CASTLEFORD TIGERS’ season could hinge on their opening few matches, coach Daryl Powell reckons.
Tigers – who finished fourth in the First Utility Super League table last year – kick off at home to neighbours Wakefield Trinity Wildcats tomorrow.
And Powell stressed: “It’s important to start well if we want to have a good season.
“We have got a tough start – Wakefield at home and then away to Catalans, followed by Saints and Wigan, so it’s a really important first game for us.
“We have got everybody fit and we’ve had a pretty good pre-season, so we are feeling pretty good about ourselves, but we’ve got to crack straight in.
“This year is going to be a lot tougher, so we need to start well, no question about that.”
Tigers had the upper hand last year, winning all three meetings with tomorrow’s opponents, but Powell insisted: “We are a different team and so are they.
“It’s a new year and there’s no point worrying about what’s happened in the past.
“Pre-season always seems to be long, so we’re looking forward to the game.”
Wildcats suffered a heavy defeat at Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day in the Festive Challenge, but won their other trial games against Featherstone Rovers and Hull.
“We feel ready,” coach James Webster said.
“Whatever both teams produce over the next couple of weeks will probably be better than what they do first up, but we’re reasonably confident we can go there and put in a good performance.
“In pre-season we started at rock bottom on Boxing Day and we improved in every game.
“But the start of this game is going to be a lot more physical and intense than anything we’ve experienced in pre-season.
“How we handle that is a massive key for us to get the job done this week.”
Webster said he’s confident Wildcats are stronger in the middle of the field, which was a weakness last year.
But the coach, in his first full season at the helm, also feels they can be a threat out wide and he pledged they won’t be adopting a safety-first strategy as they bid to improve on their 12th-placed finish in 2014.
He said: “We’ve got some people who can attack with the ball and having Tim Smith for pre-season has helped us, compared with last year.
“We are going to do some things a bit differently this year, not wholesale changes, but we’ve realised we need to change things to get where we want to be – and you can’t do that without taking a few risks along the way.”
Castleford Tigers from: Webster, Shenton, Carney, Gale, Lynch, Milner, Millington, O Holmes, Massey, Boyle, Moors, Moore, Wheeldon, Roberts, Solomona, Finn, Tansey, Crossley, Gibson.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats from: Anderson, Annakin, Collis, Godinet, Hall, Kirmond, Lauitiiti, Lyne, McShane, Miller, Owen, Paea, Riley, Ryan, Scruton, Simon, D Smith, T Smith, Washbrook.
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3.30pm.