New-look Castleford Tigers are “miles ahead” of where they were this time last year, upbeat coach Ian Millward says.
Tigers, who finished second from bottom in Super League 2012 after losing their final seven fixtures, begin their pre-season campaign at KC Stadium tomorrow in a testimonial game for Hull centre Kirk Yeaman.
Millward will field his strongest-available line-up – including seven players brought in since the end of last term – and is relishing seeing more than two months of training put into practice.
“We started on October 28 and all I can say at the moment is that we’ve had a fantastic pre-season,” Millward reported.
“It’s been the complete opposite to last season. We’ve had everyone fit and raring to go and it has been really positive.
“We’ve changed a lot of our structures in attack and defence and that’s been driven by the coaches and the players.
“We are at a situation now where we are ready to play a game.
“We haven’t missed any training and we’ve trained harder than we did last season.
“The only negative is that us and Salford are the only clubs not going away on pre-season camp.”
Hull arrived back from a week in Tenerife on Thursday and Millward accepts that teams who have had a chance to train in better weather – on firmer pitches – overseas will have an advantage.
He said: “I was talking to a few coaches the other day – Tony Smith (Warrington Wolves), Nathan Brown (St Helens), Richard Agar (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) and a few others and we acknowledged how much that dry- weather training gets you up to the mark.
“If you take that out of it, our pre-season has been everything that we’ve asked. The players have given everything they could and it has been very positive.
“It’s not as if we need a couple more weeks with them or that we’ve missed a couple of weeks.
“We are miles ahead of where we were this time last year and another big thing is, it is my team.
“I didn’t really have anything to do with the make-up of the squad last year, but that has now changed.”
Signings Justin Carney, Michael Shenton, Jake Webster, Lee Gilmour, Weller Hauraki, Jordan Tansey and Keith Mason are all included in Tigers’ squad for tomorrow’s game.
“They have all been outstanding,” Millward said of how his recruits have performed in training.
“Every one has made an impression and improved the standard. They have been everything I wanted them to be so far.”
Joe Arundel, who missed much of last season through injury, will make his first appearance for Hull against his former club.
He said: “I’ve been looking forward to this game all pre-season. This is my first experience of taking on a former club and I’m expecting to be nervous before the game.
“I want to make a good impression and get off to a good start, but I’ve also got a lot of respect for Castleford.
“They brought me through the ranks and I still have a lot of friends there.”
Meanwhile, Cas will announce on Tuesday whether next weekend’s friendly against neighbours Featherstone Rovers will go ahead.
Tigers are currently carrying out repair work following the theft of hundreds of metres of electric cabling from their Wish Communications Stadium over the Christmas period.
And chief executive Steve Ferres admitted it was a race against time to get the job completed by next Sunday.
“We really want to be able to host the match but have to be realistic that there could be a possibility it may be too big an undertaking to be ready in a week.
“We will be reviewing progress on Monday and will confirm on Tuesday if the fixture can go ahead as planned.”
Castleford Tigers: from Owen, Carney, Shenton, Webster, Dixon, Chase, Ellis, Walker, Clark, Huby, Gilmour, Hauraki, Millington, Emmitt, Milner, Massey, Holmes, Thompson, Tansey, Johnston, Fleming, Clare, Mason.
Referee: Tim Roby (Preston).
Kick-off: January 13, 2pm.