OFF-SEASON RECRUIT Denny Solomona is hoping to get back into the winning habit with Castleford Tigers – but his first target is being in the team for their opening game of the season.
The Auckland-born 21-year-old began his career with Melbourne Storm’s under-20s – scoring 13 tries in 16 appearances in 2013 – and has joined Tigers from London Broncos, who won just one game in all competitions last year.
Solomona scored a try from the wing position in Tigers’ opening pre-season game against Featherstone Rovers and was in the centres for Andy Lynch’s testimonial match against Bradford Bulls last weekend.
Tigers have depth in the three-quarters and at full-back, where Solomona can also play, but he insists he is relishing a battle for a place in the side to face visitors Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in First Utility Super League round one, on Sunday, February 8.
He moved up the queue when long-serving winger Kirk Dixon hung up his boots last week, due to a neck injury and is determined to make the most of the chance.
“I don’t mind what position I play, as long as I get a game,” Solomona said. “It is sad that Kirk Dixon has had to retire, but that is an opportunity I have to take.
“We have got healthy competition from Sticks (James Clare) and Michael Channing. That’s good, I like to push myself and that’s pushing me to try and get that spot.
“You want to fight for your shirt and to play in every game – especially that opening game against Wakefield.
“I want to get in and play that first game. Competition makes you want to push yourself even further, so you’re not comfortable in the jersey.
“Last year at London we had no numbers and you just got complacent and comfortable.
“There wasn’t competition – you weren’t looking behind your back thinking that guy might come and take your shirt.
“That is what we definitely have here. My first goal is to try and play against Wakey and then cement my shirt and my position in the team.”
Solomona scored nine tries in 21 appearances for Broncos last term and played in their only win, when they hit back from 30-8 down to beat Leeds Rhinos 40-36 in August.
That fact alone will make him a popular man in Castleford and he remembers the game fondly – and wants more of that sort of sensation this year.
“I was in shock for a while, it didn’t sink in until the next day that we’d actually won a Super League game,” he recalled. “They can say they played an under-strength side, but our team was kind of the same age.
“It was a good feeling and hopefully I’ll get some more wins this year. It was mentally draining, the frustration of knowing you had the ability to win a game, but the execution and everything – the bounce of the ball – wasn’t going our way. It was very frustrating.”
After a year in London, Solomona – who is on a two-year contract with Tigers – reckons Castleford feels more like home.
“I am loving it,” he said. “I am used to a small town and London was just a bit too big for me.
“It’s good getting back to a smaller town, where you can just chill out. It suits me more.
“I am pretty much a chilled person and I like it when you are walking down the road and people come up and say ‘hi’.
“I like talking and saying ‘hi’ to everybody. You don’t get that in London, where it’s basically rush hour every hour of the day.”