Once regarded as a prodigy himself, Danny McGuire can empathise with Hull KR’s young half-backs as they prepare to take on more responsibility in 2021.
Rovers head into the new Super League season with four recognised half-backs after moving on Ryan Brierley and Jamie Ellis at the end of last year.
The loss of the experienced pair leaves KR with a raw-looking half-back department.
Not only do Jordan Abdull, Joe Keyes, Rowan Milnes and Mikey Lewis have an average age of 22, the latter three have only 22 Super League appearances between them.
Lewis is heading down a similar path to McGuire, who played three games in 2001 and featured nine times during the 2002 season before the door opened for him to nail down a spot in the side.
McGuire was handed the number six shirt at the start of 2003 and did not look back, going on to enjoy a glittering career that ended with the Robins in 2019.
Now an assistant coach at Craven Park, McGuire is conscious of putting too much pressure on young halves, hinting that Rovers could turn to experience at different stages to help ease the burden.
“It happened to me at Leeds,” he told Hull Live.
“I got the number six shirt when I probably wasn’t ready for it. Myself and Rob Burrow were sort of chucked in at 20/21.
“You’ve just got to do the right thing and protect the young half-backs. There’s a lot of pressure in that position.
“You need some experience. We were lucky we had Andrew Dunneman around us at the time who was a really good pro who wanted to give a lot of time to the young players. I think that’s important.
“We’ve got a few options there. Even Brad Takairangi can potentially move into the halves. When we get him over there’s that potential there.
“There’s a bit of competition for places which is good. It keeps everybody on their toes.
“We just want to see these young boys keep improving and keep developing.”
Abdull has had to be patient during the early stages of pre-season as he recovers from minor knee surgery but his absence from field sessions has allowed Lewis and Milnes to dictate things in training.
“They’ve been really good,” said McGuire.
“It’s been really good to see their development in a short space of time. They’re both young but very, very talented players.
“Getting to see them develop is something that gets me out of bed on a morning.
“We’ve got Jordan there who is a bit more experienced. Hopefully we can get some nice combinations going and be really strong in that area this year.”
A willingness to learn and work hard is half the battle for talented youngsters starting out in the game.
“For me that’s the most important thing,” McGuire added.
“You can have all the talent in the world but if you’re not prepared to get dirty and put the hard yards in you’re probably not going to achieve what you want as an individual and as a team.
“The boys have been working hard. We’ve not been going crazy hard. There’s a fine balance between going crazy and being smart. We’re on the smart side of things.
“We’re working them hard and doing a lot more defensive stuff in terms of technique. That’s an area we need to improve on.
“Our physio team and conditioning team are really smart and getting the right amount of stuff out of them at the moment.”