Since Tony Smith announced he would be leaving Hull KR at the end of the season, the club’s supporters have desperately been waiting for clarity on why the decision was made. It’s taken 62 days to happen, but Rovers chief executive Paul Lakin has spoken publicly for the first time about the issue.
Speaking on the “Out Of Your League Podcast”, the former Stoke City CEO has given an exciting and honest chat about Hull KR’s current development, what the future holds for the Robins and cleared up any speculation and rumors surrounding the Tony Smith departure.
When Smith announced he would not be signing a new deal with the Robins during his weekly press conference, the hierarchy of the club, along with the rest of the rugby league world, was in shock, and Lakin has revealed what the first few moments were like once I found out the news.
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“It was chaos,” Lakin said. “I didn’t know until I got a phone call from Neil (Hudgell) during the press conference.
“The announcement that Tony was leaving was a big surprise, but what wasn’t was our coach was out of contract at the end of 2022, so clearly my job was to start looking for new coaches, but we were having discussions with Tony about a longer deal.
Many people have come to the conclusion that Smith’s “rash” decision was due to his relationship with Lakin, as the CEO revealed all about their time working together at the club.
“If your asking me if myself and Tony have some big stand-out arguments, the answer is no, that’s not the case. Have we had disagreements, absolutely. In any sport, most CEOs and the head coach have different opinions, absolutely. But is there a moment where you can pinpoint a day where it was triggered? Not at all.”
Former Robin Jon Wilkin posed the question to the Rovers CEO about whether Lakin was searching the market for a new coach before Tony’s announcement triggered Smith’s decision and what to expect from new coach Willie Peters, with Lakin honestly answering about his choices.
“John, ill be honest, I don’t know if it triggered anything,” Lakin continued. “I suppose when it did happen, we were at second base, I knew what the market was, and I understood who was available at that time. We spoke to Willie Peters early on, but we didn’t want to change the club radically We wanted to bring someone in who knows the ethos and what Hull KR means.
“We are really excited about Willie Peters. We have invested largely over the past few years in our younger players, and we play an expansive style of football that Tony has introduced.
“We are big on bringing our academy lads through, and Willie was a development coach in the past. He also has a significant degree working under some of the best coaches in the NRL, and he has a remarkable knowledge of the Super League. For someone who’s never coached over here, it’s like he has when you speak to him.
Lakin also explained what stood out when speaking to Peters about a move to Sewell Group Craven Park and how his influence has already started as conversations are ongoing with the assistant coaches and senior figures regarding the club’s development leading into 2023.
“When I first spoke to Willie, we asked him would his family and wife be settled in the UK. He told us when his wife was his girlfriend, I stated that one day he would coach in Super League, and that’s been a critical goal for him. It’s a different game over here, but there’s a whole load of positives surrounding Willie, and plenty of our senior players have spoken to him already. He and Danny McGuire have already spoken as well, and they seem to be getting along very well.”