New-look Castleford Tigers are focusing on quality rather than quantity this year, coach Ian Millward says.
The boss admits that Tigers have a small squad, but he feels it is far stronger than the one which finished second from bottom in Super League last term.
“All the new signings have been fantastic,” said Millward, whose side host Featherstone Rovers in their second pre-season game on Sunday.
“We only have 24 players in the squad at the moment, but what we’ve tried to do is sign eight quality players – even though we’ve lost 14.
“The ones we’ve brought in have been outstanding and we’ve been very strategic in who we’ve signed.
“We didn’t have any centres so we’ve bought three (Justin Carney, Michael Shenton and Jake Webster).
“Michael’s the captain this year and he has shown that he is a real leader in pre-season – he has been outstanding.
“We wanted to bring in two experienced back-rowers to help us defensively and we’ve done that (in Lee Gilmour and Weller Hauraki).
“We wanted an experienced front-rower and we’ve got one in Keith Mason.
“Currently, out of our squad of 24, 50 per cent are still 21 years of age or younger. We needed some experience and even though Jordan Tansey is only 26 he has played for Leeds and Hull and in the NRL.
“He has been a good purchase and we wanted a young half-back to play alongside Rangi Chase, so we’ve got Jamie Ellis. They have all improved the standard.”
Millward admitted that lack of numbers “is a concern if we get injuries” – and he feels the fixture list could be a problem.
“I don’t know why, but the week before Easter every team plays on the Friday and we’re playing on the Sunday,” he pointed out.
“We’ve got to back up on the Friday and Monday like other teams and then they’ve got us down again for the Friday.
“Four games in 12 days – I don’t understand that. That’s when it’s going to affect us, but hopefully we can get to that stage in good health.”
Tigers were beaten 26-6 at Hull in their opening warm-up game three days ago, but Millward is expecting an improvement this weekend.
“There was a positive atmosphere in the dressing room after Sunday’s game and the guys are looking forward to putting what they’ve learnt into practice,” he said. “This weekend’s game is vital in continuing to apply our new structures and becoming more consistent in the way we want to play.”
Tigers have confirmed that –weather permitting – Sunday’s game with Rovers will go ahead despite the recent theft of electrical cabling from WC Stadium. It will kick-off at 2pm.