Suaia Matagi praised as ex-Leeds Rhinos men set for Castleford Tigers debut in derby at Featherstone Rovers

Forward Suaia Matagi has been highlighted as a star of Castleford Tigers’ pre-season so far.
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The former Huddersfield Giants prop, who is preparing for his second year with Tigers, will not be involved in Saturday’s practice match away to Featherstone Rovers, but assistant-coach Andy Last revealed the 34-year-old is in “great shape”.

He said: “He looks strong and quick, he’s leading the group and taking some young blokes under his wing to pass on his knowledge from the NRL and Super League.

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“He has looked excellent and Jacob Miller and Gareth Widdop are starting to find their voice and build some combinations.

Jack Broadbent. Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Broadbent. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Jack Broadbent. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

Niall Evalds also looks in great shape; he had a tough year with injuries, but the spine of the team is looking good.”

Former Leeds Rhinos duo Jack Broadbent and Muizz Mustapha are set to make their first appearance Tigers this weekend, alongside ex-Hull FC players Bailey Dawson, Jacob Hookem and Ilikaya Mafi.

Oliver Agar, George Hill and Elliot Wallis step up from Tigers’ reserves and academy graduates Hugo Nikhata and Aaron Willis are also included, along with Conner Gilbey, Courage Mkuhlani and Ben Stead of Castleford’s partner club Midlands Hurricanes.

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“It’s a fairly youthful side, with a sprinkling of experience,” Last said of Tigers’ squad.

Muizz Mustapha. Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Mustapha. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Muizz Mustapha. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

“It should be a good contest and I am sure they are looking forward to the opportunity of pulling on a Castleford shirt.

“There’s some guys who’ve had a really good pre-season and have kicked on from where they were last year.”

Head coach Lee Radford is away in Samoa for their post-World Cup homecoming and Last said: “I’m looking forward to the game.

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“I have stepped in for Radders previously, at Hull FC, so I am accustomed to the responsibility that comes with picking the team and game day and so on as a head coach.

New coach Sean Long has joined Featherstone from Leeds Rhinos. Picture by Allan McKenzie/ coach Sean Long has joined Featherstone from Leeds Rhinos. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
New coach Sean Long has joined Featherstone from Leeds Rhinos. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
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“I’ll be well supported by the staff here and it is an opportunity for some of the younger guys to showcase what they can do and show the hard work they’ve put into pre-season has been a benefit.”

Sean Long, who joined Rovers in pre-season after a spell as Rhinos’ assistant-coach, will be in charge of Featherstone for the first time.

He will give a first appearance to trialist Jake Roberts, from Featherstone Lions.

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New signings Mathieu Cozza (from Catalans Dragons), Riley Dean (on loan from Warrington Wolves), Chris Hankinson (Toulouse Olympique), Thomas Lacans (Newcastle Thunder) and Gadwin Springer (Toulouse) have also been named in Rovers’ squad.

Featherstone Rovers: from Briscoe, Bussey, Cooper, Cozza, Davies, Day, Dean, Fleming, Ford, Gale, Hall, Hankinson, Hardcastle, Kopczak, Lacans, Leilua, Lockwood, Pickersgill, Roberts, Springer, Wildie.

Castleford Tigers: from Agar, Broadbent, Dawson, Faraimo, Fonua, Gilbey, Hill, Hookem, Mafi, Martin, Mkuhlani, Mustapha, Nikhata, Qareqare, Robb, Smith, Stead, Sutcliffe, Wallis, Willis.

Kick-off: Saturday, noon.