CASTLEFORD TIGERS are determined to claw their way up First Utility Super League this year.
Tigers are possibly the competition’s toughest team to predict. Having finished third-bottom in 2013 they are being tipped by many pundits to face a relegation battle.
But on the other hand, coach Daryl Powell – who took over mid-way through last term – has had a full pre-season to work with his players and has recruited a new-look side.
Tigers won six of their 13 games under Powell last year, with one draw – form which would have seen them finish ninth if it had been repeated over the whole course of the season.
So it could be a battle for a play-off spot or a fight against the drop, but as far as Powell is concerned, his immediate aims are more short-term.
“We are thinking about competing in every game we play in and making life a bit tougher defensively than Castleford teams have done in the past,” said the former Leeds Rhinos player and Featherstone Rovers coach.
“Castleford coaches have been talking about that for years and it’s certainly something we’ve got to get right. We have got to be able to defend tough and to get into the top-eight you have to be pretty strong defensively.
“We haven’t really set ourselves goals yet, but that has to be one of our targets.”
Having sold Rangi Chase to Salford Red Devils, Cas are without their go-to player of recent seasons.
Tigers have also said farewell to two of their academy products, utility-man Jordan Thompson (Hull) and prop Jonathan Walker (Hull KR), as well as veteran front-rower Keith Mason.
Two players – Luke Dorn and Scott Wheeldon – have come in from London Broncos, the former for a second spell at Tigers after a previous stint in 2008. Also returning to Cas is local hero Andy Lynch, from Hull.
Marc Sneyd – on a season-long loan – and Ashley Gibson have been recruited from Salford, Brett Seymour was a free-agent after being released by Hull last year, Frankie Mariano is an astute capture from Wakefield and Liam Finn joins from Featherstone Rovers.
Chase’s exit – after a long hunt by Salford – grabbed the headlines, but Powell insisted: “I think we have a really strong squad, especially with the addition of Liam Finn. I know he’s played in the Championship for the last four years, but I think as an organiser he’s outstanding.
“He has got respect straight away the way he has gone about his business and the players really enjoy having him around.
“We have got a deep squad and there’s more depth in each position. When I came in last year we were scratching around at times in terms of putting pressure on different players in different positions.
“This squad looks like they are all going to press each other in every position and in the final analysis I think that’ll be crucial for us.
“It’s a team game. I think everybody has got to do their job and we’ve spoken quite a lot about that. Everybody has to understand what their job is and do their job and if they all do that I think we’ve got the players who can make things happen in each position.
“We look pretty fit, we look strong, there’s been a great attitude about the squad and that should be the foundation for us. Hopefully we can get a good start and then build on it.”
Powell inherited a team from previous full-time boss Ian Millward last year, but said the current side feels like his own.
“We changed a few things towards the back end of last year and I thought we did pretty well in the second half of the season,” he said.
“But I have made quite a few signings so there’s no excuses. We are looking to do well and perform every week. I think there’s a responsibility on myself, the coaching staff and the players. Castleford is a big and outstanding club and we need to justify that on the field.
“If we do that I know the supporters are outstanding, they’ll get behind the team and we’ll have a vibrant atmosphere.”