CASTLEFORD TIGERS head coach Daryl Powell says the Super 8s will “define” his squad and establish whether they truly have what it takes to challenge for honours if not this season then certainly in 2017.
His side start at Super League leaders Hull FC tonight knowing their chances of making the top-four are already slim before the competition even begins.
Heading into the opening round they are sixth but seven points adrift of those crucial semi-final spots which is a sizeable margin to retrieve during the course of just seven fixtures.
If they lose their first couple of games, from Castleford’s point of view, the West Yorkshire club could soon face a series of character-testing dead-rubbers.
However, Powell is keen to witness his squad’s attitude thrive come what may.
“If you string some wins together it (fourth) is getable but it’s very tough,” he admitted.
“We can’t afford to lose too many games – if any – and as long as we are aware of that and go after it it means it’s a pretty special achievement if we do get there.
“For me, we’re just chipping away at what we are and what we stand for as a team at the moment.
“I think we’re doing a good job at it but I think these next seven games are going to define us for the future.
“It’s as important as what happens at the end of the season.”
Castleford have threatened to challenge in each of the last three seasons under Powell’s command but do now need to find a new level.
He continued: “We’re talking about a few things here... our mentality, winning games against the top teams, being a lot better defensively and just developing as a side. We’ve seen some of our young players have really grown this year and got game-time but there’re just those elements we need to improve to make us a really strong difficult team to built across the whole season.
“I do think it’s as big as that – defining us.
“We’re trying to create something special at Castleford and that means becoming a team that’s capable of challenging for the top-four on a regular basis
“For different reasons we’ve not been able to do that this year but it’s still there if we want to have a go at it and, if we don’t get it, we need to get something else – an improvement plus showing we can compete at the top end.”