Frankie Mariano is confident Wakefield Wildcats will survive Super League – but only after being beaten by the Tigers. Peter Smith reports.
But Mariano is confident Tigers can end their near-neighbours’ recent revival in Sunday’s Magic Weekend derby, if they get their own house in order.
Wildcats will be looking to record a third successive win, following shock victories at Hull – when they hit back from 16-0 down in the second half – and high-flying Widnes Vikings.
Coach Richard Agar’s side remain 12th in First Utility Super League, but are now eight points clear of second-bottom Bradford Bulls and only one behind big-spending Salford Red Devils.
In contrast, Tigers have lost their last two – to Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos – and have slipped to fourth on the league ladder.
Mariano spent two seasons at Wakefield before joining Tigers last autumn and reckons they will do enough this year to preserve their top-flight status.
He said: “They have found a bit of form and they have got the players, but as long as we focus on our own game we should be all right this week.
“It will be a tough game – they always are and they have found a bit of form now, so we will have to be on the ball.
“We have to make sure we get things right that we’ve got wrong in the last couple of games.”
This year will be the third time the Magic Weekend has been hosted by Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and it’s eighth staging in all.
All seven Super League round 13 fixtures will be played at the same venue over two days, with Tigers and Wildcats first up on the second afternoon.
“It is good,” Mariano said of the Magic concept. “It is great for the sport and all the supporters.
“It is a couple of days out for the fans and it’s derby day – all the games are big rivalries, so I enjoy it.
“It is good to play on a big stage and it would be nice to play on big grounds like that later in the year.
“The sky’s the limit for us, we just need to work on our own game and we are confident about what we can do.”
Cas will go into Sunday’s derby well rested following the 22-14 loss to Leeds last Thursday.
That came just four days after a draining one-point setback at Huddersfield, but Mariano refused to blame Tigers’ short turnaround for the defeat.
He said: “Every team is in the same boat, they have all got to do it at some stage.
“We can’t use that as an excuse. I didn’t really think about it before the game – we just find out when we are playing, turn up and do our best.
“We could have won the game, it was our fault we didn’t. It was frustrating. We forced a lot of things, which didn’t help.
“In the first half we stuck to our game plan, which helped, but in the second half – I don’t know why – we panicked a little bit and went away from our game plan.
“Errors kicked in and if you give a team like that so much ball they will kill you.”
Despite Tigers’ recent stutter, Mariano feels Castleford are a club on the up and he insisted he is delighted to be part of the revolution taking place under coach Daryl Powell.
“I am loving it,” he said. “It is a great set of lads and a great coaching staff. I feel really comfortable here.
“The team is working really hard for each other and that makes it enjoyable.”
Mariano has become a key member of Powell’s team this year. He made his Super League debut in 2010 for Hull KR, but had only three substitute appearances before joining Wakefield.
At Wildcats he became more established in the 17, playing 53 Super League games in three seasons, though he also had a spell on loan at Kingstone Press Championship outfit Featherstone Rovers last term.
“It’s nice to be in the team most weeks,” he admitted. “Now I am here and I am established I want to kick on and show what I can do and what I have got.
“I think there’s a lot more to come from me.
“I just need to have belief and confidence in myself really, but I feel as though I can get a lot better.”
At 27 Mariano is now looking to take more of a leadership role.
He added: “At the moment I am focusing on playing well and concentrating on my own game personally.
“I am more of a senior player now, so I need to step up and become a leader on the field. We have got some great leaders here and hopefully I can learn from them and that will kick on my career.”
Meanwhile, Mariano played against Leeds despite suffering concussion in the loss at Huddersfield just four days earlier.
He said: “I was okay. I took a bang to the side of my head and that made me a bit unstable, but I passed all the head tests so I was good to go.
“I trained through the week, so I was okay.”