Dobson ready to ride the emotion of Hull's charged derby decider

After winning a Dream Team place the Australian takes on Sean Long in Humberside's eagerly-awaited play-off
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The Independent Online

Michael Dobson has stood out for Hull KR all season. Today Rovers need him to do the same in the biggest Hull derby for decades. Not since the city's two clubs routinely contested the game's major prizes in the early 1980s has as much ridden on a game as this evening's Super League elimination semi-final.

Dobson, the only player from outside the top four to be voted into this season's Dream Team, has previous experience of derby-day fervour from his time playing for Wigan against St Helens. "But I have to say this is bigger. With two clubs in the same city, there's a lot of emotion," he says. "You just can't get away from it."

Rovers' fans feared that their scrum-half was intent on getting away from it when reports began circulating in mid-season that he was intent upon returning to his native Australia. Dobson does have unfinished business in his homeland, where his stock is nowhere near as high as it is on Humberside. "But all I said was that I wanted to prove myself in the NRL one day. Some people took that to mean that I wanted to go back now," he says.

"That was never the case. I've another two years on my contract here and I feel I've improved as a player."

Dobson, as Wigan supporters saw when he was instrumental in keeping them up in 2006, has always had an outstanding kicking game. Where he feels he has changed for the better is in picking the right moment and the right option. That is the sort of maturity that often only comes a decade later, when you have been around for as long as Hull's Sean Long.

The tactical struggle between the two scrum-halves is certain to be a highlight at the KC Stadium tonight, with Long claiming to feel fresher at the end of a season than he has done for years, thanks to only having returned last week after a three-month lay-off with a dislocated elbow.

The other good news for Hull is the availability of one of their most battle-hardened forwards after Lee Radford had his suspension for punching Leeds' Ryan Bailey lifted this week. Richard Agar, the Hull coach, has decided, however, against recalling Jordan Tansey after serving his ban.

Today's other sudden-death play-off is at Huddersfield, where Crusaders are the unlikely visitors. Again, much will depend on the match-up between two mercurial half-backs. The Giants' Nathan Brown has to decide exactly how to use Danny Brough, while the Wrexham club have the swashbuckling Jarrod Sammut, a player Dobson knows from playing against in Australia.

"He can win you a game or lose you a game, but he's never afraid to try things, especially that little chip-kick over the defence," he says.

For many outside Kingston-upon-Hull, the weekend's highlight will be the qualifying semi-final between Wigan and Leeds tomorrow. That could conceivably be a third full house of the most lucrative round of matches the play-off system has so far produced.