'A big moment in my life' Hull Live's new KR reporter writes message to Robins' faithful

Sitting, more than 20 years ago, next to legendary Hull Kingston Rovers commentator Chris Park, I enjoyed a long chat about the life of a Rovers reporter. I had just written the match report on Rovers' game at Doncaster for the Hull Daily Mail, as a young journalist working hard to prove myself, and we were travelling back.

Rovers were a second-tier side back then - but, listening to the tales of the past from this authoritative but modest man, struck a chord. I thought about what a club Rovers had been, what their potential was, and what a life it must be to cover this club full-time.
When I walk into the Chris Park Media Suite at Hull KR - named in his memory - as Rovers reporter, with the club now a force in Super League, it will be a big moment in my life.

In the two decades since that chat, I have travelled stadiums around the country and Europe as a reporter but there is no place like home, Hull, the city that I have grown up in and love and support - and one loaded with friendly and down-to-earth people. Craven Park, and the fans who attend to watch the red and whites, are something special. And I understand what it is to be a sports fan in this city because I am one, I know what the clubs and the people who represent them mean to a lot of people, I get it.

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However many times I go to Rovers, hearing Red Red Robin blaring out before kick-off, and the atmosphere, sends a shiver down my spine. Being in the Roger Millward Stand and hearing the passion around me - then looking opposite to the mass of red and white shirts in the East Stand and listening to the roars - are a unique experience. There is a reason why so many in opposition ranks don't like coming to this fortress.

When my family moved from Derbyshire to Hull in the 80s, for my dad's new job in East Hull, while I was a toddler, rugby league was on the crest of a wave in this area. By the time I started becoming a sports fan, into the 90s, things were changing. I saw what Rovers had to go through, on and off the pitch.

Having Dave Harrison - Rovers academy coach and then head coach - as my school teacher at the time was significant. He encouraged my interest in rugby league and to go down to Craven Park, which I did. I watched outside arrivals such as Stanley Gene making their impact and local lads pull on the shirt with pride and distinction.

My first taste of journalism came as a work experience boy with the great people at Radio Humberside - several of whom are still around today. Answering the phones to potential callers for the rugby league phone-in quickly reinforced my views about fan passions.

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Leeds University was where I went to work on my journalism degree for three years and also on the student paper - a portfolio which persuaded the Hull Daily Mail to give me a go and that eventually led to working on the city's professional sports teams.
Gary Wilkinson had become Rovers boss by then and - as a man known for nurturing much youth - he was also supportive and encouraging to me as a new reporter.

I can remember when one certain young player was breaking into the first team - and the words Gary said to me. "Arindam, this lad Jon Wilkin, I can see him going to the top - to a St Helens or Wigan - and he is a bright lad." These days when I see Jon Wilkin as a face of Sky Sports, after a hugely successful Saints career, it reminds me of that: casual, friendly chats with people in and around sport can produce valuable nuggets of information.

Hull KR reporter Arindam Rej
Hull KR reporter Arindam Rej

My career was mainly based in London after those days but there was always a pull to come back to Hull - and there was one stint back at the Hull Daily Mail again, while Rovers returned back to the big time in 2006. Rovers' reporter at the time was a nice man, Charlie Mullan. A journalist of Irish background, he had been new to rugby league when he started his job. He inspired me by showing what can be achieved from scratch when you work hard.

Rovers' return to Super League meant league derbies were back - and I have loved covering these for various publications, national and rugby league press, over the years. I will never forget being in the press box in 2010 when Rovers went to the KC and knocked Hull FC out in a play-off eliminator and the electric atmosphere the winning fans generated. The fans mean so much in our work.
I am passionate about rugby league being in the media spotlight and I am proud to work for a company that is choosing to fund coverage of the sport. I will be writing and posting regularly about Rovers now and I hope you engage and enjoy. I believe in fans having a voice and I want to hear what you think of what is going on at Rovers, on and off the pitch, as I make the exciting move to covering the club day to day.

I have been in Craven Park press conference rooms with a host of KR coaches - ranging from Craig Sandercock and Chris Chester to Tim Sheens and Tony Smith. This feels like an era in which something special is happening; the best Rovers have been in the past 30 years, although Justin Morgan's team at their peak might have a claim there.

-Credit:Hull Daily Mail
-Credit:Hull Daily Mail

The current management and players have already been writing their names in history in a memorable way. After last year's run to the Challenge Cup final and play-off semis, there is a feeling that something momentous could be done at this club and the packed stands reflect that. Watching Ryan Hall break the Super League try-scoring record recently was another example of how we are witnessing acts of greatness on this turf.

As mentioned at the start though, these moments for me are also a time for reflection - and one person has been in my thoughts a lot. Scott McHugh, the entertaining former Hull Daily Mail deputy sports editor, who passed away far too young, did a lot for me, always a help and support in difficult times. Although he was No 2 in charge, and I was a young reporter, he became like one of my mates. I know how happy he would have been to see me land this job. I hope he is looking down and smiling.

Looking at my first game in this job, it feels like it's been written in the stars - Hull FC away. Of all the matches it could have been, it was destined to be. It had to be Rovers going on to rival territory for a derby. It is the start of a new chapter and also a time to reflect on what has gone before and what potentially could come. It is a special time and I am looking forward to sharing it with the Rovers family and our readers.