Castleford Tigers out to prove they are back in the groove, insists Michael Shenton
Long-serving skipper Michael Shenton reckons Castleford Tigers have got their groove back.
Tigers are 12-1 outsiders to win the Betfred Super League Grand Final after a disappointing eighth-place finish in 2020, but Shenton insists the problems of last year are behind them and there’s a feeling in the camp this season could be “pretty special”.
Castleford begin their season against a leading contender when they take on Warrington Wolves at Emerald Headingley on Sunday.
Last year ended early for Cas after a Covid outbreak wiped out their final few matches, leaving them on only 16 games played, but Shenton said round one is a “pretty big kick-off for us, against a quality team”.
He vowed: “Last year has been put behind us now and we are just looking forward to this season.
“We’ve got used to all the [coronavirus] restrictions, we’ve been ready for a couple of weeks to get Super League under way and we can’t wait.”
A win against Warrington – the club departing Cas boss Daryl Powell is being most closely linked with – would prove Tigers mean business in 2021.
“I am hoping for a pretty special one this year,” Shenton said of the campaign ahead.
“It feels like, after last year, this needs to be a good one for Cas, myself as well.
“I think we’ve had a really good pre-season and there’s a lot of excitement around the boys – we have made some decent signings and everyone has fitted in well.”
Tigers certainly won’t be lacking motivation, tomorrow or for the season as a whole, particularly after Powell confirmed this is his last year at the club, but Shenton pledged not to let the coach’s impending exit become a distraction.
“I think it makes it more special,” Shenton said.
“There’s a few reasons this needs to be a special one and that’s one of them, but I don’t think Daryl wants that to deflect from what our job is this year, which is doing a job in Super League and getting off to a great start.
“At the moment our focus is on moving past [Powell’s announcement].
“It was big news, but now this week, building into the game, it is all about Warrington and getting off to a good start in Super League.
“All the boys’ focus now and all the coaches’ focus is on that.”
Powell will name a 21-man squad today.
Suaia Matagi is on the injury list, but fellow recruits Jordan Turner, Niall Evalds and Lewis Bienek are all available.
Shenton noted: “We’ve added strength and depth and Niall looks exceptional.
“He looks like a superstar, he has been great in training and I am excited to see him play.
“The experience of Jordan Turner and Suia Matagi is great as well.
“Those guys really offer some depth and quality to our team.”
Shenton felt Tigers’ squad was also strong last year, but injuries meant they were never able to field their best line-up.
He added: “I am really ambitious.
“You want to be challenging for both competitions and I see no reason why not if we can keep our squad fit. We will be competitive if we can keep everybody fit and keep putting a strong team out.”
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