FIT-AGAIN CAPTAIN Michael Shenton is ready to hit the ground running for Castleford Tigers in 2017.
Shenton missed the whole of last season after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in Tigers’ opening game away to Hull KR nine months ago. Surgery and rehabilitation went well and the 30-year-old former England man is set to make his playing comeback during Tigers’ pre-season games.
“I have been back running a while,” Shenton confirmed. “I was back running, in full training, around Challenge Cup final weekend in August.
“That was about six months post-op’, which was pretty quick.
“I was hoping to get the last four games in – there’s four games after the Challenge Cup final and that was my target – but the weekend before the Cup final we played Warrington and we got pipped in the last minute. That meant we could not reach the top-four, so Daryl [Powell, Tigers’ coach] Steve [Gill, chief executive] and people at the club took it out of my hands.
“They said ‘you’re not going to play – you’ve worked hard, but there’s no point risking you’. That was disappointing. I had worked hard and I wanted to get a few games in. I wanted to play with Dorny [Luke Dorn, who left Tigers at the end of the season], but I sat down with Daryl and the physios and they were really good. They have supported me so much and it was the smart thing to do. They took the emotional hat off and used their heads. As soon as the last game was over it was done and dusted and we moved on to this year.”
Shenton’s return will be a huge boost for Tigers and an opportunity for the player to put a year’s worth of frustration behind him.
“Last year was the first time I’d had a full pre-season for a while,” he reflected. “I was in great condition and it was probably one of the best pre-seasons I’ve had.
“I felt great, I was going into it confident, I had set my goals and I was ready to go, then what happened was very frustrating and mentally taxing. There was nothing I could do, because it just takes time. There was nothing I could do to speed it up, just do my re-hab, so it was a challenging time for me.”
Powell kept Shenton involved with a role on the coaching side and the captain reckons the way Tigers handled adversity last year points to an exciting campaign in 2017.
“He gave me a laptop at one point,” Shenton said of the team boss. “He kept me busy and mentally fresh and we had that many injuries throughout the year I was never on my own. We had about 10 out minimum every game and when we played Catalans at the end we had 13 missing. I have never seen anything like it for a team, but the boys didn’t whinge about the circumstances, they just got on with it.
“Finishing fifth after what happened was a pretty special achievement and being able to do that with so many people missing should really stand us in good stead, if everyone is willing to build on it going into 2017.”