Castleford Tigers Man of Steel Paul McShane is determined to right a few wrongs

PAUL MCSHANE still chuckles to himself when he talks about being the Steve Prescott Man of Steel but getting Castleford Tigers up and firing again is no laughing matter.

The hooker was a surprise winner of the prestigious honour as Super League’s top player in 2020 given his West Yorkshire club finished the campaign down in eighth spot.

Before the lockdown in March, they had been riding high in second only to endure a torrid time upon their return, although McShane did excel throughout.

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Castleford start the new campaign against Warrington Wolves three weeks’ tomorrow but the 31-year-old maintains he does not feel any added pressure being the reigning Man of Steel.

“I still don’t think it’s sunk in yet what happened at the end of last year,” admitted McShane, who was presented with the award by world great Ellery Hanley, who also had the casting vote.

“I still laugh talking about it.

“It’s just another year and another year for me to improve and get better and try and achieve my goals.

“There’s no extra pressure on me. Not at all.

Man of Steel: Castleford's Paul McShane. Pictures: Allan McKenzie/SWpix

“After lockdown, it was pretty frustrating we weren’t getting the results and I think that showed in how shocked I was at getting Man of Steel.

“I base things on our team performance and winning things as a team. Everyone’s desperate to get out there; it feels like it has been the longest pre-season ever.

“I think everyone’s chomping at the bit to right a few wrongs.There’s a good feeling and I think that’s down to the depth we have.”

Castleford coach Daryl Powell has added Huddersfield Giants duo Suaia Matagi and Jordan Turner to his squad along with Hull FC prop Lewis Bienek but it is England Knights full-back Niall Evalds, their signing from Salford Red Devils, who really excites McShane.

One to watch: Salford's Niall Evalds runs in open space as Leeds' Adam Cuthbertson chases him in the Challenge Cup final.

Remarkably, Tigers have had four Man of Steel winners in the last 10 seasons alone.

Asked who he thinks could win it from the West Yorkshire club in 2021, Leeds-born McShane added: “The one for me, playing against him and who’s come in, is Niall.

“The kid could be absolutely anything. He’s electric. You don’t know what he’s going to do. Hopefully our way of playing suits him down to the ground and he’s even more of a threat.

“You just can’t get anywhere near him.

“But there’s a fair few. If we can keep Truey (Jake Trueman) fit…

“I know he’s still a young kid and he might have been a bit upset with last year but the kid can play. He’s all the time in the world when he has his hands on the ball.”

Uncapped Evalds is in Shaun Wane’s England squad as he continues preparations for the World Cup at the end of the year.

Half-back Trueman, 22, was an unused member of Wayne Bennett’s 2019 Great Britain tourings squad but was blighted by injuries last term.

McShane, of course, is in Wane’s England thoughts and he took part in a Zoom call with the coach and the squad’s fellow hookers – James Roby, Daryl Clark and Josh Hodgson – earlier this week.

McShane, who is one month into his pre-season after minor shoulder surgery, is the only one of four who remains uncapped and he realises just how tough the competition will be.

“There’s Roby who just doesn’t seem to be slowing down,” he said about the 35-year-old St Helens legend.

“It’s mad what he gets through week in week out and so consistently. Crazy. There’s Dazzy (Clark) and loads of people out of the squad, too, like Wigan’s Sam Powell. I think he’s a great player; he’s reliable and tough.

“There’s a fair few who could get in and there’s plenty of competition.

“The World Cup is definitely in my mind and it’s in my goals but my main focus is playing well for Cas and achieving something with them.

“Hopefully, my performances here will take care of my place in the squad.”

Fans will get to see a first look at the Castleford 2021 version when they play in Adam Milner’s testimonial game at Hull KR next Sunday and McShane continued: “The players we have brought in are established Super League players.

“If you look at our squad list, from number one to 26/27 they have all had a fair few Super League games, so if someone were to pull out of a game there’s a ready-made replacement there.

“And the lads here from last year, a fair few of them got a bit of experience with other players getting injuries.

“We’re excited about the year ahead.”

With a worthy Man of Steel at the helm of the Tigers, then rightly so.

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