IT may seem ridiculous given his side are still yet to win in 2015 but, in many ways, Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell believes they are in better fettle now than during last year’s annus mirabilis.
The West Yorkshire club must win or tie tonight at St Helens, home of the champions and a place where they have not prospered in the league since 1990, if they are to avoid a third straight defeat.
Furthermore, their opponents – unbeaten in Super League – will be desperate to rally after the embarrassment of Sunday’s 39-0 World Club Challenge vanquishing by South Sydney.
However, Powell remains convinced his squad, who reached Wembley last term and finished fourth, are in good nick to do so.
“People are probably writing us off at the minute,” admitted the 2014 coach of the year.
“But I think, so far and for large periods, we’re looking better physically and defensively than we did last year. We need to execute a little better but, once we do, we’ll start to really grow.
“We’ve been pretty close in our first two games, disappointingly close, and not quite got the result against Wakefield or Catalan.
“But this game on Friday is an opportunity to show what we’re really about this year.”
Trailing 13-12, Castleford only went down to a last-minute drop goal from Scott Dureau in Perpignan almost a fortnight ago and have had ample time to work on their game since. Questioned whether he expects a backlash, meanwhile, from a stunned St Helens team, Powell insisted: “It’s more about us than them. People have been asking me that all week.
“It’s tough going there anyway –Cas haven’t won there for 25 years – but we’re capable of doing it.
“It’s all about getting our performance levels and intensity right. We know Saints are a threat everywhere across the field and probably have the biggest pack in the comp’. Along with Catalans, they are massive physically.
“But attitude-wise we’d asked our pack to step up a little over in France and they certainly did that. We’ll probably have to go again now and I think our boys are ready to do that.
“We’ll find out Friday but I’m confident we’ll really challenge them. It is a massive game for us.”