YEARS OF effort are finally paying off for Castleford Tigers, according to long-serving forward Nathan Massey.
Tigers will aim to extend their winning start in Betfred Super League to five matches when they visit Salford Red Devils tomorrow.
After finishing fifth last year, they are regarded as the surprise package of the season so far, but Massey reckons their recent form has come on the back of years of hard work.
“We’ve been building towards this for quite a while,” said the 27-year-old, who made his Super League debut in 2008. “Playing the way we do for the last three years, we’ve had some frailties in our defence and that was something we worked hard on in pre-season and it’s coming to fruition now I think.
“It’s no shock to us; it’s just believing we can really compete at the top end of Super League.”
Tigers’ huge points difference means they will almost certainly remain top of the table if they win at AJ Bell Stadium, whatever Wigan Warriors’ result at home to Huddersfield Giants.
But Massey stressed: “Obviously we’ve had four really good results, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We’re taking each week as it comes because there’s never an easy game in Super League these days.
“Anyone can turn anyone over so we’ve got to be on top of our game, but we’re a happy camp at the minute.”
The element of surprise will not last long if Cas continue their winning ways.
“People outside of us are starting to see us as a threat as well, but it’s about what we do behind closed doors,” Massey added.
“It’s a really good place to be at the minute. I think the only pressure we’ve got is from ourselves and I don’t think we’re doing that at the minute.
“We’re not looking too far ahead; everyone is coming to work with a smile on their face and it’s bringing the best out of us. It’s nice to come into training knowing everyone is performing at the top of their game and the depth we’ve got means we’re all being pushed because you can’t afford to have a bad game. “If you do, you’ll be out and it’ll be tough to get back in.”
On a personal note, Massey is enjoying his role in the starting side – even if that means having to watch others exploit the gaps he helps create.
“We joke that us boys who are starting are like cannon-fodder at the minute,” he said. “We’re doing all that tough stuff then the other boys – Junior [Moors], Millo [Grant Millington] and Cookie [Matt Cook] come on and get all the glory!
“Cookie scored a try last week and I don’t know how that happened, but it’s good how Powelly [coach Daryl Powell] is rotating us and we’re happy with it.”
Powell will select from the 17 who won at Widnes Vikings six days ago, plus Jake Webster and Will Maher.
Todd Carney could make his Salford debut and Adam Walne, Ryan Lannon, Jake Bibby and Junior Sa’u are also in contention. Niall Evalds, Josh Jones and the suspended Lama Tasi drop out.
Salford Red Devils: from O’Brien, Johnson, Welham, Sa’u, J Carney, Lui, Dobson, Mossop, Tomkins, Murdoch-Masila, Flanagan, Kopczak, Griffin, Krasniqi, Brining, A Walne, Bibby, Lannon, T Carney.
Castleford Tigers: from Hardaker, Monaghan, Minikin, Shenton, Eden, McShane, Gale, Lynch, Milner, Springer, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey, Moors, Millington, Cook, Roberts, Webster, Maher.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.