Michael Shenton exclusive: Castleford Tigers legend relishing fresh start at Hull FC

WITH a new role at Hull FC, not only helping prepare the next generation of Super League players but readying young people for life, ex-England centre Michael Shenton has not yet had time to truly contemplate retirement.

Change of clubs: After so long as a player with Castleford Tigers, Michael Shenton now finds himself mentoring the next generation at Hull FC. (Picture: Hull FC)
Change of clubs: After so long as a player with Castleford Tigers, Michael Shenton now finds himself mentoring the next generation at Hull FC. (Picture: Hull FC)

The 35-year old brought his wonderful playing career to a close when captaining his beloved Castleford Tigers in their final game of the season against Warrington Wolves in September.

But within a couple of weeks, he was appointed as Hull’s new head of emerging talent, a role he started officially on November 1 and one that involves being head coach of the club’s reserve grade and academy sides as well as working as a mentor for their ‘rising stars’.

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Shenton, who played more than 350 career games, appeared in two Grand Finals, won 12 Test caps and led Castleford to the League Leaders’ Shield in 2017, is relishing the job.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, asked if he is missing playing yet, he replied: “It’s a common question to me but I really don’t know yet.

“I was watching the first team wrestling in the mud the other day, doing some conditioning sessions as well, so... while I’m with the lads I’m out there coaching, in the middle of it all anyway.

“I’m finding my own path as well; it’s a new role for me and something I’m getting my teeth into. It’s a big role, all encompassing. I’ve a lot on my plate so I’m too busy to miss playing!”

Shenton dislocated his shoulder in his final Castleford appearance but added: “The body is feeling good now.

Castleford Tigers' Michael Shenton in his playing days (Picture: Paul Currie/SWPix.com)

“I’m missing a bit of my own training as I do like that.

“I like to stay fresh and it’s good for my mental thinking; it’s good contemplation time and reflection time. But so far it’s all going pretty well here. I’m enjoying it and the games start in six weeks.

“The boys are getting excited by that. They’ve put the hard work in and it will be good to see them play. Once they start playing that will be a much stronger area for me to start developing them as players. You can watch them all you want at training but until they start playing games.

“That’s when the real work begins for me: bringing all my insight and what I’ve learned throughout my career and trying to pass it on in the right way to these young lads.

Michael Shenton in his new surrounds at Hull (Picture: Hull FC)

“And hopefully we’ll create some Super League players but also develop each and every one of them in different ways: a rugby way and also trying to help them be good people.

“We do a lot around personal development so wherever they go, if they stay with us hopefully for a long time, or if they go elsewhere into different careers maybe, they have learned some transferable skills.

“I want the programme to be holistic: for them to develop as sportsmen and rugby players but also develop as people.”

Shenton is based primarily at Hull’s growing Centre of Excellence programme, a pathway which boasts more than 120 of the region’s best players, plus 40 staff, coaches and volunteers.

Michael Shenton is acting as a mentor to Hull FC young prospects (Picture: Hull FC)

He continued: “The club has set a college programme up so anyone can join from high school and do a qualification.

“We encourage our academy kids to go there, then I get extra sessions with those guys as they are in full-time education with us on our site. The route we’re taking is education and we align with the academy. We have two college teams and our elite academy. About 80 per cent of our academy boys come to our college as well so the majority are getting extra training in college hours and it’s part of their college course learning hands-on. It’s a high quality programme and the boys are getting a lot of rugby and a lot of development out of it.”

Shenton works with head coach Brett Hodgson, too, and helps with first-team training twice per week.

He added: “I also have a mentoring programme with the first team with our rising star kids.

“They are kids they identified before I came in that Brett wanted in the first team. Every club has them: young players that are developing but who can also make the numbers up in the first team when they want to have bigger sessions. We’ve eight at Hull.

“Ben McNamara was one but is now fully established in that first-team squad. A couple more have made their debut but the club want to keep developing them.

“Now it’s the off-season we’re not doing too much physically but we’re working on how they should be acting and thinking.

“It will be interesting to see how the academy and reserve grade works out as a few academy boys want to step up to reserves to help. That will be great for their development as they’ve missed out on so much rugby the last couple of years due to Covid.”