TOMORROW’S VISIT of lowly York City Knights is a crucial part of Castleford Tigers’ pre-season, coach Daryl Powell says.
York – who are Tigers’ dual-registration partner club – dropped into the bottom tier of the professional game last season.
But Powell has named a strong squad and insisted tomorrow is an important step towards the Super League opener at Bradford Bulls on February 16.
“We have got quite a deep squad this year and people need to be playing games so they can put their hand up for selection early in the season,” Powell stressed.
“We have got three more pre-season games and we’ll be naming strong squads for all of them.
“We’ve changed quite a lot structure-wise and we’ve been playing quite a lot of 13-on-13 in practice, but you don’t really find out until you get into the toughness of a game.
“I see Sunday – and all three games – as pretty important in our preparation.”
Tigers’ pre-season programme began on Boxing Day when they drew 30-30 with Championship visitors Halifax.
“We were quite a way off,” Powell admitted. “But sometimes that’s the way those games go. Since we’ve come back the boys have been outstanding. They’ve really got stuck into things and their levels have raised a fair bit.
“We’ve focused on the structure of our game and how we want to play and the players have bought into it pretty heavily.
“As a result we look good, but it’s about getting into a game. When you get rattled a bit physically and things are tough for you physically you need to come out the other side.
“You need to have some of those challenges in pre-season to get yourselves ready to go.”
Powell is adamant York’s Championship One part-timers – coached by former Tigers academy boss Gary Thornton – will provide a good test.
“We’ve got a reasonably tough pre-season,” he said. “It has built up a bit. York will throw some physical challenges at us and then we’ve got Featherstone, then Bradford.
“I think it builds quite well. Featherstone did a good job on Wakefield the other day.
“I was at that game and I think it’ll be a significant challenge there, as well as this weekend.”
Signings Brett Seymour and Frankie Mariano will make their first Tigers appearance tomorrow.
“There’s a couple of young kids who’ll get an opportunity as well,” Powell confirmed. “Charlie Martin is starting and people like Will Maher and Jordan Howen will feature.
“There’s some good opportunities for young players and we need to work on the combinations that are crucial in making sure our game functions the way it needs to.”
Last year’s leading try scorer Justin Carney will return after a dislocated shoulder. Powell said: “He’s a key player for the club and the team.
“He’s going to have a run in the centres and I’m looking forward to seeing him play there. It will certainly give us options getting him with the ball in his hands a slot further in.
“He does swap over with the centre at times anyway, but it builds our options up. I am pretty happy with the way Richie Owen’s going and James Clare is another good option on the wing.
“We’ve got good depth in quite a lot of positions.”
Castleford Tigers (v York) from: Tansey, Carney, Sneyd, Lynch, Huby, Millington, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, Owen, Channing, Clare, Fleming, Finn, Martin, Reynolds, Seymour, Howden, Day, Maher
Referee: A Sweet.
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 1pm.