Castleford Tigers' Alex Mellor makes 'awful' admission as coach Danny Ward demands 'pride' v Leeds Rhinos
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Second-rower Mellor reckons the number of young players who have gained first team experience has been a bonus, but admitted it has been an “awful” campaign.
Mellor, who joined Tigers from Rhinos midway through last year, accepted: “There’s not many positives we can take from it, because we have massively underperformed as a team.
“We have had a lot of injuries, which hasn’t helped us, but there’s no excuses. The older, experienced players have let the young lads down a bit. As a collective, we’ve been nowhere near good enough.”
The rot doesn’t stop with the first team, according to Mellor. He added: “There’s a lot of improvements need to happen across the board.
“It’s not just the playing staff, it’s everybody. I think the club recognise that and are hopefully starting to take steps in the right direction to rectify that for next year.”
Tigers have won six games in 2023, two of them against Rhinos and Mellor said his old side have “massively underperformed as well”.
“I know from being there they expect way more than they’ve done this year,” he reflected. “There’s a lot of pressure on Leeds when they aren’t playing well, because of the fanbase.
“There’s a lot of fans there so they can either get right behind you or be right in your face. They are expected to make the play-offs every year and coming off the Grand Final last year, there’s going to be some unhappy faces there for sure.”
Leeds have conceded 111 points without scoring in their past two games and if Tigers can make a good start, the atmosphere could turn against the hosts, Mellor predicted.
“That has got to be a major talking point for us,” he said. “If we can blow them away and get 10, 12 or even 20 points up, the atmosphere’s going to be pretty hostile, especially off the back of their last two games.
“I can’t imagine it is a great feeling in camp or around the place, but we’ve fallen into that trap too much this year, looking at other teams and how they’ve been playing.
“We just need to think about us and what we are going to do and how we are going to go there and beat Leeds.”
Ward has been coach for five games, winning two of them, but insisted: “I don’t see it [keeping Tigers up] as a massive achievement, personally.
“We were 11th when I arrived and we are 11th now. We’ve got the job done we needed to do, staying in Super League, but we are not celebrating coming 11th.”
Friday will be Ward’s second return to Headingley as a head coach, following a win there with London Broncos in 2019.
A 2004 Grand Final champion with Rhinos, he stressed Friday is an opportunity to “perform well for ourselves and the lads who are leaving”. Ward said: “We need to have personal pride in our performance and we want to end the season on a high.”