POWERFUL FORWARD Mike McMeeken reckons Castleford Tigers are in “good shape” for Friday’s Betfred Super League semi-final at Wigan Warriors.
Wigan, who were second in the table, one place and five points ahead of Castleford, will be favourites on their home ground and McMeeken admitted: “It has been one of those seasons where a lot of teams have performed well and Wigan are probably the in-form team at the moment.”
But he insisted: “I know they went undefeated through the Super-8s and they are in a bit of form, but personally I think we’re going into the game in a bit of form as well.
“We had a bit of a blip last week at St Helens, but since the second half of Wigan away in the first game of the Super-8s we’ve hit some form and there’s a bit of excitement around the town.”
McMeeken feels Tigers are better prepared now than 12 months ago. He said: “The fans have noticed we probably weren’t on great form going into the final last year – we got there, but didn’t perform well on the day.
“But I think this year we’ve got some good results behind us and leading into this game we feel confident and feel we are in good shape.”
It is often said you have to lose a Grand Final to win one. McMeeken reckons Tigers have learned valuable lessons from what happened at Old Trafford in 2017, particularly in how to play the conditions.
He recalled: “The atmosphere maybe got the better of us a bit and the occasion got the better of us last year.
“Obviously it was chucking it down with rain and we didn’t handle the conditions well, the ball control wasn’t great from us.
“It has been a massive learning curve and over the year we’ve developed our knowledge of playing in the rain and just handling the ball.”
One of Wigan’s biggest threats will be posed by Dream Team second-rower John Bateman, who has also been nominated for the Man of Steel award.
McMeeken was named in the Dream Team second-row last year, but missed out this time.
Of Bateman, he said: “He is a class player.
“He has stood out as a key player in Super League ever since he made his debut when he was pretty young.
“It’s no surprise he’s on the shortlist for the Man of Steel.”