CASTLEFORD TIGERS will have to be at their best for the full game when they face Wigan Warriors in a “massive” clash tomorrow, forward Nathan Massey says.
Tigers have already won the Betfred Super League leaders’ shield, but defending champions Wigan have turned their season around and are pushing for a place in the semi-finals.
They have everything to play for and Massey reckons Tigers need to prove a point.
“All the teams we are playing now potentially could be semi-final games for us,” he warned. “We need to be setting markers down and learning from these games and cracking on.
“We are in a really good position now, but we have to take each game as it comes and Wigan is a massive, massive game for us. We have had a couple of extra training days with it being a Sunday game, which is nice. We’ve had a few tough sessions and we’re looking forward to the game.”
Tigers have beaten Wigan twice already this year, but Massey predicted: “They will be looking at what we did to them over there earlier in the season.
“We ground out a win, but they have picked up a bit of form and they’ve got a fair few players back now. They are coming into form at the right time so it is a good challenge for us.”
Tigers led Leeds Rhinos 30-6 at half-time last week, but were outscored 18-8 in the final 40 and Massey said they need to be better tomorrow.
“We were disappointed with the second half,” he conceded. “We got a roasting in the sheds after the game, which was fully deserved. We went in at half-time 30-6 up and we took our foot off the gas. Against a quality side like Leeds it can’t be done.
“A win is a win and we are still chalking them off, it was bitter-sweet though.
“We need to learn some lessons from that second half because we just weren’t good enough.
“We have got some big games coming up, none more so than Wigan away. It is another good test for us, we will take some lessons from last week and crack on.”
Tigers will face the Super-8s’ fourth-placed team in a sudden-death semi-final at the Jungle on Thursday, September 28. The Grand Final is three weeks today and Massey said: “Nobody has really spoken about that at all.
“The semi-final is in our head because we know we have got that in the bag, but we are taking each game as it comes.”
Massey has been a key member of Tigers’ pack this year, but stressed he is not taking a semi-final – or Grand Final – appearance for granted.
“I am happy with how I am going,” he said. “With the squad we’ve got, you have to be on your game to stay in the 17.
“I want to be there at the end of the year and playing in the big games. I am happy with how I am going, but I know there’s a lot to improve on every week and I’ll keep trying to do that.”
Tigers will be without first-choice half-backs Luke Gale (after appendix surgery) and Ben Roberts (back).
Junior Moors has a cheek injury and Larne Patrick joins him on the sidelines. Halves Tom Holmes and Jake Trueman have been called into the initial 19-man squad, Oliver Holmes (groin) and Matt Cook (back) could return after injury and Kevin Larroyer and Joel Monaghan are also in contention.
Wigan will be without skipper Sean O’Loughlin (calf). Joe Burgess (hamstring) and Joel Tomkins (groin) could return and Jack Wells has been drafted into the 19.
Wigan Warriors: from Bateman, Burgess, Clubb, Davies, Farrell, Gelling, Gildart, Isa, Leuluai, Marshall, Mcilorum, Nuuausala, Powell, Sutton, Tautai, J Tomkins, S Tomkins, Wells, Williams.
Castleford Tigers: from Cook, Eden, Foster, Hardaker, O Holmes, T Holmes, Larroyer, Massey, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Monaghan, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Springer, Trueman, Webster.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.