TOMORROW’S OPENING pre-season game is an opportunity for players to claim a shirt, Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell says.
The derby with Featherstone Rovers at the Jungle comes six weeks before the start of the 2016 campaign and around half-way through pre-season.
But Powell plans to decide on his squad numbers for next year after the match, and he insisted: “It’s one of those games that’s pretty important.
“We have got some new players and our fans will get to have a look at them.
“You want to start off a new season as well as you can and all games count.
“The Christmas one is a bit away from the season, but it gives players an opportunity to put their hand up first, particularly when you’ve got a deep squad like we have.”
Powell insisted his troops are keen to play after a “gruelling” few weeks. He added: “I’ve been really happy with pre-season so far. We are in a different place to where we were this time last year.
“We have got much more understanding and a bit more consistency in terms of retention of players has helped that.
“The new players have fitted in really well and the blokes have worked hard.
“The six or seven weeks up to Christmas are hard, it is pretty gruelling, but the boys get a chance to play and then we’ve given them four days off.
“That’s the first break they’ve had and it’ll give them a chance to put their feet up.”
Ryan Boyle, Andy Lynch and Nathan Massey are all recovering from surgery so will not play a part in the festive fixture.
Frankie Mariano is still sidelined following a knee reconstruction, and Luke Dorn (groin) also misses tomorrow’s game.
Luke Gale, Michael Shenton and Grant Millington will not be risked by the Castleford Tigers coach.
But Powell will hand a first appearance to former Featherstone back Jy Hitchcox, alongside fellow recruits Ben Crooks, Ryan Hampshire, Greg Minikin and Joel Monaghan.
Squad men Ash Robson, Will Maher, Brandon Westerman and Tom Holmes will get an opportunity, as will Dec Sheehan and Brandon Douglas, who have been promoted from the academy.
Powell has challenged Tigers’ next generation to make an impression against good opposition.
He said: “Some of the young players coming through don’t get that much of an opportunity if the team’s going well, so this is always a good chance for them to put themselves forward as being potentially big players for the club in the future.”
Castleford Tigers from: Cook, Crooks, Douglas, Gill, Hampshire, Hitchcox, O Holmes, T Holmes, Jewitt, Maher, McMeeken, McShane, A Milner, Minikin, Moors, Monaghan, Roberts, Robson, Sheehan, Springer, Webster, Westerman.
Featherstone Rovers from: Brown, Johnson, Channing, Taulapapa, Turner, Thackeray, W Milner, Griffin, Wildie, Bostock, Cording, Roche, Ormondroyd, Day, Cooper, Tagg, Coventry, Snitch, Davies.
Referee: Sam Ansell (Huddersfield).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 1pm.