Castleford Tigers’ shaken players are trying to ensure it is business as normal during one of the toughest weeks in the club’s recent history.
The team are preparing for Sunday’s visit of Wigan Warriors without coach Ian Millward, who has been on compassionate leave since the sudden death of his 19-year-old son, Robbie, five days ago.
Tigers’ squad were on the bus heading for the airport following their game against Catalan Dragons in Perpignan last weekend when Millward was told his son had been taken very seriously ill.
News of his death was broken when the squad touched down in England.
Assistant-coach Stuart Donlan has taken temporary charge of the team, assisted by the senior leadership group of Danny Orr, Ryan McGoldrick, Brett Ferres, Kirk Dixon and Stuart Jones.
Jones described recent events as “terrible” and admitted: “It is a tough time, we are devastated for Ian and it was tough for everybody.
“I have been in the game over 10 years and I’ve never been involved with something like this before.
“It’s something I hope I don’t go through again. It is even worse for the family and I can’t imagine what Ian’s going through.
“But we have got to get back to work now and get on with it as best we can without Ian.
“Our thoughts are with him and his family, but there’s not much that we can do in that matter.
“We’ve just got to try and keep things going and ticking over. Hopefully we can get some good results for him and when he comes back he can get back into the swing of things.”
Jones, pictured right, said the squad are rallying round Donlan, who has found himself thrown in at the deep end.
“Stu’s done a good job,” said Jones. “He has had a couple of meetings with us and he’s told us to keep doing the small things that Ian has been talking about, his principles.
“Let’s not slacken off on that, so when he comes back into the fold it’s a smooth transition.
“The senior leadership group had a meeting when we first got back and we’ve all offered our help.
“Stu said the best way we can help is by putting it in on the training paddock. We’ll be trying to lead by example.”
With Leeds Rhinos due to visit Probiz Coliseum five days after Wigan, Jones admitted it’s a tough schedule, but he stressed: “We are at home in both fixtures, so we think we can do well.”
Skipper Orr said the whole club has been rocked by last weekend’s tragedy.
“It has been pretty tough mentally,” he said. “Everyone’s been affected by it, but we have pulled together as a team and we’ve got through it.
“We have got a good group and a good leadership group.
“Stuart is doing a great job and all the lads here are fully behind him.”
None of Tigers’ coaching staff or players have spoken to Millward this week and it is unclear when he will return to work.
A minute’s “applause and cheering” will be held in Robbie’s memory before Sunday’s game with Wigan.