NEW signing Joe Wardle’s debut could be what Castleford Tigers need to kickstart their campaign.
After topping the Betfred Super League table by 10 points last year, Castleford have struggled to recapture that form so far this season.
He runs really good lines, his understanding of the game is really solid and he brings competition to the back-row.Castleford coach Daryl Powell on Joe Wardle
A 46-6 defeat at St Helens was followed by a nervy 13-12 home win over Widnes Vikings, but Castleford were without Wardle for both those games.
He has recovered from a hamstring injury suffered in training and is expected to feature in today’s game at home to Hull.
The former Bradford Bulls, Huddersfield Giants and Newcastle Knights man was Castleford’s major close-season recruit and coach Daryl Powell is excited to see what he brings to the team.
“Joe hasn’t played in a competitive game for us yet so it will be good to see him on the field,” Powell said.
“He is a tough presence as a player.
“Defence has always been a big strength of his, he is a committed defender and he puts his body on the line.
“He runs really good lines, his understanding of the game is really solid and he brings competition to the back-row.”
Wardle’s availability adds to Powell’s selection headaches.
“With Ollie Holmes starting the season really well, it’s a super-competitive position,” the coach added.
“Back-row and front-row, it’s really competitive for us this year, with a lot of depth and a lot of good quality players so it’s going to be really challenging.
“I’ve got to pick a team out of all that.
“Particularly when we start hitting our straps, it’s going to be a tough team to pick.”
Two points from a possible four is far from a disastrous start, but Powell knows there is more expectation on his side now after last year’s remarkable league form and he is confident they will click sooner rather than later.
“We are just a few inches off here and there with our fluency,” he said.
“Against Widnes we created opportunities, but were not quite good enough to take them.
“There was a lot of scrambling defence from Widnes that kept us out, but equally our lack of accuracy played a part in keeping the score so close.
“We’re obviously looking to improve on that and it will come. We just need to keep working hard and keep a bit of patience about ourselves.”
This afternoon would be the ideal time for Tigers to find their feet.
“It’s a big game,” Powell admitted.
“Hull are a good side and it will be really competitive.
“We can’t take anything for granted. The fact they have been in Australia matters little, it’s about how we perform and it’s a key game for us.
“We’re looking to improve on what we’ve delivered so far and we see this game as a good opportunity.”
Hull are on the back of successive defeats during their two-week stay in Australia, against Wigan Warriors in a Super League clash and to St George-Illawarra Dragons in an exhibition game last Saturday.
They will have to deal with the effects of the travel home as well as what Castleford throw at them, but coach Lee Radford is upbeat about their prospects.
“We’re coping really well with the jet lag,” Radford insisted. “We trained [yesterday] and looked really sharp. The training has been a lot lighter this week, but we’ve had a full week to prepare so we’ll be good to go.”
Hull came out on top in three of their four meetings with Castleford last year.
A win today would underline the black and whites’ status as contenders for the league leaders’ shield, but Radford regards Castleford as a major threat despite their relatively indifferent start to the season.
“They haven’t had the start they would have wanted, but regardless of that it’s going to be tough,” he warned.
“The pitch is always difficult there so we’re expecting a hard game, but we are going there in good spirits and we are very aware of their threats,” added Radford.