CASTLEFORD TIGERS’ preparations for the new season are “way ahead” of where they were this time last year, coach Daryl Powell says.
Powell is determined Tigers will hit the ground running when they travel to Hull KR for their First Utility Super League opener on Sunday, February 7.
And the team boss reckons he has been impressed with how his squad have dealt with a tough start to pre-season.
“I think we are way ahead, just looking at the attitude of the players and the way they are going about their business,” Powell said.
“We aren’t having to replace too much in terms of half-back and hooker, so we are well in advance of where we were this time last year.”
The signing of Australian former Featherstone Rovers back Jy Hitchcox, who arrived last week, completed Tigers’ squad for 2016.
“Jy was the final signing,” Powell confirmed. “I am really happy with the squad.
“Liam Finn left us at half-back, but Ryan Hampshire has come in wanting to play half and he will be given the opportunity to really press Ben Roberts and Luke Gale.
“The outside-backs have had a bit of a change-round with Ben Crooks and Joel Monaghan coming in and we’ve lost a couple of guys we’ve had here for a couple of years.
“It is a slight switch, but I think we’ve got some real quality there.
“If we can get these guys hitting their straps it can be an outstanding backline, to go along with the outstanding pack we’ve had for the last couple of years.”
Powell is confident next year’s squad can improve on Tigers’ league placing in 2015.
“We were one place away from the top-four,” Powell said.
“In terms of points we ended up being a bit further behind than we wanted to be, but next year we need to start well.
“We didn’t do that last season, we lost our first three games and that ended up being what cost us a place in the top-four.
“That was disappointing and there’s some lessons to be learned there.
“I think we have learned some lessons about integrating new players and I am confident we are in a good place.
“There is a lot of work to do, but it is about being a bit more durable as a team and having an edge about us defensively.”
He added: “There’s a few things we are doing in pre-season that we need to do to change the way we think and our mindset.
“We are confident in the way we play the game that we can challenge teams across the whole of the season.
“The challenge for us is to win something now.
“We are there or thereabouts in terms of league position and we need to take the next step and give ourselves the chance of getting over a team in a final, which would be outstanding. We can talk about ourselves with a lot of confidence, I think.”