AUSSIE FULL-BACK Luke Dorn admits Castleford Tigers are far ahead of where he expected them to be at the end of 2014.
“It’s been phenomenal progress for the club,” Dorn said of Tigers’ season, which ended when they lost to Warrington Wolves in the play-offs last week.
“From where the club finished last year to this year is worlds apart.
“It usually takes clubs four, five or six years to be able to do that. It is credit to Powelly (coach Daryl Powell), the coaching staff and everybody involved in the club, that they’ve been able to do it in 12 months.”
Dorn, who joined Tigers from London Broncos a year ago, insisted the key now is to keep improving.
He stressed: “I think we can. We have lost real strong talent in Dazzy (Daryl Clark) and Chubbs (Craig Huby) and Weller (Hauraki). They are quality players, but I think we’ve recruited fairly strongly.
“We’ve added probably more players than we’ve lost. You can never replace someone like-for-like obviously, but we have brought in some real good, strong players. It is all about the guys who are here now getting those new guys into the culture and enveloping them in it and building on what we did this year.”
Tigers’ recruits for next year include Matt Cook and Mike McMeeken, who played alongside Dorn at London Broncos and he said: “Matt Cook has had one of his best years in a side that has really struggled. He is a tireless worker and he has really found his foot in the game and Mike McMeeken is probably one of the best kids going around. I had a lot to do with him at London in the (under) 19s. He is 6ft 4 at 20 and he is a real student of the game, which is beneficial for us.
“He will come here and get his head down and work really hard. From what people saw when they played us at our joint this year, he is a real good talent. I think in a place like Castleford, where your talents are encouraged to flourish, he will do really well.”
Dorn also has high hopes for Scott Moore, who has been brought in from London as Clark’s replacement. Everybody knows about Scotty Moore,” he said. “He is a good ball player and a good competitor and he will add to us defensively.”
Tigers have also signed Denny Solomona from London, plus Bradford Bulls half-back Luke Gale, Featherstone Rovers prop Steve Crossley and NRL duo Ben Roberts and Junior Moors, who played for Melbourne Storm this year. According to Dorn, being able to attract recruits of that quality proves Tigers are heading in the right direction.
“The players here have nothing but good things to say and that rubs off on the recruits the club makes,” he said. “It makes Daryl’s job easier to bring people in and it makes people want to come here. Now people are making it a priority. It is exciting and we are looking forward to next year.”
Tigers reached the Challenge Cup final this year, went within one game of top spot on the table and eventually finished fourth, despite beingsome pundits’ pre-season tip for relegation. But Dorn reckons they will again be written off in 2015 and he predicted: “I think people will be expecting us to fail.
“They will think we’ve had a great year and the bubble will go down and Cas will be at the bottom of the table. I don’t think people will expect us to back up. The pressure won’t be on us.
“I think other clubs will have higher expectations. People will think we had a real good year, but we didn’t finish too well and they’ll expect that to continue on. We are happy with whatever tag people want to give us.”
Tigers fell short when it came to the big games at the end of the year, but Dorn feels the experience gained this season will stand them in good stead.
“It has been physically and mentally taxing to play in such a successful team,” he reflected. “When you are losing it’s hard, obviously, because you have got to try and get up for it every week.
“When you are up for it every week when you are winning, there is an expectation and it’s hard.
“Physically it’s hard to be there week-in and week-out.
“Mentally, there’s the expectation of the people, the town, of Powelly and your team-mates. It becomes difficult, but it is a great experience for us to build on and come next time around it probably won’t affect us so much.”