IT has taken Castleford Tigers 91 years to finish top of the elite division but, remarkably, one of the town’s schools has reached 64 national finals since 2007.
Castleford Academy’s Year 7s side will feature once more in the Challenge Cup final curtain-raiser tomorrow ahead of the showpiece of Hull FC v Wigan Warriors at Wembley.
It has become their second home of late while the Academy as a whole also has four other teams playing in today’s Champion Schools day at Richmond Athletic.
Coach Ryan Lloyd said: “This is the eighth time we’ve actually played at Wembley with Year Seven since it re-opened in 2007. We played in the first one and this is the seventh since then so we’ve done quite well.
“This is our 64th team to get to national finals in general so we’re quite used to it all now.
“It’s just a shame Cas didn’t get to the final as well especially with Wigan being there. We’re playing a Wigan school so they have the Wigan support so it’d have been nice if Cas had beaten Hull in their semi.”
The holders face St Peter’s School, Wigan who they beat 12-6 at Wembley 12 months ago.
Lloyd added: “It’s a great weekend for the kids. There’s a rugby buzz about the town at the moment, too, with Cas doing so well. They all have some great idols to look up to and something they all want to aim for in the future.”
But what is the key to Castleford Academy’s sustained levels of achievement?
“The pure thing is success breeds success,” added Lloyd, with school alumni including England’s Brett Ferres, Craig Huby and Cas’ Tom Holmes.
“There’s only a couple of high schools in Castleford so the kids only have options of going to a certain few.
“As you get teams to Wembley year on year, the kids coming up to Year Seven want to come to Castleford Academy as that’s what they think they’ll get off the back of it.
“In other areas, dominant rugby ones like Hull and Wigan, there’s a lot more schools so the talent pool gets spread out.
“The town of Castleford only has a population of 40,000 but the other night when Tigers beat Wakefield to win the League Leaders’ Shield there was 11,000 there. So, you’re looking at around one in four people going to watch. It’s just in their blood really isn’t it?”