During a difficult and, at times, frustrating 12 months as Hull Kingston Rovers have worked towards the sole aim of gaining promotion back to Super League at the first attempt – one man has stood tall and proud both on and off the pitch and has been a tower of strength for his fellow players and the Hull KR supporters alike.
If Hull KR were to have any chance of getting back into Super League for the 2018 season, the majority of Rovers fans knew that Shaun Lunt must be on the field leading them forward.
When relegation came in the most shocking of circumstances last October all existing contracts were null and void and it says a lot about the commitment, integrity and loyalty of Lunt that he was the first player to commit to Rovers plans for the 2017 season in the Championship, when lesser men and players decided they were better off elsewhere.
No one would have been surprised had Lunt been signed up by a top Super League club – he was still one of the top hookers in the British game at the end of last season and had proven himself previously with Huddersfield Giants and at Leeds Rhinos where he had won a Grand Final ring.
We had lost Josh Hodgson at the end of 2014 to Canberra Raiders and Keal Carlile never really got to grips with life in Super League and it was clear that we needed a top quality hooker – Lunt was the one all of the fans wanted and it was great that this signing came to fruition.
I remember the club announcing his permanent signing, after a successful loan spell, as the team stepped onto the coach to head down to Wembley for the 2015 Challenge Cup Final – it was great news and received a huge roar of approval.
Little did we know that just over 13 months on from our first Challenge Cup Final for 29 years we would be stirring the Championship in the face and going to grounds that we had long consigned to our memory banks.
What the re-signing of Lunt did, along with the positivity of club Chairman Neil Hudgell, in the immediate aftermath of relegation was show the majority of the squad that the club wanted to keep that belief that Rovers would mount a serious challenge for immediate promotion back to Super League.
There have been a number of players that have had outstanding seasons in 2017 – Ryan Shaw has scored over 20 tries, young Australian centre Andrew Heffernan has been a revelation, veteran prop Nick Scruton has proved this doubter wrong and has had a quality year whilst Jordan Abdull was in superb form prior to being side lined with a foot injury.
But it is Lunt that has embodied everything Hull KR have needed in 2017 in order to gain promotion back to Super League.
He is constantly talking to his players on the pitch, encouraging and cajoling them, and he leads from the front continuously making plays that change the course of a tight game and putting his body on the line in tough defensive situations.
Off the field, he has led the team just as well and is loved by the supporters for his loyalty and passion for the club and his determination to stay put and right last year’s wrongs.
Lunt, more than any other player, deserves to take his rightful place back in Super League in 2018.