SUNDAY’S DERBY at the Jungle will be much more than just a pre-season ‘friendly’, Castleford Tigers’ Dream Team forward Grant Millington reckons.
Many of the Tigers and Leeds Rhinos players will be in action for the first time since last October’s Grand Final, when Castleford were beaten 24-6. A win over Rhinos this weekend could not make up for that huge disappointment, but Millington admits it would be a boost ahead of Cas’ Betfred Super League round-one fixture at St Helens in 15 days’ time.
“It’s a friendly, but it’s our only major test going into the start of the season,” Millington said. “The way last year ended will add a little bit of emotion, but we’ll still be working things out on how we want to play and getting our systems right.
“I think you’ll see the full emotion of it when we face them for the first time in Super League, but Sunday will be a really good hit-out for us. Any local derby’s a good clash and this is going to be a good way to steel us for the season.”
With the neighbours scheduled to meet at least three times in competitive games this year – and possibly as many as six – Sunday is also an opportunity to strike a psychological blow.
Millington stressed: “It doesn’t mean anything points-wise, but it means a lot to pretty much put down a marker and see how we are going and how our pre-season has developed and how we are going to start the season off, hopefully on the right foot.
“There’s no better side to do it against than Leeds. They are the champions – unfortunately it wasn’t us – and it is good for us to play them as much as we can because they are obviously at the top of the league and it’s going to be a good test.”
Of his own hopes for the new year, Millington added: “For me it is just about being consistent. That’s something I’ve always tried to do and I think I did a pretty good job of being consistent last year.
“Obviously if you are consistent and everybody around you is consistent you are going to have a good season, which is why I think we were so successful last year – everyone did their job and knew their role and was able to perform at a good standard.
“Personally, I’ll be working hard and there’s lots of little things I can still improve in my game. It’ll be good to get out there against Leeds and put it into practice.”
Millington, who has spent the past week with his teammates on a training camp in Lanzarote, insisted he does not feel under any added pressure after last year’s Dream Team selection.
“There’s different types of players the media guys could have selected,” he said. “There’s the likes of Alex Walmsley who’s going to run for hundreds of metres, but I am a bit of a different type of player.
“Sometimes different things stand out and other people might not get in when they deserve to. If I play well and I get in there again this year I’ll be extremely happy. It’s not something I pin my eyes on and think I really want to make that side, but I am proud of it.”