CASTLEFORD TIGERS forward Alex Foster’s season began at Oxford and could end at Old Trafford.
The former Leeds Rhinos and Featherstone man has gone from fearing he was about to be unemployed to the verge of an appearance in Saturday’s Betfred Super League Grand Final against the club where he began his career.
Foster was left without a club when Bradford Bulls – who he had joined from London Broncos at the end of last season – went bust.
Tigers coach Daryl Powell signed him on trial and sent him to Oxford on dual-registration to prove his fitness following a groin injury.
He played in a 20-6 Kingstone Press League One loss to Workington Town in front of 120 spectators at Tilsley Park in March, which was his first game of the season, was signed by Castleford after that and has been part of the league leaders’ squad ever since.
The Rhinos academy product started in Tigers’ 23-22 extra-time semi-final win over St Helens last Thursday and admitted it has been a dream year after a nightmare start.
“It has been unbelievable, I could never have envisioned it,” he said.
“Hats off to everyone at Cas, there’s been so much hard work going on behind the scenes by the coaches and the players have been training hard every day.
“The fans have been behind us every minute of this season.
“This club has made it happen for me and made it happen for everyone.
“Hopefully we can go one step further at the Grand Final.”
Foster has played in Tigers’ last 16 games, but insisted he is not taking a place in Saturday’s team for granted.
Powell will select from a full-strength said and Foster said: “Oggy [Oliver Holmes] could be back this week and there’s a lot of players who have been pushing for places.
“For a lot of lads it’s going to be a nervous wait to see what the team is, but we’ve just got to keep on with what we are doing, train hard and try and get that spot.”
Tigers’ players were visiting Old Trafford today and Foster said he is determined to make the most of the build-up, as well as the Grand Final itself.
“It’s very important to enjoy the week,” said the Gloucester-born 24-year-old who was the first player from the Wetherby Bulldogs community club to break into Super League.
“I think if you start thinking about it too much you get anxious and nervous and the rest follows.
“This is a once in a lifetime chance, I might never play in a Grand Final again.
“Very few people play at Grand Finals, so all you can do is enjoy the experience and take it all in and do the best you can.”
But now they are there, Foster said Tigers need to cap the best season in the club’s history by lifting the Super League trophy.
He added: “There has been a lot of pressure thrown our way this season, with being the league leaders.
“I think we really need to go there and give it our best shot and come away with a win.
“Saying that, all the pressure is on our opponents because we are the top team this year and we have proved we can get ourselves out of sticky situations and play under pressure as well.
“I think [Rhinos] will look at that and see this Cas team means business.”
Tigers were on the brink of defeat against Saints, who hit back from 20-10 behind to lead by two points with seconds remaining.
Luke Gale booted a penalty after the final hooter had sounded to level the scores and then landed the winning drop goal in golden point extra-time.
Despite Tigers’ four wins against Rhinos this term, Foster reckons they will need to play much better on Saturday.
“Leeds are a very good team,” he said.
“They finished second and we have got to step our game up from last Thursday and kick on.”