Rovers cull signals intent
Newly-promoted Hull KR have begun their preparations for engageg Super League with a mini clear-out and the capture of two experienced front-row forwards.
Rovers have released five players, including two of the Grand Final-winning team that clinched promotion, and signed Mark O'Neill and Jim Gannon from Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants respectively.
O'Neill, 31, who made only 11 appearances for the Rhinos in an injury-hit season, has joined the Craven Park club on a one-year deal, while 29-year-old Gannon, a member of the Giants' Powergen Challenge Cup final team, has signed a two-year contract.
O'Neill, who won the NRL Grand Final with Wests Tigers before joining Leeds a year ago, is looking forward to kick-starting his career.
"After an injury-wrecked season at Leeds I am really looking forward to showing what a fully fit Mark O'Neill can do," he said.
"I am coming over to an outstanding club that's professionally run, the facilities are great and they are a great bunch of blokes.
"I saw the final and I was impressed. It will be a tough year, as it is for any team that gets promoted.
"But it is a challenge and we have got a lot of young kids, who are very keen, enthusiastic and full of confidence."
Rovers chief executive Paul Lakin said: "In Mark, we have signed a forward of the highest calibre and one who has played at the highest level all his career. His leadership skills and expertise will prove invaluable."
While O'Neill will take up one of the club's three overseas quota spots, former Halifax forward Gannon is exempt because he has taken out British citizenship.
"Jim is exactly the type of prop that Justin Morgan was looking for to complement our current front rowers and also the additional players we have identified," added Lakin.
"He is a no-nonsense front rower with bags of Super League experience."
Rovers coach Justin Morgan, who says he needs to sign between 10 and 12 players for the club's first engage Super League campaign, made way for the new faces by cutting five of last season's squad.
They include former Leeds winger Leroy Rivett, 29, who ensured everlasting fame by scoring four tries in the last Challenge Cup final to be held at Wembley in 1999.
Others to go are French goalkicking centre Damien Couturier, hooker Andy Ellis, loose forward Dwayne Barker and prop Gareth Price, who finished the season on loan to Celtic Crusaders.
The club have also said they will allow prop James Garmston to join a National League One club on a season-long loan and have given permission to former Huddersfield hooker Phil Joseph to speak to other clubs. Both players have a year left on their contracts.
Lakin said: "The club would like to place on record their thanks for the contributions each of these players has made to Hull KR and wish them well for the future."
Former Leeds forward Jason Netherton has agreed a new one-year deal and the club are still in talks with Scotland winger Jon Steel and former Bradford Bulls half-back Matty Brooks.