NEW KIDS on the block Castleford Tigers are setting standards for the rest of Betfred Super League to follow, skipper Michael Shenton says.
Tigers will go two points clear at the top of the table if they win at champions Wigan Warriors tonight.
Coach Daryl Powell’s side have won six of their seven games so far – their only defeat being by a point at Salford Red Devils – and are averaging more than 40 points per match.
They boast the competition’s most potent attack and second-meanest defence and their points difference is more than 100 better than any of their rivals.
Tigers’ style of play has energised the competition this year and Shenton reckons having a different team – with a fresh approach – leading the field is “great” for the game as a whole.
“We are a new team on the block,” he said.
“Daryl has spoken a lot about changing the way people look at the game and play the game and the way the British game should be played.
“I think we’ve got a great model and you see bits of our game in other teams now which is awesome. We are an exciting team to watch, but we work hard on that. Everyone does their job well.
“Defence is what has made us more of a contender this year. I think we’ve always been able to entertain people and score good tries, but the nitty gritty of defence – the attitude stuff – is where the big improvement has been this year.”
Victory this evening would underline the message that Tigers are the real deal, but Shenton insisted nobody in the camp is concerned about what outsiders think.
“What we focus on this season is in-house,” he stressed. “It’s all about the belief in our camp and we go there with belief – and respect as well.
“We have massive respect for this Wigan team. They are the champions with some quality players and they are playing some really good rugby this year.
“We know they are a massive threat so to get the job done is going to make a statement, but we are just focusing on what we are going to do.
“It’s all about us having that mix of being able to play an expansive game like we like to do and at times being able to rein that back in and build pressure.
“I think we’ve got to get the balance and the mix of that right. If we can do that in the bigger games when the scorelines are tighter, that’s where we can improve.”
Greg Minikin is back in contention for Tigers following a shoulder injury. Nathan Massey is also available and Andy Lynch, who was left out against Huddersfield last week, could be recalled.
Grant Millington drops out and Tigers have doubts over Junior Moors (ankle), Oliver Holmes (ankle) and Joel Monaghan (groin).
Oliver Gildart (back) has joined Wigan’s lengthy casualty list, but Liam Farrell and Anthony Gelling could return from injury and Joe Bretherton is also in contention.
Wigan Warriors: from Bretherton, Clubb, Davies, Escaré, Farrell, Flower, Forsyth, Gelling, Gregson, Isa, Leuluai, Marshall, Navarrete, Nuuausala, Powell, Sutton, Tautai, J Tomkins, Williams.
Castleford Tigers: from Hardaker, Monaghan, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Roberts, Gale, Sene-Lefao, McShane, Moors, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner, Cook, Springer, Chase, Massey, Lynch, Minikin.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.
Meanwhile, Castleford have signed ex-Leeds Rhinos Academy player Alex Foster until the end of the current season after a successful trial period at The Jungle.
The former Bradford Bulls and London Broncos back-row forward, 23, joined in February but is yet to make his first -team bow.