Castleford Tigers Super League preview - Niall Evalds on his new challenge plus ins-and-outs, star man, key number and title odds
Potentially one of this year’s best signings, new Castleford Tigers full-back Niall Evalds says he moved from Salford Red Devils for a new challenge.
Evalds has been at the heart of Salford’s recent rise from relegation battlers to contenders for honours and is hoping he can help Tigers get back on to the big stage.
He made his debut for Salford in 2013, played in their 2019 Grand Final and 2020 Wembley sides and was joint second top try scorer in Betfred Super League two years ago.
Already an England Knights international, the 27-year-old has been called into national boss Shaun Wane’s elite performance squad, but said the time was right to try something different.
“I felt like I needed to test myself and take myself out of my comfort zone,” he insisted of moving clubs.
“That is exactly what it has been, it has been a test.
“Powelly [Cas coach Daryl Powell] has challenged me on a lot of things and is trying to make me a better player.”
Having reached a final in each of the past two seasons, leaving Salford might be considered a gamble, but Evalds doesn’t see it that way.
“Cas have always been up there since Powelly took charge,” he said.
“They have always been at the top end of the table.
“Last year, after lockdown, they didn’t have the best of finishes, but I think you can see the talent in the squad.
“There’s a young half-back pairing that has a lot of potential and last year’s man of Steel is here.
“There’s a lot of things that are working well for the club.
“I have come here to hopefully improve the team and I am excited for the challenge.
“I think we have a great squad that can do something special if we all work hard and gel.
“There’s no reason why not - it is exciting times for the club.”
So far, Evalds has been loving his change of scene.
“The boys have made me feel welcome from the first day and I have fit in really well,” he added.
“It has been exactly what I came for - a challenge and to learn some new things and test myself.
“I have really enjoyed it so far and I think all the boys are excited for the season now.”
Evalds knows a good season for Tigers could secure him a place in Wane’s World Cup squad this autumn.
But he stressed: “It is a long season ahead.
“At the moment I am just focusing on training and being involved and competing at Castleford.
“If my performances for Castleford are good, I am sure stuff like that will follow.
“It is just about making sure I train hard every day and on the weekend I put a good performance in and the rest will take care of itself.
“But it is definitely one of my goals, playing in a home World Cup.”
CASTLEFORD TIGERS 2021
Players in: Lewis Bienek (Hull), Niall Evalds (Salford Red Devils), Suaia Matagi (Huddersfield Giants), ,areth O’Brien (Toronto, following loan spell), Jordan Turner (Huddersfield Giants).
Players out: Matt Cook (Widnes Vikings), Lewis Carr (Dewsbury Rams), Jacob Doyle (Featherstone Rovers), Bailey Hodgson (Newcastle Knights), Mike McMeeken (Catalans Dragons), Junior Moors (Featherstone), Jack Sanderson (Bradford Bulls), Joe Summers (Featherstone), Calum Turner (Newcastle Thunder),
Number: 121. Penalties conceded by Tigers in Betfred Super League last year. That was the most in the competition - and only Catalans Dragons played fewer games.
Last year: Eighth in Betfred Super League; Challenge Cup round six.
Player to watch: Tigers have lacked a settled full-back since Zak Hardsaker’s departure three years ago. They have one now in Niall Evalds, a prolific try scorer who will bring a new dynamic to the team.
Odds to win Grand Final: 12-1.
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