St Helens v Castleford Tigers: Powell's men out to build on last year's shield win
CASTLEFORD TIGERS are aiming for success on three fronts this year.
Tigers have set their sights on retaining the Betfred Super League leaders’ shield, but coach Daryl Powell says that is not enough.
Last year ended in the agony of Grand-Final defeat to Leeds Rhinos and Tigers fell at the second hurdle in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, which means they have points still to prove.
“There’s three things to aim for,” Powell said ahead of tonight’s Super League round-one trip to St Helens.
“I reckon all the teams that are in and around us will be aiming for all those three things.
“That’s the way it should be, you should be motivated by winning things. We are and we want to take the next step. That’s important to us.”
Fifteen of the 17 who lost in the Grand Final are in contention to feature tonight – the exceptions being Jy Hitchcox and Alex Foster – and Powell is confident Tigers have got the disappointment of four months ago out of their system.
“There’s no point harbouring anything, apart from to use it as motivation,” he stressed. “That’s all I see, a motivated group of players.”
Powell has kept the bulk of last year’s squad together and is happy with the players brought in.
Half-back Jamie Ellis and forwards Joe Wardle and James Green are all in contention to make their debut tonight and Powell, who has also included young stand-off Jake Trueman in his initial 19, insisted: “We’ve got a good squad.
“Joe Wardle has come in and James Green has been excellent in pre-season.
“He has put five kilos on since he joined us and there’s a bit more in him.
“I’ve been pleased with him and Jake Trueman is a good young player coming through, so we are in a good spot.”
Tigers have not won a competitive away fixture against Saints since 1992 and victory tonight would prove they mean business again.
“We won there in pre-season last year and we were outstanding,” Powell said.
“We know we can win there, but it will be tough – absolutely.
“They are a good-quality team and I think [coach] Justin Holbrook has done a good job there.
“It will be a real challenge and we know we need to be on.”
Saints finished fourth last year, 17 points behind Tigers, but they beat Castleford on their own turf in the regular season, won at the Jungle in the Super-8s and were seconds away from dumping the league leaders out of the semi-finals.
With star Aussie full-back Ben Barber – the 8/1 favourite to be Man of Steel with the competition sponsors – and coach Holbrook having a full pre-season under their belt, Saints are fancied to go all the way this year.
Betfred rate Saints as 9/2 joint-second favourites to win the Grand Final – with Tigers a 4/1 shot – and Powell also regards them as a major threat.
“They should be one of the favourites,” he said. “They have got a good squad and they look to be in a good place.
“They finished last season really positively, even though they lost that game to us at the end.
“They will be challengers, absolutely. They will be a tough team to play against this year.”
St Helens: From Lomax, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Fages, Smith, Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Taia, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles, Thompson, Peyroux, Richardson, Grace, Barba.
Castleford Tigers: From Roberts, Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Ellis, Gale, Moors, McShane, Millington, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner, Massey, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Wardle, Cook, Trueman, Green.
Referee: James Child (Batley).
Kick-off: Tonight, 7.45pm.