LACK OF big-game experience isn’t a concern for winger Kirk Dixon ahead of Castleford Tigers’ Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final showdown with Widnes Vikings on Sunday.
Dixon and hooker Adam Milner are the only members of Tigers’ current squad who played in the club’s previous semi-final three years ago, but Dixon pointed out: “We have got players who have played in big games.
“Michael Shenton has played in Grand Finals for St Helens, Andy Lynch played at Wembley for Hull last year and Gaz Carvell has won the Challenge Cup.
“We can feed off them and there’s a couple of us who have been to the semis before, so we know what to expect.
“It is about playing the game and not the occasion and Daryl (Powell, Tigers’ coach) is great at that.
“All our focus will be on Widnes and he’ll try and keep everything else that’s going on away from us.
“It would be quite easy to get caught up in the whole atmosphere, but we have got to really concentrate on the 80 minutes.
“There’s a big prize at the end of it, but that’s exactly how Widnes will be looking at it as well. We need to really concentrate this week and make sure we leave no stone unturned.”
The 2011 semi-final ended in heartbreak for Castleford, as opponents Leeds Rhinos scored a late converted try to send the tie into sudden-death extra-time before Kevin Sinfield booted a winning penalty goal.
“That was a tough one to take,” admitted Dixon, who landed two goals that afternoon.
“Hopefully we can learn from that, but we know it’s going to be a hard game on Sunday, against a quality Widnes side, who are in great form.
“They have had some great results and they beat Hull KR last week so they are coming into the game on the back of a win, just like we are.
“It is two teams that are in form and two teams that like to play rugby as well, so it all bodes for a great game, but from our point of view we are going to need 17 players to be at their best to go there and get the job done – because it is going to be some test.”
Dixon has been through some tough times with Tigers and sees this weekend’s tie as a reward for all those who have remained loyal.
“This is what you play the game for, it’s what you do all the hard work for in pre-season, to hopefully get this chance,” he said.
“Only two teams can get to a final, but we have got a fantastic opportunity to be one of them.
“We aren’t counting any chickens though, we have got a titanic 80 minutes in front of us and we’ll have to be the best we’ve been all year to get the job done.
“We will have to be that good. It’s a one-off game and Widnes will be approaching it exactly the same way as we are, because it is a chance for them to get to Wembley as well.
“There’ll be 34 players who want that spot, but only one team can get there, so it will take our best game of the year to do it.”