CASTLEFORD TIGERS forward Oliver Holmes is hoping for a change of luck next season.
The 25-year-old has endured two injury-hit campaigns, but began pre-season training early to hit the ground running ahead of what he admits will be a crucial year.
Holmes, who was one of the starting second-rowers in last month’s Betfred Super League Grand Final loss to Leeds Rhinos, was among a small group of Tigers players who reported in for the start of training last week.
“The majority of the squad are back on the 20th,” Holmes said.
“So far it is mainly young lads and new signings, plus a couple of others for a bit of a head start.
“The criteria was if you played 10 games or less you were in early and I played 10.
“That’s down to being injured.
“It’s not a punishment, it’s just to give you every chance you can get to have a good season.”
Holmes had just a month off, which is little time to recover from the bumps and bruises of a gruelling season.
“You never really get over it,” he conceded. “That’s rugby league, but I have freshened up ready to have a good pre-season.
“I am coming into the last year of my contract so I need to have a good pre-season and start of the season.
“There’s a lot of competition for places.
“We’ve got a fairly big squad, we are strong on numbers in each position and if you’re not on top of your game you’re not going to be in the 17.
“There are places up for grabs so it is going to be quite interesting.”
Injuries prevented Holmes from contributing as much as he would have liked during a season when Tigers finished 10 points clear in the Super League table.
“I had an operation on my left knee,” he recalled.
“I had three pieces of bone stuck in the back of my patella tendon and had them taken out, then towards the back end of the season I tore my groin and I was lucky to get back for the Grand Final.
“It was quite annoying, I’ve had two years of pulling this [knee] injury along and it has been two very frustrating seasons. You just want to be playing rugby as regularly as you can and getting out there and having some game time.
“Injuries are part and parcel of rugby league, but I’ve had a fair two years of it and hopefully my luck will change and I can stay injury-free.”
Training began a day short of a month after Tigers’ Old Trafford disappointment.
Holmes described it as a “fresh start” and added: “Quite a few young lads have come up and the majority of older players in at the moment are new signings.
“We’ve not spoken about it [the Grand Final].
“That will come on the 20th when everyone’s back in. We’ll go through what our plans are for pre-season and the season, where we are looking to go and what we want to do.
“It’s going to be in the back of people’s minds that we saved our worst game for the biggest stage.
“It was very disappointing, but it will stand us in good stead for next year.
“We will learn from the experience and it is going to drive everybody in the squad to get back there and put things right.”