THIS WEEK’S call-up into England’s mid-season training squad has justified Michael Shenton’s move back to Castleford Tigers.
Shenton, 27, made 10 appearances for England from 2008-2010, during his first stint at hometown club Castleford.
He lost his spot following a glamour move to St Helens in 2011 and admitted forcing his way back into Test contention was a key factor behind his return to Castleford at the start of last year.
“I always felt I was young enough to get back in and have a chance at another shot,” said Shenton, who was today captaining Tigers in their Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final at Wigan Warriors.
“It was a reason for coming back here (to Castleford) as well, to be a more important player in the team. When I spoke to (then-coach) Ian Millward about coming back, it was one of the goals I set myself. At St Helens they have so many quality, international players. I didn’t get the ball in my hands as much as I do here.
“I am a Cas lad and I have come through and earned my stripes here, but going to Saints they have got a lot of senior players and a lot of experience and you have to kind of take a step back.
“For me as a person I learned so much over there off those guys, people like Paul Wellens. That was invaluable to me, but going forwards it has been a good move for me coming back.”
Having already played Test rugby, Shenton said he could have coped with the disappointment of not earning a recall – but he reckons selection is as much an honour and reward for the club as it him personally.
He said: “I thought if I didn’t get back in at least I have played for England and represented my country, which can never be taken away. You are obviously playing well if you are picked for England so the recognition is nice.
“For the other two blokes to get picked – for Castleford to have three players in the squad – is great. It is great for the club and it’s recognition of where we’re at as a club and how well we are playing. It is nice for the whole team to have that.”
Shenton and team-mates Craig Huby and Daryl Clark are among 34 players named in the training squad and he stressed the last thing he will do is take a place on the jet to Australia and New Zealand – for this autumn’s Four Nations tournament – for granted.
“The centre position is one of those where you are up against your opposition a lot of the time,” he said. “It’s motivation in itself to play well in each game and get over the top of your opponent. Not many positions are like that.
“I am happy with the recall, but it doesn’t mean too much at the minute. It is just a recognition thing, but going forward it means I am in (coach) Steve McNamara’s eyes, which is great for me and it is a bit more motivation to finish the season strongly.
To go on tour would be special. It doesn’t happen many times in your career, but it’s a long time away and there’s quite a way to go in the season yet. Form can dip and rise so obviously I have got to stay on top of my game, keep playing well and do my best for Castleford.
“That’s the same for me and the rest of the boys who’ve been picked.”
Shenton has been a key player in Tigers’ stunning opening to the season, which sees them sitting third in First Utility Super League with 15 of the 27 weekly rounds played.
And he admitted being back home has helped bring out his best form. “I am close to my family and friends and them being happy is a big part of it,” he said. “It is something Daryl (Cas coach Daryl Powell) has tried to create since he has come in – it is the club as a whole and your family being part of this place. It is a happy place to be at the minute. Everybody enjoys coming to work and that is showing on the field. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time.
“The top clubs – like Leeds and Wigan – are there for a reason. It’s their cultures and the things they’ve got, the fact they have built teams around their home grown players, who have come through their academy. We are not there yet, there’s a long way to go, but it’s something we needed, we needed a bit of rebuilding.
“We hit rock bottom and we are coming back, There’s a long way to go, but the club’s shown it’s willing to take steps in the right direction and that’s pleasing for the players to see.”