A GOOD start and more consistency are priorities for Castleford Tigers this year, according to rising star Mike McMeeken.
Tigers kick off their First Utility Super League campaign away to Hull KR on February 7, followed by a home derby against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and then a trip to Hull. Defeats in their opening three matches cost Tigers a semi-final place in 2015 and McMeeken admitted it is vital they do better this time.
“Last year we didn’t get off to a great start,” he recalled. “The format now means you can’t afford to get off to a bad start and we are looking to be more consistent, week-in, week-out, this year. The mentality around the place is a lot better now, we are a lot stronger mentally. Our aim is to be in that top-four and we’ll be doing everything we can to get in there.”
Tigers have retained the majority of last year’s playing staff, with some key additions.
“I think the squad is very strong this year,” McMeeken added. “Everyone has got competition for places, wherever you are playing on the pitch.
“I think that is going to help us in the long run. You know you can’t afford to have a bad game or string of games because you’ve got someone wanting that position.”
Tigers’ senior squad is now back in England after a week-long warm-weather camp in Lanzarote. They will have an opportunity to put training into practice on Sunday, when they play host to Wakefield in a full-scale trial game.
“Pre-season has been really good, one of the best I’ve had,” McMeeken stated.
“There’s been a lot of enjoyment, surprisingly – you wouldn’t think lifting telephone poles would be fun, but we’ve enjoyed it and got a lot from it. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel now and everyone can’t wait until the start of the season.”
On a personal level, the Basingstoke-born forward is determined to carry on from where he left off at the end of his first season at Castleford.
He said: “It went surprisingly well for me. The start of the season was a bit slow for me, but at the end of the year it went very well.
“I am looking to build on that this year. As a team we are looking to kick on and aim for that top-four and I am the same.
“Everyone wants to work on improving their game and that’s what I am aiming to do.”
McMeeken was snapped up by Tigers at the end of 2014 after impressing in the side’s Super League meetings that year.
He went on to play 20 games last term, all but six in the starting line-up.
“I want to establish myself as a Super League player,” he stressed.
“I played more games than I expected last year. I think my initial aim at the start of the season was about 10. To get 20 games in felt really good.”
Coach Daryl Powell was a major factor in McMeeken’s move up north. The team boss is developing a reputation for spotting talent other coaches have missed and McMeeken said: “Working with Daryl has been really good.
“All the backroom staff do a good job and I really feel like my game has come on.”