RETURNING RECRUIT Greg Eden regards competition for the full-back spot at Castleford Tigers as an opportunity rather than a setback.
Eden – who played for Tigers in 2011 – is back at his hometown club on a two-year contract after spells with Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Salford Red Devils and Brisbane Broncos, where he spent last season.
When he signed for Castleford last summer the 26-year-old was seen as the natural successor to Aussie Luke Dorn, who retired at the end of the 2016 campaign.
But Tigers have since brought in Zak Hardaker – England’s full-back in last year’s Test series win over New Zealand – on a season-long loan from Leeds Rhinos and it is not yet clear who coach Daryl Powell sees as his first-choice number one.
Eden is keen to feature as Tigers’ last line of defence, but can also play on the wing or at stand-off and insisted the more quality players Cas have in every position, the better their chances will be of winning silverware next year.
“Daryl is obviously looking to build a strong squad,” Eden said.
“With Ben Roberts as well, there’s three of us who could play full-back.
“There’s going to be some good competition and it shows how good a squad we’ve got.
“We can all play other positions as well so we will have to see what Daryl thinks when we come to the season.”
Castleford have yet another full-back option in Ash Robson, who is expected to challenge for a place next year after missing the entire 2016 campaign due to a knee injury suffered in training.
Eden insisted training alongside the likes of Hardaker and Roberts will benefit his own game.
“We can all learn off each other,” he predicted.
“We can work on our weaknesses and help each other out, which can’t be bad.”
Tigers have built a formidable squad since Powell took charge mid-way through 2013 and Eden feels the club is in a better state now – on and off the field – than during his first spell. It is a lot different from the first time I was down here,” he observed.
“There’s quite a few improvements with facilities and stuff.
“The club overall is run a lot better, from what I have noticed. A few of the lads are still here, they are a good set of lads and I’ve settled in quite easily.”
Eden spent 2016 working with Wayne Bennett – who is also the England coach – at Brisbane and feels he has returned to Super League a better player.
“I don’t think it would be possible to go over there and come back a worse player,” he said of his NRL experience.
“I loved it over there and I miss it a bit, but when I was over there I missed being here, so it is 50-50.
“I supported Cas when I was growing up and I played for them before, which I was happy about.
“Coming back was a no-brainer.”
Tigers’ challenge for 2017 is to go from being a competitive team capable of beating the top sides on their day to one that wins trophies.
The prospect of playing in – and winning – major finals was a factor in Eden’s decision to return, but he reckons the competition is getting closer every season.
He said: “They’ve finished fourth, fifth and fifth for the last three years so that step up is definitely the next achievement.
“Normally the top-four [in Super League] are the same, but with Cas creeping up and asking questions and Catalans as well – and Hull having a good year last year – it looks a lot stronger overall.”