Tilse embracing Challenge Cup hysteria
Recording a new version of the Erasure hit A Little Respect with his teammates was never part of Dane Tilse's plan but the former Raider is now beginning to grasp the enormity of Hull Kingston Rovers' date at Wembley Stadium on August 29.
Next weekend Hull KR will face Leeds Rhinos in the famed Challenge Cup Final, their first appearance in English rugby league's showpiece event in 29 years and they will do so with a song that is raising money for charity and is inside the top 40 on iTunes in England.
In order to qualify Rovers have had to knock over Bradford, Wigan, Catalans and Warrington for the right to face the defending and 12-time champion Leeds team.
Both Hull KR and Leeds squads are littered with former NRL talent with Rovers alone boasting Tilse, Albert Kelly, Josh Mantellato, Tony Puletua, Ken Sio, Maurice Blair, Dane Chisolm, Mitch Allgood and Terry Campese. Tyrone McCarthy, who scored a try in the Northern Pride's State Championship win over Penrith on Grand Final day last year, is also a key member of the squad.
Following the retirement of Mick Weyman early in the season it was Campese who convinced Tilse to end his 200-game NRL career early and take up a three-year deal with Rovers.
An England stint was always on the Tilse bucket list but the giant front-rower said he never expected that it would include a match at Wembley in front of 90,000 fans and the emotion associated with it.
"Hull is a real working-class town and when we scored a try at the end of the semi-final against Warrington they showed a lady up on the big screen who was in tears," Tilse told NRL.com.
"It's been 30 years since the club's been there so I've been very lucky with the timing that I've been able to come over here.
"The crowds aren't as big but they are definitely a lot noisier [than in the NRL] and I think a lot of that has to do with the singing.
"They've got songs for nearly every player and sing at the top of their voice and the noise they make for how many are there is incredible.
"They talk about 30 years ago (when Hull KR played Hull FC in the Challenge Cup Final) as the night the lights went out. You just see what it means to them and being from a working-class town, for us to get down to Wembley is exciting. Some fans have cancelled holidays that they had booked just so they can make the trip down.
"We had a former player Mike Smith (who played 489 games for Hull KR) come in and talk to us before the Catalans game and he spoke about the memories and how they will stay with him for the rest of his life."
Tilse's mid-season switch from Canberra is matched on the other side of the Challenge Cup equation with former Bronco Mitchell Garbutt in line to play for the Rhinos just weeks after playing in front of a few hundred fans in Intrust Super Cup games in Queensland.
Leeds also boast former NRL players in Adam Cuthbertson, Brett Delaney, Mitch Achurch, Joel Moon and Kylie Leuluai but it is the eclectic mix of the Hull KR team that has become the story of this year's Challenge Cup.
From 36-year-old Tony Puletua to the enigmatic Albert Kelly, Tilse concedes that they are something of a motley crew.
"Our team has probably got the most imports out of any team," said Tilse, who was rested from Hull KR's 34-12 Super 8s win over Halifax on Sunday.
"We've got the five quota spots and then 'Campo', Josh Mantellato and now Dane Chisolm all have European passports so there's eight of us and Tony Puletua as well.
"We've got a few Frenchmen as well so it's a funny sort of group when you get us all together."
The Challenge Cup Final will be broadcast live on Fox Sports from midnight, Saturday August 29.