Keal Carlile confident he's ahead of Hull KR hooking rivals
HULL KR's Keal Carlile believes he has a head start on his Robins hooking rivals with an injury free pre-season so far.
Carlile accepts he is third choice for the role behind England Knights star Josh Hodgson and Lincoln Withers, who represented the Exiles last season.
But with both Hodgson and Withers seeing their pre-seasons delayed by injuries, Carlile has done his best to impress coach Craig Sandercock.
Hodgson was training on his own in Tenerife as he recovers from a broken bone in his foot, whilst Withers spent the entire off season receiving treatment for an ankle ligament injury sustained in the final game of last season against London.
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Both have now returned to full fitness, but are playing catch-up with Carlile who is keen to make the most of his fitness.
"I feel I have a little bit of a head start on the pair of them," Carlile told the Mail.
"I've had an extra six or seven weeks full training before they have come back.
"That can stand me in good stead but it's still going to be tough as both Josh and Lincoln played so well last season.
"Craig had no reason to drop them from the team, but if I don't get my chance in round one, I feel a lot fitter and more comfortable in the environment to make progress this season."
Carlile only wore the Rovers shirt three times last season as he continued his recovery from surgery to repair a heart defect.
He admits it took longer than he expected to get over the condition, which threatened his playing career.
"Last season was tough for me because I don't think I was as fit as I am now and I was still coming back from the heart operation I had in 2011," he said.
"It was tough for me to get into the team and when I did Josh and Lincoln were back fit quickly as they were only minor knocks."
Having returned to training in England now following their warm-weather camp, Carlile says he has greater confidence ahead of the new season.
"I've put myself in a great position to push Josh and Lincoln more this year," he said.
"I feel a lot more confident with the plays we are running now. Craig has added little bits to the play book and it should make a difference.
"When I do play I want to put myself in a position where I don't get dropped.
"Lincoln is coming to the end of his career and I'd like to think me and Josh could be the two long-term hookers at this club."