CASTLEFORD TIGERS are happy to be scraping wins at this stage of the year, three-time Grand Final champion Zak Hardaker says.
Tigers will end the regular Betfred Super League season on top of the table and are already within touching distance of securing a top-four place in the Super-8s which begin next month.
The leading quartet after the seven additional fixtures will play-off for a place at Old Trafford and Hardaker said that’s when Tigers need to be at their absolute best.
Cas face Catalans Dragons in Perpignan tonight and Hardaker stressed: “At this stage of the season, getting ready to come into the Super-8s, for us it’s just about getting two points.
“We want to finish top – that’s the main aim – and at the moment we just have to get two points.
“As the weeks go on the games get bigger, especially in the play-offs and that’s when you want to peak.
“At the moment we’re quite happy not peaking yet – we’re happy getting points on the board.”
Hardaker’s experience of winning titles at his previous club Leeds Rhinos could prove crucial over the final quarter of the campaign.
He said: “That’s what I try bring to the lads, but we have some other players who can manage the game – Luke Gale, Paul McShane and Michael Shenton who I know is in the centre, but is a big influence.
“Adam Milner is up there too. He’ll be back soon and Junior Moors so we have players who know what to do in games.
“I have been there and done it in Grand Finals so will try shed some light on that.”
Catalans will finish 10th whatever happens today and are preparing for a relegation battle in the middle-eights Qualifiers.
They have under-performed this year and Hardaker said: “On paper they have a really good team, but I just think they don’t have that strength in depth. That’s what has let’s them down this year when they’ve had a few injuries, but going there is always daunting no matter where they are in the league table.
“They love playing in front of their fans. It will be tough, but we’ll see how we go.”
Steve McNamara – who gave Hardaker his England debut – is now in charge of the French side and Hardaker reckons he will get them back on track, eventually.
“He’s a great coach, but it will be tough for him at the moment as I don’t think he will be able to change too much with such a short amount of the season left,” said the Tigers full-back.
“What he can bring on is the camaraderie between the team, the belief in the players individually and collectively he can improve them too. Hopefully that can work from them, just not this weekend.”
Matt Cook could return for Tigers after seven weeks on the sidelines due to a knee injury, but Greg Eden (shoulder) drops out from the team which beat Salford eight days ago. Ben Garcia is back in contention for Catalans after suspension.
Catalans Dragons: from Gigot, Inu, Yaha, Walsh, Myler, Moa, Aiton, Casty, Anderson, Horo, Bird, Bousquet, Garcia, Baitieri, Duport, Albert, Margalet, Navarrete, Tierney.
Castleford Tigers: from Cook, Foster, Gale, Hardaker, Hitchcox, T Holmes, Larroyer, Lynch, Massey, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Minikin, Monaghan, Roberts, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Springer, Trueman.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).
Kick-off: Today, 5pm (BST).