ROOKIE CASTLEFORD Tigers half-back Tom Holmes isn’t daring to dream of a Wembley appearance.
The 21-year-old began the season on loan at Kingstone Press Championship outfit Batley Bulldogs, but could play the biggest game of his career tomorrow when Tigers visit holders Hull in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Holmes was drafted into Tigers’ side last month when Rangi Chase was dropped for the sixth round tie at home to St Helens and has retained his place in the matchday squad ever since.
Coming into a team who are six points clear at the top of Betfred Super League and two wins away from Wembley is a dream come true for the Lock Lane product, but he is determined to keep his feet on the ground.
“I am taking each game as it comes,” Holmes stressed. “It [a Wembley appearance] is always at the back of your mind.
“It would be a dream to even be part of the squad, never mind play there, but I am just happy to be getting some game time.
“If we chalk this win off against Hull it will stand us in good stead for the rest of the year and we can go back to concentrating on the league.”
Things have happened quickly for Holmes this season. He recalled: “I started at Batley on loan at the beginning of the year, but then Rangi leaving and Benny [Roberts] getting injured gave me a chance.
“I’ve played six games on the bounce and we’ll see what happens this week. We’ve got players coming back and other people injured, but I’m just happy to be around the squad and hopefully I’ll get a chance. I am learning so much in training, but when you are out there playing, that’s the main target. I think I have been a bit more consistent this year and Daryl [Powell, Tigers’ coach] has said he’s been pleased with how I’ve gone, whether I’ve been at half or nine. To know I fit into his plans is exciting.”
Facing the likes of Albert Kelly and Danny Houghton tomorrow would be a huge test for Holmes. He added: “It’s like a dream playing against players like that, but it’s good for me to challenge myself and see where I’m at and what I need to do to improve.
“I watch players like that and see how I can be like them. It’s a good challenge for me, but one I am willing to take.”
Hull are one of only three teams to beat Tigers so far this year and Holmes admitted: “It is a tough one for us, but you expect that in a quarter-final.
“We are confident and I think it’s a good one for us. We’re just taking every week as it comes and this one is important. The Challenge Cup is a massive thing for the town.
“I think everyone really enjoyed it when we got to the final a few years back and I think it would be a special time for the town if we got there again.”
Larne Patrick is in contention to make his first appearance for the season tomorrow following two operations on an injured wrist.
Jake Webster (shoulder) and Kevin Larroyer could also return, with Junior Moors (knee) dropping out from the team which beat Warrington last week.
Scott Taylor, Houghton and Mark Minichiello are all back in contention for Hull after injury, with Masi Matongo making way.
Hull: from Shaul, Fonua, Tuimavave, Griffin, Talanoa, Kelly, Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Connor, Thompson, Washbrook, Michaels, Manu, Bowden, Turgut, Downs, Fash.
Castleford Tigers: from Eden, Foster, Gale, Hardaker, T Holmes, Larroyer, Lynch, Massey, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Monaghan, Patrick, Roberts, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Webster.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.