Chris Clarkson grateful for chance to rebuild career with Castleford Tigers

Castleford Tigers' new signing Chris Clarkson gets instructions from head coach Daryl Powell.
Castleford Tigers' new signing Chris Clarkson gets instructions from head coach Daryl Powell.
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LIFE as a builder can wait for Castleford Tigers’ new signing Chris Clarkson.

The industrious back-row, a Grand Final winner with Leeds Rhinos, had to return to his original trade while looking for a new club after his exit from Hull KR last autumn.

Castleford, however, offered him a six-week trial in the new year and, having signed a 12-month deal last week, hopes to make his debut at London Broncos on Saturday.

“I did think about other jobs,” Clarkson conceded.

“There was a point, probably just before Christmas, where I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing – playing rugby or not. I kept my hand in with bricklaying.

“I did a bricklaying apprenticeship after school so thankfully I have got something to fall back on, which is good. I did a little bit of that recently.

“It was alright (back on the building sites). It’s not something out of the ordinary for me.

“It’s just the cold mornings in winter, those full days and just getting wrapped up. It was tough.

“It showed me that I wasn’t ready for that life just yet.

“Rugby is what I love doing and I’m thankful I’m still playing.

“I always knew I had a lot still to give back in rugby league and I’m thankful of this chance with Cas.”

Still only 28, Clarkson was a latecomer to the professional game, not signing his first full-time deal at hometown Leeds until he was 21, so it is no surprise he wants to carry on.

Having failed to get a deal with Rovers, who he helped win promotion and battled to keep up last year, Clarkson now finds himself with a club chasing silverware.

“It’s good to slot into this top-four team,” he said.

“Where they’ve been for the last five years it’s been great.

“ I think at the back of my head I would have loved to have come to Cas anyway.

“I’m thankful that Powelly gave me the opportunity and gave me that phone call to get me in.”

Clarkson trained on his own for much of the winter, especially after training colleague James Donaldson – also released by Rovers – ended up with his own successful trial at Leeds.

He recalled: “It was tough. It wasn’t that I had to prove my worth to someone.

“It was more the waiting – waiting for a phone call, waiting for an opportunity – going to the gym on my own, going for runs on my own, early on a morning.

“It was tough to keep myself going, but thankfully I did as it helped me slot straight into training here straight away.

“I’m not sure what I’d have had to do if I’d have had to catch up with the lads.

“It might have taken me six weeks and then who knows what might have happened. I might not have got the deal.”

Competition is fierce at Wheldon Road, but with England second-rows Mike McMeeken and Oli Holmes injured along with prop Mitch Clark, Clarkson is in contention at Ealing.

“There’s an opportunity for me with the injuries here,” he said.

“It’s not how I’d have wanted to come into the squad. I’d have preferred to work hard and get the opportunity myself.

“But it is a chance and hopefully I can take it and show everyone what I can do.

“London will be tough. They’re the new team in Super League and we can’t take them lightly.”

Meanwhile, Leeds duo Liam Sutcliffe and Mikolaj Oledzki are fit again, hoping to return at St Helens tomorrow, but Donaldson is out with concussion.