Castleford Tigers in better shape than last season says Daryl Powell

CASTLEFORD TIGERS are in better shape now than they were 12 months ago, coach Daryl Powell reckons.

By Peter Smith
Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 4:30 am
Castleford Tigers head coach Daryl Powell.
Castleford Tigers head coach Daryl Powell.

Tigers, who finished third in Betfred Super League 2018, begin their season at home to Challenge Cup holders Catalans Dragons in three days’ time.

They will be without talisman Luke Gale, who is set to miss the entire campaign because of an Achilles injury suffered in training earlier this month, but Cas won at Leeds Rhinos in their only full-scale practice game and Powell is approaching the start of competitive business in bullish mood.

Jordan Rankin, signed from Huddersfield in a swap deal involving Joe Wardle, is Tigers’ only new face, but Powell believes his squad is more experienced and better balanced than at this stage last year.

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Jordan Rankin.

“Pete Mata’utia has slotted in and I thought he was exceptional against Leeds,” Powell said of last year’s mid-season signing. We have got an embedded full-back, which is great. We didn’t have that last year and it is such a key position. Luke Gale is obviously a massive loss, but Jordan Rankin has come in and he is a high-quality player.

“Jake Trueman has advanced from last year and we’ve got competition across every position. Some of the young kids have improved significantly so we are in a good spot.”

Powell has called for more mental toughness from Tigers this term. They are now an established top-four side, but were beaten in their biggest game last year – a play-off at Wigan Warriors – and have lost twice in major finals since Powell became coach during the 2013 season.

Catalans are being tipped as dark horses for the title and will field a new-look team this week, including star signing from Wigan Sam Tomkins.

Peter Mata'utia.

Powell knows his men will be challenged and is keen to see if the work done in training is carried on to the field of battle.

“Mentality-wise, that’s where we wanted to change a little bit,” Powell admitted. “That is going to be tested and we need to see where we are with that when we get out on the field on Friday.”