After years of disappointment, Tony Smith’s team have put Hull KR back on the map in 2021.

Rovers came into the season as one of the favourites to go down after ending 2020 with the wooden spoon.

But they have enjoyed a remarkable turnaround, with Warrington Wolves' win over Castleford Tigers securing KR's play-off place.

The Robins will bring the curtain down on the regular season against top-six rivals Leeds Rhinos at Headingley tonight, a game they have prepared for thinking it is make or break.

Whereas in years gone by KR may have been happy to see the back of the season, Smith’s side do not want this one to end.

“I don’t have to build it too much,” he said as he looked ahead to the Leeds clash.

“They’re not silly, they understand the ramifications of different things. Sometimes they just need some cool heads around them. Sometimes that comes from experienced players and sometimes it comes from coaches.

“We want to enjoy what we’re doing. One of our fears is finishing. We’re enjoying it.

“I don’t think any of us want to not come into work next week. That’s because we’re having great fun.

“That’s the sort of atmosphere we’re trying to build here. There might be one or two that are looking forward to jumping on a plane.

“But I seriously think that most of us, almost to a man, would be disappointed if we’re not coming in and training next week.”

Smith is no stranger to big games at this stage of the season having coached in six Grand Finals during his spells with Leeds and Warrington Wolves.

He has told his players to leave everything out on the field at Headingley.

“I don’t know about excited but it’s the fun part of the year, for sure,” he said on his emotions going into the game. “It can be; it can be horrible too.

“That’s why we try to focus on just performing well and doing ourselves proud. If you go out and perform well, there’s nothing more you can do.

Hull Kingston Rovers players warm up before the game against Huddersfield Giants
Hull Kingston Rovers players warm up before the game against Huddersfield Giants

“If we go out there and perform well and Leeds happen to do better than us and Cas play great, what more can you do?

“I suppose sometimes you walk away thinking, ‘Could I have done something a bit better?’

“I just want my players to not leave anything behind and try hard every week, no matter who they’re playing and when they’re playing. That’s what we work really hard on.

“I think that’s been a big difference to where we’ve been in the past. I do think we’ve been competitive in most games for most of the game throughout the season.

“I said that prior to the season starting that that’s what we would like to do and that would probably carry us a long way into the season and competition. We’re doing that.”

Regardless of how the coming weeks play out, Smith expects the Robins to be better for this experience.

“We’ve got some vastly experienced players but we’ve also got some young players,” he added.

“Whichever way it is, it’s exciting. It’s exciting for those guys who have tasted these sorts of games before and it’s exciting for the young ones who haven’t.

“That’s all part of learning and growing up. I’m sure any of the experienced players and coaches have had defeats in those sorts of situations. That’s how you get better. When you win you also get better.

“Whichever way it goes, it’s all good for your future and your development.

“The morale of the story is prepare the best you can, apply yourself the best you can and then you can walk away win or lose with your head held high. That’s what sport is about.”