Castleford Tigers' boss Powell backs Benny Roberts to fill Zak Hardaker's boots in 2018

IT MAY be a positional switch enforced on both, but Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell believes Benny Roberts's return to full-back in 2018 could be something to behold during the new season.

Ben Roberts.

The Samoa international, 32, has arguably just enjoyed the best campaign of his career having starred at stand-off during the West Yorkshire club’s rise to prominence.

Roberts was instrumental, proving a massive attacking threat especially with his running game, as Castleford surged to their first-ever League Leaders’ Shield and – albeit ending in defeat to Leeds Rhinos – a maiden Grand Final.

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However, the fall from grace of their England full-back Zak Hardaker, who came second only to colleague Luke Gale for Man of Steel but was then provisionally suspended just two days before Old Trafford after testing positive for cocaine, has left Powell with a major hole to fill in his side.

Hardaker, 26, is expected to be banned for two years but Castleford believe they have a ready-made replacement in the shape of Roberts who operated there for them with some elan at times when Australian favourite Luke Dorn was sidelined in 2015.

Powell swiftly re-signed half-back Jamie Ellis from Huddersfield Giants to partner Gale in the halves in 2018 which facilitates Roberts’s return to the No 1 role, something that excites the Wheldon Road chief.

“Benny Roberts will play full-back for us next year and, for me, he is a natural full-back,” he said.

“He’s a terrific player and all the way through his career he’s been able to play both roles.

“As a half-back his decision-making’s been questioned at times but he brings so much with his running game and that’s part of it.

“So much came off the back of that for us last season. He was great for us. At full-back, though, you can use his running game even more and I think he’ll be a real threat from there.

“It opens up a lot for him and with his style of running it suits him.

“I think Benny will be fantastic there and I do feel we’ve got an outstanding side ready for next year.

“Joe Wardle is a quality back-row and he comes in to what is an already competitive back-row and Jamie Ellis knows all about us.”

Ex-Huddersfield Giants star Wardle is back in Super League after a stint with Newcastle Knights in the NRL while Castleford’s other recruits include the explosive Sheffield Eagles winger Garry Lo who has impressed so much with Papua New Guinea in the World Cup. Furthermore, they have brought in talented young 
forward Mitch Clark from Hull KR and ex-Robins prop James Green from relegated Leigh Centurions.

Winger James Clare also 
rejoined from Leigh this week while Ellis last worked under Powell in 2014, playing in the Castleford side that reached Wembley.

He then moved to Huddersfield and spent last season on loan with Hull KR in the Championship.

He has returned to Tigers now, though, on a three-year deal, a matured player at 28 ready to make the position his own.