THE standard, predictable response you would expect from Castleford Tigers is along the lines of they are simply not thinking about the silverware on offer.
Yet the truth is far different from that; they are thinking about the League Leaders’ Shield. Very much so. And they feel their exploits during a remarkable season fully warrant it, too.
As it stands this morning the permutation is simple; defeat Catalan Dragons in Perpignan this evening and Castleford will finish top for the first time in their 88-year history.
St Helens may have been in pole position for all but five weeks of the regular campaign but they have faltered at the death; needing just a point from their final two games they were vanquished at home by Warrington Wolves and, then, slipped up too at Huddersfield Giants last night. But, even speaking before the latter, Castleford full-back Luke Dorn was adamant.
“It’s not going to the back of our mind,” he said, when asked if they would try and ignore the prospect of maybe pipping their rivals.
“We’re going to use it as a bit of a tool to finish as high as we can.
“I think first place would be a good representation of how hard we’ve worked since day one of pre-season.
“We’re talking about it, we want it – even if things have got to fall in our favour a little bit.
“I’d have never imagined finishing top in a million years,” he said.
“I always do a bit of research before the season on teams and how much they strengthen and so on, and I didn’t think teams had strengthened as much as we had. But, I’d never have imagined this.”
Dorn returned to Castleford, where he originally spent the 2008 campaign, from the hapless London Broncos last winter and has been integral in helping turn them around from 12th to potential League Leaders.
The Australian, 32, has brought class and experience to Daryl Powell’s side who, of course, have already reached Wembley where they lost to Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup final last month.
But Castleford have never lifted the championship and a maiden Grand Final is their main aim.
When asked what it would mean to secure some silverware, he replied: “It’s not the be all and end all, but it would be important. We gave ourselves a chance at Wembley and didn’t quite get there, but I think our consistency throughout the year deserves something.
“If we can get first or second then we’ll give ourselves the best possible chance of getting to Old Trafford, which would be brilliant for the club.
“To be the first team to do that would be great; to put blokes like Shenny (Michael Shenton) and Dicko (Kirk Dixon) into the category of people like Mal Reilly, it’d make me a very proud man.”
First, though, come Catalan and winning there is never easy.
“It’s hard because it’s the whole experience,” explained Dorn.
“You’ve got to get up and travel down there; it’s a long way because you’ve got to get a bus to the airport and then wait around.
“You get down there a lot earlier than you would for any other game – you’d normally go on gameday.
“There’s a few distractions like the sun and the beach, so you’ve got to be smart about it.
“The heat is a bit of a factor, then there’s the hostility of Catalan itself. Their team is formidable and aggressive, and it’s something we’ll have to deal with.
“It’s a completely different environment to anything you experience in the UK.
“It’s little subtle things that are different that all add together to make something very different.”
Dorn has spent the last decade in the UK having arrived at London from Sydney Roosters and also played with Salford before his second spell in the capital.
But he said: “I’ve only played finals footy once over here.
“We (London) finished sixth in 2005 and I thought it’d be like that every season – playing in the play-offs.
“I didn’t think I’d have to wait nine years! Back then we drew Bradford at Bradford and they were too good for us.
“It’s going to be quite different this time; I don’t have to tackle Lesley Vainikolo for starters.
“We were a good team back then and we did well to get where we got.
“But this is a completely different ball game this time with Castleford...”