AS someone who led Bradford Bulls to five successive Grand Finals during their halcyon days, Brian Noble knows what it takes to master Super League.
So, when he states that he can envisage Castleford Tigers going all the way to Old Trafford this term, fans of the West Yorkshire club should take note.
Admittedly, Tigers host Catalans Dragons tomorrow on the back of a 13-12 defeat at Salford Red Devils, a loss that might have left some already questioning the credentials of Daryl Powell’s ambitious side.
However, that was a first loss this year and it came after four successive opening wins, which saw them generate some truly mesmerising play.
Castleford have never won a title or even reached a Grand Final, but Noble, who won three with Bradford in 2001, 2003 and 2005, believes that could all change.
“I like the way they play – most people do,” the former Great Britain coach told The Yorkshire Post.
“They’ve recruited well with the likes of Zak Hardaker and Greg Eden, Luke Gale’s on form, I like Daryl and they’ve got a lot of great things going for them.
“I don’t think they’ll go away this year; they played well when they were busted and had props in their halves last season.
“Their system of play is robust and proven. Now they have some quality in a lot of positions they’ll be hard to stop.
“Obviously, Salford did do that last week, but I don’t see it being a major issue. I think Cas will be around at the end and it’d be great to see them in the final especially as we’ve only had four different winners in 22 years.”
Their system of play is robust and proven. Now they have some quality in a lot of positions they’ll be hard to stop.Former Great Britain coach, Brian Noble.
Powell’s side did struggle in the rain at Salford and lost all their previous rhythm.
Noble, director of rugby at Toronto Wolfpack, said: “When you play the style of football Castleford do and then you don’t execute your skill properly it becomes a tough game and people will get at you.
“(Salford coach) Ian Watson’s master plan was to be in the faces of Cas’s ball players and his side did that. They had to adapt and didn’t. Daryl called it the week before saying they’d find it difficult at some point, but I expect them to bounce back versus Catalans.
“They’ll have a tough game on their hands again, but I still don’t think Catalans have corrected the travel elements of things and, at home, Cas should be too strong.”
It is a simplistic leap, but plenty of people are urging England coach Wayne Bennett to adopt the same inventive approach as Castleford with the national side in this year’s World Cup.
Playing with such creativity and freedom, width and finesse ,as they have at times so far, Tigers have thrilled the masses.
It is such a departure from the predictable, uninspiring offerings from Bennett’s England in last year’s failed Four Nations bid.
Noble, the last national coach to oversee a win against Australia when Great Britain famously triumphed in Sydney in 2006, said: “If Cas were to play Australia or New Zealand tomorrow they might not get away with some of the things they are getting away with.
“But I don’t disagree with the theory; you have to play football if you want to beat them and it’d be refreshing to coach it that way.
“So, yes, there is the school of thought that this is the English, Super League brand of football and how we’ll win it.
“But Wigan and Warrington played a more robust style to win their games against the NRL sides in the World Club Challenge.
“You have to be careful. There’s such brilliant athletes at the highest level – and I include England players here – that if you don’t pay attention to keeping hold of the ball for long periods then you are going to get beat, which has happened. Can we carte blanche throw the ball around like we’d like? No.
“Teams will counter that and so you also have to have a Plan B at international level.
“There is a hybrid situation you could develop. Playing football in the right parts is absolutely essential; rugby league is a running and passing game at the end of the day.
“But there is another way to win, unfortunately, and that is a very successful way to go. We have to find a balance.
“Your halves need to know what they’re doing, too. One of the issues in the Four Nations was we had three lots of halves doing three different things.
“That’s as much an issue as the brand of football we play.”