Castleford Tigers head coach Ian Millward admits usurped Richard Owen is going to have to fight his way back in to his squad.
The highly-rated full-back was on the verge of England selection a couple of years ago but last night debuted for Keighley Cougars in the Championship after falling out of favour at Wheldon Road.
He joined on a dual-registration deal and played against Featherstone Rovers having been overlooked by Millward for the last three games.
It is in marked contrast to the start of last year.
Back then, Millward allowed established Super League winning full-back Richard Mathers to join Wakefield Trinity such was his belief Owen – equally at home on the wing – was ideal for the No1 role.
He played 24 matches, scoring 10 tries, but has found a spot far harder to come by in 2013.
Owen, who was handed a 12 month suspended sentence in December after pleading guilty to affray and causing actual bodily harm, started the opening two games on the wing.
However, he was left out when Kirk Dixon returned from injury and with Sydney Roosters signing Justin Carney so impressive on the other flank, has been omitted ever since.
Jordan Tansey, another winter capture who is making the most of his last chance at redemption in Super League, has been excellent at full-back and he will continue there on his return to one of his former clubs Hull FC tonight. Millward said: “Jordan is working hard on his game and he has got a lot of pressure from Richie Owen.
“Justin Carney, Kirk Dixon and Tansey are playing consistent and Richie is going to have to bide his time until an opportunity comes.
“This is probably the first time in a while he has had to fight for his spot.
“It is not easy for him; he re-signed for us and he had, I think, St Helens, Wigan and Huddersfield after him.
“But that’s what happens in sport. Someone gets an opportunity and if they take it you have to reward them.
“But Richie has been working hard.
“We think he is a really talented player and a very brave player.”
Owen did, indeed, pen a new four-year deal in September 2011, just months before the incident which led to that court charge.
Meanwhile, Castleford remain poised and positive ahead of tonight’s trip to the KC Stadium despite still seeking their first away win of the year.
They have lost at Warrington and Bradford – admittedly when down to 11 men for the vital latter stages – but have showed real promise at Wheldon Road.
There, they have defeated champions Leeds Rhinos, drawn with Catalan Dragons and almost overcame Wigan Warriors on Sunday before missing out 28-22 late on.
“We go into every game confident,” said Millward.
“The guys are trying really hard and their attitude’s good. I still think we are adapting to some of our new structures, in attack and defence.
“We are still trying to bed in eight new blokes and a heap of young blokes.
“We always said our season would be governed a bit by keeping everyone fit and on the field and touch wood we’ve been lucky in that so far.
“But we are in the match every game and all of our performances have been terrific.
“Some of the officials’ performances haven’t been, but I can’t fault the players.”
Millward will assess the fitness of ex-Great Britain international Lee Gilmour before naming his final squad tonight.
He suffered a neck injury against Wigan but Adam Milner and James Clare are available if the 35-year-old does not pull through in time.