IT HAS been a long, hard campaign – but not long enough for Castleford Tigers captain Michael Shenton.
Tigers, who are mourning chairman Jack Fulton who died yesterday, are into their off-season after missing out on the First Utility Super League play-offs by one place and six points. As the top four prepare for this weekend’s semi-finals, it is a case of what might have been for Shenton and his team-mates.
“It is definitely frustrating,” admitted the Tigers captain. “We were right in the mix and we’ve shown we can match up to the top teams. We died on our legs against Wigan last week, but we know if we had got into the play-offs we could have raised our game and got the job done.
“But we just haven’t been good enough this year to get in it and that shows on the league table. It’s something for us to improve on. If we want to be a top-four team our defence has got to be better.
“We can’t just do it for one game, because it’s away at Leeds Rhinos. We have got to be up for every single week. We have got to stop leaking soft points and leaking points in general. Huddersfield are a good example, because their defence has been good all year.”
There was some consolation for Shenton when he was named in the Super League Dream Team, for the second successive year, alongside clubmate Luke Gale.
“It’s really nice and pleasing for me and something to be proud of, but it’s good for the club as well,” said Shenton. “It’s always good for your club to have Dream Team players and I think Galey is one that stands out.
“He’s someone everyone thought would definitely be on the sheet. He has had such a good year and from the middle of the season onwards he has been one of the most improved players in Super League. He has been outstanding and he is still growing. It is good recognition for the club and the team.”
Shenton and Gale are front-runners for a place in the England squad for this autumn’s three-Test series against New Zealand.
“It would be great to play for England, but I am just happy I’m in the mix again after a few years in the wilderness,” said Shenton. “To see Luke having a chance of being in there as well is really exciting. To have your half-back in contention says a lot about your team and how you play and him as a person.”