BOSS DARYL Powell says Castleford Tigers are in a “good place”, but he wants them to be tougher next season.
Tigers, who finished third on the 2018 Betfred Super League table, begin their pre-season campaign tomorrow at home to Championship neighbours Featherstone Rovers.
Castleford are now an established top-four club, but have yet to prove they are capable of winning the biggest games after losing to Leeds Rhinos in the 2014 Challenge Cup final and 2017 Grand Final and Wigan Warriors in last season’s play-offs.
“We are in a good place,” Powell insisted. “A lot of the things we do are embedded and we are just looking to get a bit tougher and a bit more consistent defensively.
“We have got to find a way to get over the line and win games when the chips are down – win matches when we are under pressure. We’ve been putting the players under a bit more pressure from the conditioning and defensive point of view, but there’s a lot for us to feel confident about. The players all know what they have got to do.”
Powell will field a combination of senior and young players tomorrow, but insisted: “It will be a mixed team, but a good team.
“We’re looking forward to it. Quite a few players will be looking to put a marker down for themselves so it should be good.”
Tigers are the only Super League club not to have made any signings and Powell confirmed: “We will be going into the new season with the same squad.”
Rovers’ new coach Ryan Carr is in Australia awaiting a work permit so Paul March, his assistant and reserve team boss, will be in charge tomorrow along with conditioner Greg Stebbings. “We’ve had some disruptions with John [Duffy, the previous coach] leaving and Ryan coming in, but the players have been working hard in pre-season and we’re just looking forward to a game now,” March said.
“Ryan has been sending session plans over and we’ve been following them. We’ve spoken nearly every day and he sends emails through.
“We are running his session plans and he’s open to what we have got to offer as well. The partnership is working well, but it will be good to get him over here so he can put his best foot forward and start taking the club forward.”
March, a former Hunslet and Keighley team boss, had been working for Rovers’ foundation before joining the coaching staff.
He said: “I am happy to be on the performance side again. I’ve been at the club two years now and that’s my bread and butter, day-to-day, but I’m enjoying being around the lads again and having an input.
“The club is going forward with a reserve team next year and it is what I’ve been wanting to get back into since I left Keighley. I am looking forward to Sunday and hopefully getting the lads a win.”
Rovers will field several trialists including former Castleford duo Ryan Bailey and Jordan Tansey. March said: “They are both looking good, they have a lot of experience and I think that’s what we are lacking in the squad at the moment, until the imports come in.
“We’ve got a lot of young lads there and they look up to them. They’ve played a lot of Super League games and they’ve adapted to what we want to do at Fev.”
Rovers will also give a run out to Leeds Rhinos youngster Dan Waite-Pullen on dual-registration.
Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia, Clare, Minikin, Egodo, Gill, Ellis, Aston, Cook, Jinks, Clark, Wardle, Storey, Summers. Subs Turner, Carr, Graham, Doyle, Sweeting, Fella, Hall, Dobson.
Featherstone Rovers: Bailey, French, Hawkins, Richardson, Cranswick, Waite-Pullen, Hartley, Taylor, Hallett, Hardcastle, Mcdaniel, Tansey, Punchard, Cooper, Maskill, Darley, Day, Beckett, Harrison, Lockwood.
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 1.30pm.