inflicted on Salford actually affects us more than it does them.
By virtue of that deduction we have to face what is really a top-eight side and in the end that could be the determining factor that sees us having to regroup and go harder next year.
Had Salford not lost the points then Wakefield would have been in the middle eights and, without being disrespectful to them, I think we would have had a better chance with them in the mix, particularly after watching them against Warrington.
Perhaps the point deduction situation needs to be looked at more carefully as, whilst it has taken points from Salford and prevented them from being in the top eight – which I understand is a punishment – it has effectively made it more difficult for the Championship and other Super League teams and that has to raise the question of is that actually fair.
Time will tell but before we face them we must prepare for the visit of the London Broncos.
It would be great to get off to a winning start as if we do that we will already have achieved what we did last year.
I am about progression so if we better that and get fifth or sixth as aimed for last year that will be a success and we can continue marching forward.
Any other than that will truly be a bonus.
Enjoy the challenge the town is buzzing the team are buzzing and I am buzzing. I hope you are buzzing too!