OLD BOY Paul McShane knows enough about Leeds Rhinos’ culture not to be fooled into thinking Castleford Tigers will have it easy at Headingley Carnegie tonight.
Tigers are four places above rock-bottom Leeds on the First Utility Super League ladder and have beaten Rhinos in the sides’ past three meetings, including two visits to Headingley last season.
McShane, who played for Leeds from 2009-13 before moving to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and then Castleford, knows his former club have been doing it tough this year, but believes they will turn things around sooner rather than later.
“They have just been unlucky with injuries,” McShane said of Leeds’ current plight. “I’ve no doubt when they’re back up to a full complement they’ll still be one of the best in the comp.
“It’s just how things have gone this season – a lot of teams have struggled with injuries and it has been a big part of this year.
“I still think they are up there as a threat no matter where they are in the table.
“They’re at home and they’ll want to reward their fans after some of the results they’ve had, but we’re looking at it in the same way.”
Games against Leeds at Headingley are always special for McShane – who is hoping to be available despite illness earlier in the week – but he does not feel he has a point to prove.
“I loved it there and as a kid you can’t really ask for better than coming through the system at Leeds,” he said.
“You’re very lucky to get to stay at one club throughout your career and it came to the point where I had to move on to go and learn my trade further, but I’ve no regrets and am back enjoying my rugby again.”
More importantly, Tigers will climb to sixth in the table – above Widnes Vikings and Wakefield – if they can back up last Saturday’s impressive Ladbrokes Challenge Cup win over Salford Red Devils.
“Our season has been up and down with personnel missing, but we’re not in a bad place,” McShane stated.
“Hopefully there’ll be players coming back in the coming weeks and that’s only going to strengthen our squad. At times this year we’ve been down to our last 18 men, but the fact we’re still in the top eight is credit to the people who have come in, the so-called fringe players who have done great.”
Last week was a good example when McShane, normally a hooker, filled in at scrum-half – after Luke Gale was sidelined because of a hamstring problem – and was named man of the match.
“I enjoyed it,” he said of the unfamiliar role. “It was something different and I think every player in a rugby side wants to be a half and get their hands on the ball.
“We had a pretty simple game plan to stick by, but more than anything our defence really won it for us against Salford. It was outstanding.”
He added: “Hopefully Galey will be back [tonight], but as long as I’m in that 17 and playing I’m happy to do whatever job’s needed. I’ll take a bit of confidence from last week if I’m called up to do it again, but Galey is a massive player for us and it’d be a huge benefit to us if he is fit.
“He’s a great player and, for me, he’s probably the best half-back in England at the moment. To have him back would be a huge boost.”