THERE are some very good reasons why French forward Gadwin Springer is increasingly becoming somewhat a cult hero at Castleford Tigers.
When he first arrived from Catalans Dragons just over a year ago, many dubious supporters wondered why their head coach Daryl Powell had even bothered with his recruitment.
He looked big enough to compete in Super League but out of shape, awkward, unsure of himself and far too error-prone.
However, it has slowly become evident what enticed Powell so much to give the promising but raw prop a two-and-a-half year deal.
Now when Springer – still only 23, let’s not forget – enters the fray from the bench, Castleford fans rise in anticipation as ordinarily his arrival signals the sight of opposition defenders being scattered as he powers upfield.
Far fitter, more athletic and putting every ounce of his 17 stone plus frame to good use, he is suddenly one of the competition’s most explosive forwards.
Ahead of the visit of his former club Catalans to Wheldon Road tomorrow, Springer, who has scored two tries in 13 games this year, conceded: “I am learning a lot from Daryl and the coaching staff.
“I love it playing here. I had the opportunity to come over when Daryl spoke with my agent.
“Because I’m young I said I’d love to come play in England.
“I am happy with how I am playing at the moment and I just have to make sure I keep getting better.
“It is a little bit hard because I do miss France.
“All my friends and family are living there but my mum is going to come over in a few weeks and I am living with my girlfriend.”
Springer’s background is not your standard tale of life working up through the ranks to reach the elite level. He originally lived in Guiana, the French region located in South America, where Brazil was the neighbour rather than Bradford.
“I was with my mum in Guiana and my big sister was in France so we came over,” recalled Springer, his family settling in Toulouse.
“I was 13 I think when I first played rugby.
“I used to play basketball when I was young but when I moved to France I had some friends who were playing rugby in school.
“I just gave it a go.”
It has proved an inspired decision; Catalans may not have wanted to stay the long-haul with him having re-signed France prop Remi Casty from Sydney Roosters last season and recruited veteran Australian Willie Mason this time around, but Castleford are earning the rewards.
That said, Catalans are thriving, currently enjoying their best Super League season to date and looking well-set to secure a top-four place.
Granted, they have lost their last three games – a heavy home defeat to Wigan Warriors a week ago and loss at Warrington sandwiching their Challenge Cup quarter-final exit at Hull FC – but few people believe that loss of form will continue much longer.
Castleford, who have suffered four successive defeats themselves to leave their top-eight placing still under threat, will look to make sure their visitors’ poor run goes on a little longer.
“We are looking forward to it,” admitted Springer, who will relish the physical battle against Casty, Mason, Dave Taylor and co.
“I have have been very impressed with Catalans this year. They are a very good team. It’s going to be a good test for all of us.
“We will have to be tough in the middle – it is going to be a good battle there – but it is very important for us because we don’t want to be in the Middle Eights.
“We have two games at home left. After the Dragons we have Warrington and we will try to win those two games.
“We have a few injured so the season has been tough for us, but we have got Rangi [Chase] back and that is going to be good. I am really looking forward to playing with him; he is a good player.”
Chase is named in the 19-man squad after they announced last weekend they had re-signed the enigmatic former England stand-off who, memorably, won the 2011 Man of Steel during his original five-year stint with Tigers.
Tigers are missing the injured Joel Monaghan, Jake Webster, Mike McMeeken, Paddy Flynn and Tom Holmes, but Denny Solomona, Ryan Hampshire, Will Maher and Frankie Mariano returning.