ENGLAND star Rangi Chase returns from his latest ban tomorrow fearing the game has “gone soft”.
The Castleford Tigers stand-off is back as they entertain Wigan Warriors following a two-match suspension for a reckless, high tackle that knocked out Leeds Rhinos’ Zak Hardaker.
That was one of a number of early season incidents that has since seen Super League follow the NRL and international game by completely outlawing the controversial shoulder charge.
Chase told the Yorkshire Post: “It’s been frustrating for me being sat out these last two weeks.
“Mine was one of those tackles that looked worse than what it actually was.
“I think our game is going a little soft, to be honest.
“I know I made contact with Zak’s head and it was high but he was alright and that’s the main thing.
“It wasn’t even a shoulder charge. It was just a normal tackle that connected high.
“It’s a shame the shoulder charge has been banned now – people want to see the physical side of the sport.
“It’s a tough game and it should be played that way. It’s not tiddlywinks but the way we’re going you do wonder.
“People are crying about it too much. I like to be aggressive and you can’t take that away from the sport. It’s all a shame really.”
The 2011 Man of Steel, who was suspended last season for a tackle that left Featherstone’s Tangi Ropati with a broken jaw, has no issue with his ban and is relishing his return to the field to aid Castleford’s cause.
“I got it wrong but I’ve done my time, served my punishment and am looking forward to getting going again,” he added.
During his absence, Chase has also been the subject of yet another failed bid for his services.
After Hull FC and St George Illawrra both tried last autumn, the unlikely figure of Salford City Reds have been the latest to unsuccessfully test the water with an ambitious offer which preceded another bold move for Chase’s England colleague – and opponent tomorrow – Sam Tomkins of Wigan Warriors.
Backed by the millions of new owner Dr Marwan Koukash, unfashionable Salford are certainly generating some profile if not the signings they actually desire.
“Salford have obviously come in with some ambition now and it’s good,” said Chase.
“Club owners should be all about drive and ambition but I’m happy at Cas and it (Salford) is not anything I want to do.”
The subject of owners has also been high on the agenda at Castleford given the spate of senior personnel who have left over the last 10 days.
Commercial manager Nick Fozzard and his wife Sarah, the club’s marketing chief, both quit on Tuesday, just a week after chief executive Steve Ferres resigned after citing differences with the board as Tigers struggle to generate the sort of income racehorse owner Koukash has instantly delivered to their Super League rivals.
It has caused some obvious concern but Chase – like Tigers head coach Ian Millward – maintains there is no panic among the squad itself.
“It hasn’t affected us one bit,” he insisted.
“I think the media are making more of a fuss of it than we are.
“It hasn’t changed the way we are feeling or the way we are applying ourselves and we’re all looking forward to getting into Wigan.”
Certainly, there can be no questioning the club’s impact on the field this season.
Millward has overcome a difficult first year in charge, when they finished joint-bottom with Widnes Vikings, by forging a new-found spirit and desire from a squad that has been augmented with some much-needed experience.
Of course, Chase’s return will significantly bolster their efforts as they seek to continue their unbeaten home start at Wheldon Road this term.
He was hugely instrumental in the defeat of champions Leeds and, though the West Yorkshire club delivered an impressive 17-17 draw there without him against Catalan Dragons last Sunday, Millward knows that would likely have been another win with him on board.
Gareth O’Brien, the young Warrington loanee who scored the equalising drop-goal versus the French team, will miss out to make way for Chase’s return.
They also lost at Bradford during his absence in another game where his creativity against a stubborn Bulls defence could have proved telling.
However, importantly for Castleford, the squad is demonstrating far more commitment than it did last term.
“A lot of hard work has gone in and it’s paying off,” explained Chase. “We’re doing okay. We’re not where we should be yet – we’re making baby steps – but we’re getting there and it’s good to see us heading in the right direction and starting something which hopefully will see a far more competitive year than last.
“There’s a couple of games where we could have got more but the effort is there and that’s the main difference.
“We have to keep that up and not get ahead of ourselves.”
Castleford will look to target Wigan’s callow pack early on, something which was ordinarily associated with the Tigers last season.
However, while the visitors are now shorn of international props Lee Mossop and Epalahame Lauaki plus Paul Prescott as well as Samoan second-row Harrison Hansen, Millward’s side have the likes of grizzled Craig Huby, Grant Millington and the returning Jake Emmitt to potentially rattle them up and allow Chase to make his mark.