Tony Smith believes the return of Elliot Minchella will be as good as a new signing for Hull KR.

The 25-year-old is in the final stages of his recovery from a serious knee injury that ended his 2021 season in round two.

Rovers went on to make the Super League play-offs in Minchella’s absence but the hardworking and skilful loose forward was certainly missed.

The 25-year-old was among KR’s top performers in his debut season in 2020, impressing with his leadership as well as his energetic performances in the middle.

Minchella was appointed as vice-captain for 2021, a role he ultimately had to perform from a distance.

With round one firmly in his sights, Minchella is being viewed in the same bracket as the six new signings in Smith’s squad.

“It’s not a cliché,” the Rovers head coach told Hull Live.

“We missed him. He showed some real promise to be a big part of us last year until he got injured.

“He very much will be like a new signing for us. He’ll add a whole lot to us, both in the way he performs and also his leadership and communication.

“It’s not only what he does personally, it’s the confidence he’ll bring us as well.

“He’s highly motivated, I can tell you that.”

Minchella will provide Smith with a ball-playing option in the pack, an extra pair of hands to keep opposition defences guessing.

Lachlan Coote is another player who will ease the burden on the half-backs, with the full-back laying on 52 tries in Super League during his three years with St Helens.

Lachlan Coote of St Helens is tackled by Kris Welham of Salford Red Devils

Smith is confident his 2022 recruits will help bring about a marked improvement with and without the ball.

“We’ve got a few fresh faces who I think can add to our attacking game,” said Smith.

“I thought we had a pretty good attacking team last year. We’ve got some people who will at least add to that and make us even more potent.

“I think they will in defence as well. They both affect each other greatly – the better organised your defence is and the better performing your defence is, the more you can attack.

“We’re looking forward to both sides of our game improving enormously with the various personnel that are coming in to help us.”