Castleford Tigers boss Lee Radford in disbelief over raft of Premier League Covid postponements

AS Castleford Tigers prepare to emerge from their own lockdown, head coach Lee Radford hopes it will serve them well in 2022 – but expressed his “disbelief” at how Covid has seen Premier League games called off.

HEAD COACH:  Lee Radford. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
HEAD COACH: Lee Radford. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The West Yorkshire club shut down before Christmas after a number of players and staff were hit by the virus.

Although it has hampered their pre-season training, it has not been too disruptive given the Betfred Super League kick-off is still more than six weeks away.

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Castleford are due to resume training on Sunday and Radford told The Yorkshire Post: “The players have missed three days effectively. They have all been given their own programmes over Christmas as they were going to do anyway.

ISSUES TO SOLVE: For rugby league if Covid-19 continues to spread. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“We were due to train the Monday, Tuesday, Thursday before Christmas.

“Obviously the outbreak happened and we shut down that day. There’s never a good time but, if there was ever a time to let it (Covid) rip through the camp, probably now has been the best one.

“We’re due back on January second. There may be one or two (players) who have to jump through all the protocols coming back in etcetera. But as a whole we’ll be looking to get back in then.”

Radford says the Tigers squad is “around 85/90 per cent” in terms of being double vaccinated.

With the government putting no new restrictions in place for new year’s eve celebrations, rugby league is hoping the Omicron variant will not disrupt matters too much on the pitch when the season does get underway in February.

However, there are, of course, still myriad issues to deal with in terms of crowds, isolating, testing and travel which will all come under discussion next month.

The RFL has already said it will delay its final decision on whether to bring back scrums until the end of January as it waits to assess the impact of Omicron.

And the fact so many Premier League games have been postponed in the last fortnight due to a rise in cases because of the variant is a clear concern.

But Radford conceded: “I’m still in disbelief that the Premier League are actually cancelling the games, given the amount of players they have and the size of their squads - first team and reserves.

“I genuinely didn’t think we’d see a Premier League game get postponed but they have.

“Hopefully for the game (rugby league), now is the time to catch Covid rather than during the year.”

Meanwhile, Radford says he is not expecting any further additions to his squad who are due to play their first game under his command at York City Knights on Sunday January 16.

“Everything is quiet there,” he said.

“But it’s a tough one: Obviously, with Covid, how will that affect the season and blokes coming in? Are we going to require them to be double vaccinated now?

“At the moment, there’s so many questions. There’s probably more questions regarding Covid moving forward, than there are answers.”