PAUL McSHANE says some key words of advice and encouragement from Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell are crucial reasons behind his elevation to the England squad at the age of 27.
The talented hooker has without doubt been the finest No 9 in Super League this term, something he will look to demonstrate once more tomorrow when the leaders host improving St Helens.
Such vivid performances, so often leading the way for Castleford in both attack and defence, saw him called into Wayne Bennett’s revised 27-man elite performance squad on Wednesday.
You will be hard pressed to find anyone who will disagree with uncapped McShane’s inclusion.
It has been a long road to get to this point, however, with the Leeds-born player hoping to now force his way into the final reckoning for the World Cup at the end of the season.
Having started at Leeds Rhinos, it was obvious he was a gifted footballer but there were flaws to his game and, although winning the 2012 World Club Challenge, he never established himself as the regular nine at Headingley.
A lengthy loan spell at Widnes Vikings followed before he started to carve out his own niche after a move to Wakefield Trinity.
However, it is since Powell signed him from there in 2015 that McShane has really evolved into a hooker of genuine consistent class with all the skills – he possesses a mean left boot – you could wish for.
He has been integral to Castleford this season with his expert decision-making, craftiness out of dummy-half and ability to keep their now famous free-flowing game.... well… flowing, driving them towards many a victory.
Man of Steel Danny Houghton has been omitted to make way for McShane in the EPS but he has two previous Man of Steel winners – Warrington Wolves’ former Castleford hooker Daryl Clark and tomorrow’s opponent James Roby – in the squad with him also.
There is then, of course, England’s incumbent No 9 Josh Hodgson, of Canberra Raiders, to consider who will surely be one of the first names in the final squad.
But all that is further down the line. For now, McShane is simply enjoying this recognition.
“It was a nice surprise really,” he told The Yorkshire Post, his last international duty being for an England Under 18s tour of Australia in 2008.
“It was something I wanted at the start of the year. Me and Powelly sat down and spoke about going to the next level of performance and that was one of the things we discussed.
“Joining Cas and working under him and his coaching staff made me refocus.
“As a kid, you always wanted to play for England but at one stage I probably did think it’d never happen. It still hasn’t. I’ve more work to do. But I got that belief back with Powelly. He said at the end of last season he still had so much more to get out of my game and hearing your coach say that it builds your own confidence.”
McShane revealed Powell has been pivotal in ironing out mindset issues in his game which could often lead to unforced errors.
“Powelly encourages me to play my natural game – steaming out of nine,” he said.
“But a big point is not getting frustrated with myself during a performance. In the past I’d try to do too much but I think he’s knocked that out of me.
“I never even really understood that I used to do that but he’s helped me see it. He’s been great. I do feel more composed in my displays now.
“He told me he was like me when he played. He said he’d get frustrated if things weren’t going right and he’d hit a little trigger where he’d then do a certain little thing to say ‘Right, we don’t do that Daryl, let’s kick on.’ It’s worked wonders with me.
“If I feel I’m a little bit rattled now I might take a knee and just push a sock up. I might do that. I do feel like I’ve matured. And just being able to play big minutes.
“In my career, I’d never been a 80 minute nine until this season and Powelly has given me that confidence I can play those sorts of minutes. I’m enjoying it.
“The main thing for me at the moment is to keep focused on what we’re doing with Cas week in week out, stay consistent and we’ll see where it gets me.”