WHAT A difference a year makes. When the fixture compilers decided to send Wakefield Trinity Wildcats to Castleford Tigers for First Utility Super League round 26 they probably expected to be setting up a relegation decider.
Instead, Tigers are chasing a win which would keep them in the hunt for top spot and Wildcats still have an outside chance of qualifying for the play-offs.
Wakefield boss James Webster described that as “unthought of” and he reflected: “This time last year we didn’t know if we’d get paid.
“We were getting paid late and players were sold. Tim Smith had been sold this time last year and it was a really tough end to the year and a tough off season.
“To be in with a sniff of the eight, while it’s not paramount for us as a club this year, it is exciting. I am excited about this game and I think it will be a good one.”
Webster wants to see Wildcats finish on a high for the club stalwarts who will be leaving at the end of the campaign, rather than to build confidence for 2015.
“Sometimes you see teams finish well and not back it up the next year,” he said.
“You just want to get out of it what you can at the time.
“We have got some people leaving who have been with our club a few years and gone through some tough times.
“They have been a rock for us and worked really hard and it would be great for people like Andy Raleigh to go out on a good note.
“I am hoping those people play well and we can get some good results for them.”
Webster reckons all the pressure tomorrow will be on the hosts, who will be just two points behind league leaders St Helens if they win.
“They have put us away pretty heavily twice this year,” he said. “It is going to be a tough game for us, but it’s exciting.
“We’ve been disappointed with the crowds Wakefield and Castleford have attracted over the last few years, but I think it will be close to full this week
“I love going to Cas, I think it’s a great ground and players generally enjoy being there because the atmosphere a full house can generate is second to none in my opinion.
“They are a good team, they deserve to be where they are and we are looking forward to it.
“There’s no pressure on us. We are going with an under-strength team and they are well and truly favourites to win this game.
“They are not second by any fluke, they have played well and they have a massive squad which has been relatively fit for most of the season.
“But in plenty of games this year we have gone in as underdogs and got a result. We are confident we can go there and play well, but we know we have got to play really well to get a result.”
Powell will select from the 17 who beat Bradford Bulls last week, plus Adam Milner and Garreth Carvell.
Grant Millington (knee), Craig Huby (elbow) and Justin Carney (ankle) remain on the casualty list and Powell said: “Millington and Huby are not too far away, they could be available for Catalans next Saturday.
“It may be the week after. It will certainly in the play-offs. Carney is a little bit more difficult to judge. He could be a couple of weeks, he could be four weeks.
“We’re not certain at the moment. He’s working pretty hard to get back on the field. He’s done a little bit of running so we’ll see how he goes.
“It’s a ligament injury to his ankle. It was a terrible tackle, he’s lucky he didn’t snap his leg to be honest after about seven minutes of the final so he did an unbelievable job to stay of the field.”
Webster said: “We are struggling for a team. We have got some doubts and I don’t think there’ll be too many people (who are available) not playing.
“Jimmy Keinhorst has gone back to Leeds and Richard Mathers, Danny Kirmond, Nick Scruton and Matt Ryan won’t be available – and we have got some others with niggles.”
Skipper Kirmond is due to undergo surgery on Monday and Webster said: “He needs three operations.
“One of the knocks – on one of his hands – is from last year.
“The other hand needs operating on as well and I think his knee will need a clean-out as well.
“When you go with such a small squad you have got to play blokes at times during the year when they are not right and eventually it catches up with you.”