New Castleford Tigers captain Michael Shenton says 2013 is all about rebuilding “smashed” confidence at Wheldon Road.
The club rolled in 13th last term, joint-bottom with Widnes Vikings, having won just twice since May and suffering from huge misfortune combined with plenty of unrest in the camp.
Coach Ian Millward, understandably, necessitated major changes in the off-season, investing in plenty of experience with the likes of Lee Gilmour, Keith Mason and Jake Webster, who should all make their debuts at Warrington Wolves tomorrow.
“Last year hit everybody’s confidence,” admitted Shenton, the former England centre, who has returned to his home-town club after two seasons with St Helens.
“When I came into pre-season, you could just tell it had smashed everyone and you could understand why.
“A lot happened at the club right from the beginning and through to the end of the season and the team just didn’t seem to recover.
“After all that, we’ve just worked really hard on building partnerships and getting the boys enjoying it a bit more. But there’s no excuses this year and everyone’s got a point to prove.”
Shenton understands their opening itinerary might not help – after tomorrow’s trip to the beaten Grand Finalists, they then host champions Leeds Rhinos and also have matches with minor premiers Wigan Warriors and top four finishers Catalan by the first weekend of March.
However, the 26-year-old insisted: “There’s things we can make sure are right like our enthusiasm, kick-chase and work ethic. They should be really good this year and you can base your side on working hard and staying in the arm-wrestle.”
With Tigers veterans like Danny Orr and Ryan Hudson now retired, Shenton returns to a different club – and role.
He said: “I’m speaking my mind a lot more openly. People I learnt from aren’t there now so it’s not that same environment for me.
“I’ve got my own views on the game and I get to speak a little bit more now.
“I’m honoured to be captain and I think I’ll play better under more responsibility as well.”