AFTER MORE than a year of frustration and disappointment, Ashley Gibson says he is hopeful his Castleford Tigers career is finally on track.
Leeds-born Gibson joined Tigers from Salford at the end of 2013, but made just seven appearances last year.
He was injured in the opening game of the current campaign, but returned to the side last week and hopes to face his hometown club in Friday’s massive derby at the Jungle.
“I started the season against Wakefield, but I tore my hamstring,” said Gibson, who scored 14 tries and nine goals in 36 appearances for Rhinos from 2005-2009. “I’m hoping to keep my place now. I worked hard in pre-season, things didn’t go right for me last year and I’ve tried to turn it around.”
Gibson admitted: “It was difficult for me last year. I had a big operation and I missed pre-season, but I had a pre-season this time and I’m feeling pretty well.
“I feel miles better, fitter and stronger and I’m enjoying it. It’s really good at Cas, all the lads are welcoming and the fans are awesome.
“They really get behind you and it’s like having another man out there, especially at home.”
Tigers are on a two-game winning run and have picked up the points in their last three home matches.
“It was a tough win and a tough game,” Gibson said of last Friday’s 20-14 success against Hull. “I think it was just what we needed. We did well to come out of it with the win and it sets us up nicely for this week, getting a good win and two more points on the table.”
Tigers, who lost their opening three matches, are up to seventh in First Utility Super League and Gibson added: “We had a few tight games and stuff didn’t go our way, but we’ve been working hard in training and we’re creeping up there nice and slow.
“The Easter period is massively important, it could change us massively on the table, so it’s important we get some points.
“We just need to keep working hard for one another and I’m sure we’ll be up there near the top of the table at the end.”
Tigers’ biggest home test so far will come in Friday’s lunchtime kick-off against the current competition leaders.
“They’ve only lost one game and they’ve been playing well,” said Gibson, who lives close to Rhinos’ Kirkstall training base.
“Last year we had a few close games against them, including the Challenge Cup final, which didn’t go our way.
“Everyone’s looking forward to it. It’s the main Yorkshire derby now, with Bradford being out of Super League. It is my home town club and one I used to play at, so I am looking forward to it.”