ONE thing Cory Aston has never lacked is quality half-backs from whom he can learn.
The son of 1998 Challenge Cup man of the match Mark Aston, he spent last year training alongside two legends of the game in Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow.
Now, following a move from Leeds Rhinos to Castleford Tigers, he is in the same squad as reigning Man of Steel Luke Gale and is being coached by former international stand-off Daryl Powell and his assistants, ex-Great Britain half-backs Danny Orr and Ryan Sheridan.
Settling into fresh surroundings is nothing new to Aston. A year ago he was in a similar situation at Leeds after moving from Sheffield Eagles and he then had spells on loan with Featherstone Rovers and Bradford Bulls.
Now the 22-year-old feels he is ready to step up to a new level and believes the 2017 Betfred Super League leaders are the club to take him there. Speaking at Castleford’s media launch yesterday, Aston told The Yorkshire Post: “Daryl is known for bringing players on and if you look at Luke Gale’s career path, he has been at a few clubs and then come here and really blossomed.
“I think he is an inspiration for me; he had it tough, he went around a bit and he came here and he has turned into a world-class player and an England international. That is something I look at.
“This year is a new challenge and I am looking forward to working under Daryl and also Shez and Danny. They played in my position, so it is good to work with them.
“That is massive for me, they were all great players and to have them as coaches is a big attraction. It’s just the little things and the attention to detail you get from Shez, it is massive towards your development.”
The last 12 months have been testing for Aston, who played in pre-season games for Rhinos, but did not make a competitive appearance. His only senior match at Headingley was against Leeds, in a Challenge Cup tie for Featherstone.
Despite being released midway through his two-year contract, Aston insisted the experience has not dented his confidence.
He said: “I think it has made me a better person and a better player. It has been character-building and I am really looking forward to this year. There are no hard feelings. I really enjoyed my time last year and I am really looking forward to cracking on this year. That’s my main focus.
“It has been good, I am really enjoying it. I had a good eight weeks before Christmas, me and all the young boys and the new boys were in for a couple of weeks before the main bulk of the players came in and that was really good to get to know the systems before they came in.
“We’ve kept on after Christmas and I’m looking forward to going to Lanzarote [for warm weather training] on Thursday. I think that will be really good to bond with the players.”
Aston is likely to begin the year behind Gale and fellow recruit Jamie Ellis in the half-back pecking order. However, the latter suffered an ankle injury in training this week, which could give Aston an opportunity in Castleford’s full-scale trial game at home to Leeds on January 21.
“That’s my main goal to start with, getting that first-team debut,” he stressed. “I want to play five games this year and if I do that’s five more than last season.
“I just want to get that first game under my belt and then I’ll go from there.
“The strength in depth here is massive, so it is going to be a challenge, but while you are training you are picking things up from good players.
“I had Danny McGuire in front of me last year and Luke Gale this year. They are both outstanding half-backs and to learn off them is brilliant.”
A loan spell back at Sheffield, who are coached by his father, is a possibility and Aston accepts he is likely to have to move elsewhere at some stage to stay match sharp.
He said: “Nothing’s been said yet, but I’m sure I’ll be going somewhere to get game time and make sure I am fit and ready to go. That’s the main thing, to make sure you are playing. That’s how you develop.”
Another player shown the door by Leeds, hooker Paul McShane, has signed a new contract keeping him at Castleford until the end of 2022.
McShane made his debut for Rhinos in 2009 and had spells on loan with Hull and Widnes Vikings before joining Wakefield in 2014. He moved to Castleford the following year as part of a swap deal involving Scott Moore.
The 28-year-old said: “We have a great system here that suits the way I play and coming to training every day is a joy. Last year was a successful year, but we want to build on that and show we are a consistent top-four side.”
Powell has hailed McShane as one of the world’s leading hookers. He said: “I am confident he will continue to improve over the period of his contract and achieve his aims of being an international rugby league player.”