IT HAS been nicknamed the hubcap, but Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell reckons the league leaders’ shield deserves more respect.
Tigers are eight points clear at the head of Betfred Super League going into tomorrow‘s final regular-season game at Catalans Dragons.
They are well on course to finish top of the table for the first time in the club’s history after the Super-8s, and Powell reckons that will be an achievement worth celebrating whatever happens in the play-offs.
The Super League trophy, handed to the Grand Final winners, is the big prize, but the league leaders are the most consistent team over the course of the year and, with points carrying over from the regular season to the eights, Powell insists that makes tomorrow a big game.
Neither team can move up or down on the Super League ladder, but Powell said: “It’s not meaningless because we want to finish top.
“Castleford have never done that and it would be a huge achievement – monumental – for this group of players and coaches to do it and to go into the history of the club.
“It [finishing top] is the ultimate thing, regardless of what happens at the end.
“We want to win the Grand Final; that’s the best of the best battling each other.
“But the consistency of winning all year has to have some credence.
“That’s why they have prize money [for the league leaders] now.
“For me, finishing top is a huge achievement and that will never change.
“We want to do that and win the Grand Final.”
Powell said his side, who will do the round trip to and from France tomorrow, will be going all guns blazing.
They have no fixture next weekend and Powell stressed they can’t ease off.
“It’s a game of rugby league and you can’t go half-hearted into it,” he warned
“It will be a tough challenge, no question about that.
“We’ve got a few players missing, but we want to go there and win.
“We have handled tough challenges pretty well and we have got a pretty mature team.
“The maturity of the team has been winning tough battles all year.”
Catalans will drop into the middle-eights Qualifiers, when points are reset to zero, so they have nothing to play for.
“They’ve not done what they wanted to do this year,” Powell said of tomorrow’s opponents.
“They have got a lot of good players and I would have expected them to be in the top eight, but they have got a job to do.
“They have got a new coach. Steve McNamara has come in and he will be wanting to get some momentum and they will want to perform well.”
Tigers will travel to France without Greg Eden who suffered a potentially season-ending shoulder injury in last Friday’s win over Salford Red Devils. Forward Matt Cook has been named in Tigers’ squad after seven weeks out due to a knee injury.