CASTLEFORD Tigers head coach Daryl Powell reiterated that it is “absolutely critical” to his side’s entire season that they do not become distracted in tomorrow’s game against relegated London Broncos.
The visit of Super League’s bottom club, that has lost all 23 games in all competitions this season, comes just a week before Castleford’s eagerly-anticipated Challenge Cup semi-final against Widnes Vikings.
Wembley, undoubtedly, is in everyone’s thoughts at Wheldon Road, as is securing a first top-four finish in the summer era.
But Powell, favourite to win the ‘Coach of the Year’ award given his side finished 12th last term, insisted: “We haven’t got too many games left and they are all equally important for individual players and for the collective group to maintain what we are doing.
“They are all crucial games and I can’t see any point at this stage of the season – when we have worked so hard – to start sitting back and allowing ourselves to get distracted.
“We have got to focus on every game and perform as well as we can. There’s a few teams that have responded recently – Wakefield and Bradford have done it and London, I would say, will see this as an opportunity.
“They will see there is a potential for us to be distracted and it is absolutely crucial we don’t allow that to happen.”
Some of Castleford’s fringe players who will get their chance tomorrow have an added incentive to adhere to that instruction knowing that Powell has not yet finalised his 17 for the semi-final at Leigh.
His preparations have been rocked by the loss of two integral forwards – previous ever-present Australian Grant Millington, who is out for up to six weeks after injuring his knee in last Friday’s 18-18 draw at Hull FC, and dynamic second-row Weller Hauraki, who was hit with a two-game ban following an incident in the same game.
“There’s still a couple of spots up for selection,” said Powell. “There’s a few players who are quite close and I will make those decisions after the weekend.
“I haven’t fully got it in my mind. Obviously I know the large majority of it, but there are still one or two decisions to be made.”
He rests key men Andy Lynch and Daryl Clark but the influential trio of Craig Huby, Justin Carney and Jake Webster, who were all afforded time off at Hull, are back in the 19-man squad along with young back-row Brad Day.
Prop Lee Jewitt and half-back Jamie Ellis are set for recalls.