PACK LEADER Grant Millington says Castleford Tigers’ start to pre-season training has been among the toughest since he joined the club.
Millington, who signed for Tigers ahead of the 2012 campaign, reckons that is exactly what they need as they battle to shake off their tag as the English game’s nearly men.
Tigers finished third in Betfred Super League this year and were beaten at Wigan Warriors in a play-off semi-final. That came a year after they were league leaders by 10 points, but slipped up in the Grand Final.
Millington knows there is only one way Tigers can prove they are not big-game chokers – and that begins now. Monday was the first day of pre-season and the Aussie forward said: “It has been the toughest start to pre-season we’ve had in a long time.
“It has only been two days, but the intensity of sessions and the metreage we’ve covered has really kicked up compared to last year. The coaches have set out it is going to be a short pre-season and it is definitely a good challenge for us all.
“We’ve spoken as a team and a leadership group and it has filtered down from the coaches through the whole squad.
“Something has got to change. We have been pretty consistent over the last few years, but we want to win trophies.
“We have changed the way we are going about pre-season and we will see what happens.
“Definitely a lot of areas need to improve.”
The 32-year-old front-rower revealed: “We have approached pre-season a bit differently in the past, a lot of our running has been in our skills sessions.
“Our conditioning is a bit more structured now. When you’ve got the ball in hand you don’t seem to think about the running you are doing, but when you are hitting the line, turning around and running again you have got to be mentally tough because that’s all you have focused on.
“We are building a foundation for what will happen to us [next season]. It gives us a good solid base to start from as we get closer to the season and during it we can add to our game with bits and pieces.”
Tigers are the only Super League club not to have made a signing, but Millington insisted: “The squad is strong. We have been the most consistent team over the last two years, but obviously we have fallen down when the games have really mattered.
“There has got to be a change within us; we are good enough to beat the teams who have beaten us in finals and big games, but we have got to be able to perform on the day. We have got to incorporate that into training so we can perform when we are there.”
Some of that may be down to Tigers’ mental approach, Millington admitted, but he stressed: “We want to look at all aspects – whether we are fit enough to compete at the end of the year, whether we are doing the right things on and off the pitch.
“We are looking at it as a whole. Having the right mentality in big games is what gets you through the tough times and we have to improve there as well.”