As the senior men in the Hull KR squad put their feet up at the end of a gruelling campaign, another group of players are counting down the days until the new season gets under way.
For young players across Super League, 2021 has to go down as another lost year due to the lingering coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 campaign was a write off for many from March onwards and the situation did not improve this year in the continued absence of reserve grade.
That lack of rugby has naturally slowed down the development of countless young players across the country, including Muizz Mustapha.
The on-loan Leeds Rhinos prop Mustapha was one player who would have benefited enormously from reserve grade.
Mustapha featured regularly in the early part of the season but went three months without a game before earning a recall at the end of August.
Ultimately he failed to do enough in his 10 outings to earn a permanent deal with Rovers.
McGuire believes Mustapha and other youngsters such as Will Tate were victims of circumstance in 2021.
“I think the reserves coming back next year will be big for a lot of the lads that need game time,” the Rovers assistant coach told Hull Live.
“Somebody who I love to bits, Muzzy, he just didn’t get enough game time. When you’re playing in the middle as a prop, you need to be out there making your tackles and learning your trade.
“Unfortunately, Muzzy didn’t get that chance for us. He’ll kick on and will be a player in the future. He just needs to learn and hone his trade.
“The same goes for Will Tate and Tom Whur. That’s why the reserves next year will be beneficial for them.”
Tate, Whur and fellow 2020 academy graduate Charlie Cavanaugh have been joined in the first-team squad by Daniel Okoro, Connor Moore and Max Kirkbright as Rovers continue to promote from within.
McGuire is excited to watch an exciting crop of young talent develop with the help of reserve grade.
“They’ve been really good,” he said.
“Over the last few months, 10 or 12 have trained with us. Jase Nev (Jason Netherton) has done an outstanding job and Basto (John Bastian) before he left to get these young boys physically ready to go.
“The job now is to get their skill levels and fitness levels up to first-team and reserve standard; some of them will get good run-outs in the reserves next year.
“There’s some good kids there. They’ve all got really good attitudes. A couple of lads live in Leeds but have moved across to Hull to commit to full-time training.
“The signs are really positive. If we can marry them up with signings like Lachlan Coote, it’s a great way to go about things.”
The challenge for those players is to get up to the standards set by the likes of Mikey Lewis and Matty Storton.
Rovers have several young players primed to take Super League by storm in 2022 on the back of a breakthrough season, leaving McGuire excited about what is to come.
“I don’t see any reason why not,” he replied when asked whether KR could take the next step and reach the Grand Final.
“The key to our squad is having some experience at one end and we’re promoting some of the academy boys that are going to train with us full-time.
“Looking at the squad, we’ve got a real nice blend of youth, experience and some players who need to prove a point.
“We’ve got a couple of lads coming in from the Championship who are going to be chomping at the bit wanting to take advantage of their opportunity.
“So I think we’ve got a real nice mix across the board. As coaching staff we’ve got to keep challenging them and improving them.”