AFTER weeks of frustration and uncertainty, Rangi Chase last night said he is finally “in the right place of mind” to prove his class for both England and Castleford Tigers.
There is no denying that when the gifted half-back is at the top of his game, there are few more exciting and dynamic players the world over.
But in recent times there have been far too many distractions for him to deliver his best football, not least on-going speculation about his future at Wheldon Road.
However, after a proposed move to Hull FC fell through and then, just last week, a potential return to the NRL with ex-club St George-Illawarra, Chase has underlined his desire to put a troubled campaign behind him and rediscover his finest form.
Initially ruled out of the autumn international series after picking up a groin injury on England’s training trip to South Africa, there is also perhaps an unexpected chance for him to shine against France at Hull KR on Saturday.
A specialist’s report confirmed on his return that the problem was not as severe as first thought and he trained yesterday hoping to get the nod as Steve McNamara’s side look to back up last weekend’s emphatic 80-12 win over Wales.
But first, how important has it been to know he will be wearing Castleford colours again in 2013?
“It has been awesome and a big weight off my shoulders,” the 26-year-old told the Yorkshire Post. “It’s nice to know what I’m doing now. Me and my family can settle down, start focusing on next year, as for a while there we didn’t know where we were going.
“It was mentally draining but it was out of my hands.
“I had a chance to go somewhere and sometimes these things happen in rugby.
“Opportunities come up and you have to take them, or not, as your career isn’t that long.
“But it dragged on. I was always happy at Cas’ and in my head I didn’t have any definite decision what I was doing.
“I definitely didn’t want to go but definitely didn’t know if I was going to stay.
“The best thing about it all is I know what I am definitely doing now – I’m staying at Cas’ and that’s awesome.
“I’m settled in Cas’, have got a house here, a wife and a five-and -a-half-year-old son. Life’s perfect at Castleford.
“I’ve just got to sort the stuff out on the field.”
Admittedly, Chase’s displays this term have been too inconsistent and devoid of the brilliance he showed in winning the 2011 Man of Steel.
Tigers chief executive Steve Ferres hopes he can recapture that form in 2013 and Chase said: “I do need to get back to that form, but I need my team-mates to get back to that form as well.
“When I picked up that Man of Steel award it was a lot to do with them too.
“Yet especially last season, we as a team and me as an individual, didn’t step up, and it showed.
“So what we have to do is learn from this year and put it behind us. The only way is up.
“It can’t get any worse. That’s the good thing for us and I can’t wait to get back there.”
When he returns to pre-season training after the internationals, Chase will see a familiar face in an unfamiliar role.
His half-back partner Danny Orr has retired but will be there in an assistant coach’s role, barking out orders as Tigers attempt to rise after miserably finishing level-bottom with Widnes.
Chase, who has endured his fair share of off-field indiscretions, admits the Castleford legend is someone who has already helped bring some order to his life.
“It’s going to be good having Orry there – he’s the ultimate professional,” he said.
“If I was going to learn anything from him it would be to be consistently professional and, as we all probably know, that’s something I’ve lacked.
“I haven’t prepared as well as a professional as I should do. That’s changed. I’m a changed person now. A lot of the extra baggage that came with me has all been sorted.
“Touch wood I can stay in the place of mind that I am in and be a role model to these guys at Castleford who look up to me and actually lead them on the path that they should be led.”
Beforehand, he hopes to renew his international half-back partnership with Leeds Rhinos’ captain Kevin Sinfield.
The pair were ever-present in last season’s Four Nations and lined up in the opening Exiles game this summer.
But Chase missed the second fixture after being suspended by Castleford for a drinking incident and saw Richie Myler take the scrum-half role against Wales last weekend as he continued to battle his groin problem.
He knows McNamara may not tinker too heavily with his winning line-up but remains hopeful he will get a chance to impress.
“I’m glad I’m here in the mix, putting myself forward to get in the frame,” Chase added.
“It was frustrating knowing I might miss out altogether after picking up that injury.
“I’d already done five weeks training with the Knights, getting flogged, while many were still playing Super League.
“The boys played well last week but we know France will be tougher. They are always so passionate and physical; we’ve got to match that and give it back. I hope I get that chance.”