Former Castleford player John Kear would love to see his old team win the league – but would relish watching his current club Wakefield “give them a hiding” in tomorrow’s derby.
Daryl Powell’s Tigers have the chance to go 10 points clear at the top of the Betfred Super League, at least for 24 hours, when they take on their revitalised neighbours at the Beaumont Legal Stadium.
Kear, who operated the scoreboard at Wheldon Road as a youngster and went on to play for his hometown team, has been thrilled to witness the rise of his old club but insists there will be no divided loyalties.
“I’ve got a great admiration for what (chief executive) Steve Gill has done because they’re a financially stable and well-run club and what Daryl Powell has done is fantastic,” said Kear, who is Wakefield’s head of rugby.
“He took over when they were bottom of the league and season after season they’ve built and evolved and this year is the result of four or five years of hard work.
“I feel we’re progressing in a similar manner – perhaps we’re a season or season and a half behind them – so it’s a template for us to follow.
“I supported them as a kid and played for them so there’s an emotional attachment but I’d love to give them a hiding.”
Wakefield are just two points behind second-placed Salford and have their eyes on a top-four finish. Kear reckons tomorrow’s contest will provide them with a yardstick to measure their improvement this year.
The Wales head coach says the Wakefield players have been reminded of their 42-24 defeat at the Jungle on Good Friday.
“We’re playing what everybody would accept are the benchmark for Super League in 2017,” he said. “We feel that we’re not that far away, so it’s a barometer for us to see how far we’ve progressed from the start of the season.
“I don’t think at the start of the year the players knew how good they could be but there’s a growing self-belief within the group.
“Obviously we want to become part of the top four prior to the break-up to get four home games in the Super 8s. That’s the carrot for us and, if you finish in the top four, you’re one game away from Old Trafford.
“Motivation certainly won’t be an issue. We remember the Castleford game when they really gave us a touch-up in the first half - that has been mentioned.
“The players know it’s a special game and we might even have to take a bit of emotion out of it so that we can be efficient in going through the processes of rugby league.”
Castleford were given a scare in their last match, when they clung on to beat Hull 24-22, and Powell insists they are mindful of the potential pitfalls awaiting them in the run-in.
“It’s a long season and there are still 10 games to go,” he said. “We are not getting too carried away at the moment. We just keep working hard and hopefully we’ll keep winning games.
“It’s a derby match, Wakefield enjoy beating Castleford and Castleford enjoy beating Wakefield. It’s massive for the fans and the players get a sense of it, particularly players who come from this area.”