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Stanley Gene: Maintaining the link between PNG & Hull KR

Stanley Gene, new head coach role at Newcastle Thunder (Chris Lishman)HULL DAILY MAIL (UK)

IT'S a connection, born exactly 20 years ago, that has become one of rugby's league's most exciting tales. Yet the story of Stanley Gene's signing at Hull KR is one which, to this day, has many chapters still to tell.

Two decades on since the Papua New Guinea native flew to the northern hemisphere to join the Robins – after becoming a leading light in the 1995 Rugby League World Cup – Gene, now head coach at Newcastle Thunder, still holds the city in high regard.

Two spells in east Hull, scoring 94 tries in 111 outings, captured the hearts of red and white supporters and gained Gene legendary status at the club, including a commemorative shirt on his behalf released earlier this year.

An influx of PNG stars now reside in the English game, including former KR prop Makali Aizue at Dewsbury Rams and Paul Aiton at Leeds.

But Gene remains keen to repay the favour to the Robins and find the stars of tomorrow from the Kumuls.

"It's been 20 years since I signed for Rovers, and although this year there's no PNG players here now, I want to keep the bridge between KR and PNG," Gene told the Mail.

"I will let Chris Chester know who is our best player, and if there's a best player out in PNG, I would definitely like to see the connection remain between the two.

"PNG players come here and play with their heart on their sleeve, and I don't want the connection to finish here."

Still an avid viewer of Robins matches, Gene sees many similarities between KR and his Newcastle Thunder side, with his new home hosting the recent Magic Weekend event at St James' Park to critical acclaim.

Stanley Gene in his debut year at Hull KR, 1996Arriving in east Hull at a club struggling for cash and with the threat of liquidation, Gene's signing sparked an upturn in fortunes for Rovers. With Gateshead now re-branding as Newcastle and playing at Kingston Park, the home of the Falcons, Gene has noticed a familiar ambition to that shared by Thunder CEO Keith Christie and KR's Neil Hudgell.

"When I went up to Newcastle, the CEO came in and told me about the club and it reminded me of Neil," revealed Gene, who continues to work tirelessly with his foundation which provides help back home in Papua New Guinea.

"Neil said to me 'I want to be chairman one day', and I used to take the mickey out of him.

"But fair do's, he's done it, and I told my CEO you've got to be passionate and sell the club to me. He's got the drive to take the club to Super League one day, and that's exactly what Neil had in mind.

"Now, Rovers are an established Super League side. I'm trying to do the same as I did at Rovers in different shoes.

"The experience that I had, with the club being so low, people trying to buy the club... We didn't have anything.

"But it's the club and supporters that kept Rovers going. It's a religion. I've seen the same people go to games home and away for years and years.

"You're talking journeys to Barrow, South Wales on rainy days. "Now, I see Rovers' new stand, with 7,000 there on game-day. For me to come and sit and watch, it brings a tear to my eye to see the development."


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