Castleford Tigers v Huddersfield Giants: Makeshift Tigers still in play-off hunt says Daryl Powell
CASTLEFORD TIGERS have to beg and borrow to scrape a squad together for tonight’s return to Betfred Super League action at home to Huddersfield Giants.
Tigers’ two fixtures after the Challenge Cup semi-final loss to St Helens 16 days ago were postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in the Castleford camp.
Powell has named a 19-man squad, two fewer than normal, which includes just seven of the team which played at Wembley and three newcomers on short-term loan, Hull KR centre Jimmy Keinhorst and Featherstone Rovers duo half-back Jake Sweeting and loose-forward Loui McConnell.
Keinhorst, a former Leeds Rhinos player, is on a two-week deal. Sweeting, a Tigers academy product and McConnell, who came through Rhinos’ youth system, have signed for one week.
Powell confirmed: “We’ve only got one injury, all the rest are Covid-related.”
He said: “It is a massive issue for us and the sport, but we had to play this game so we have to get on with it.
“I am really thankful to the clubs who’ve helped us, Hull KR and Featherstone. Those boys came in and trained with us [yesterday].
“I still think we’ve got a strong team out there – there’s some young players, but some really good experience as well.
“We haven’t got any half-backs available, which creates its own problems, but we’ll do our very best.
“We are 100 per cent committed as we always are and we need to go out and win this game. That’s clearly going to be a tough ask, but I think we are capable of doing that.”
Another postponement would have been a huge blow, on and off the field.
“There’s the financial aspect of it and we haven’t played much,” Powell noted. “That was a big issue at Wembley, that we hadn’t played enough games.
“We didn’t want to go another week, we need to play games, but we also need to win games.
“We are not in the top-six at the moment and that’s our main focus. We need to start winning games quickly to get this ridiculous [win] percentage up.”
Powell insisted he “100 per cent” believes eighth-placed Tigers can climb into the play-offs positions.
“There’s plenty of games left,” he said. “We have got to believe that’s a realistic target. We are not that far away. It is difficult to gauge with the percentages, but we’ve just got to get ourselves playing well.
“It will help if we can get a consistent team on the field, which has been problematic all year for us for different reasons.
“We know we can play, we compete with every single team in the comp’ when we’ve got our best team out there. The key for us is getting that team out there as best we possibly can.”
Though he is not a fan of deciding the table on win percentage rather than points, Powell admitted “there probably isn’t” a better alternative.
But he stressed he believes a 26-round season this year was too many games and would have preferred a home and away format.
Castleford Tigers from: Evalds, Olpherts, Shenton, McShane, Blair, Massey, Foster, Smith, Matagi, Bienek, Peachey, Martin, Hall, Graham, Robb, Magee, Keinhorst, Sweeting, McConnell.
Huddersfield Giants from: Golding, McGillvary, Jake Wardle, Yates, McQueen, Cunningham, Wilson, Cudjoe, Russell, Senior, Trout, Hewitt, Wood, Ashall-Bott, Pryce, Stevens, Peteru, Peats, Roby.
Referee: Tom Grant (Leeds).
Kick-off: Today, 7.45pm.