CASTLEFORD tigers’ front-row recruit Steve Crossley is determined to make the most of a second shot at the big time.
Crossley played for Bradford Bulls in 2010 and 2011, making one start and 10 substitute appearances in Super League before dropping down a level to join Featherstone Rovers.
He played his last game for Rovers in September’s Kingstone Press Championship Grand Final defeat to Leigh Centurions before linking up again with Tigers coach Daryl Powell, who was in charge at Featherstone when he moved there.
Now Crossley has vowed to prove he has what it takes to make the grade in a full-time environment and three weeks into pre-season training he said: “It is nice to be back in Super League.
“It has been a long time coming. I dropped down into the Championship when I left Bradford and I’ve spent a few years down there, but I always had the intention of coming back up eventually.
“I have got my chance now and I am hoping to have a big pre-season. That’s when you can knuckle down. It is the hardest part, but I need to get my body right and get myself ready for Super League.”
After being one of the most impressive props at Championship level, Crossley is aware he will be mixing in a better standard of company next year.
“I am looking at having a really big pre-season, so I can get to where the rest of the boys are physically,” he said. “I am looking forward to it.”
As well as proving something to himself, Crossley is determined to repay Powell for the faith he showed by bringing him to Castleford.
Crossley said: “He signed me at Featherstone. He knows the type of player I am and I know the type of coach he is.
“He has put his trust in me by giving me a step up to full-time level and he was a big factor in me coming here.”
Crossley’s first appearance for Tigers could be against his old club in a pre-season game at Big Fellas Stadium on Sunday, December 28.
Looking beyond that, the 24-year-old reckons Tigers have to set their sights high in 2015, after reaching the Challenge Cup final and finishing fourth in Super League this year.
“We’ve not done any goal-setting yet,” he said. “But Daryl will probably want us to really kick on from what the club did this year.
“A couple of big name players – Craig Huby and Daryl Clark – have gone, but some good replacements have come in. Hopefully, we can hit the ground running and have the sort of season they had last time.”
After such an impressive season, Tigers are unlikely to have the element of surprise in their favour next year.
Crossley admitted: “The bigger teams, like Wigan, Leeds and Saints, will take Castleford a lot more seriously than they did last year. But Daryl will work us hard in training and I am sure we’ll keep competing with the top teams. There’s relegation and promotion again so we need to be challenging for the top eight.
“It is a big season for everyone. Everyone has got to keep picking it up so it will be all or nothing this year.”
Crossley described the early stages of pre-season as “tough”, but revealed preparations have moved up a gear this week.
“It has mainly been the new players and young signings, being in early to get to know each other,” he said. “But all the senior players are back in this week and we’ll be getting used to each other and each other’s style of play.
“It’s exciting times.”