CASTLEFORD TIGERS captain Michael Shenton concedes he was “shocked” at being selected for England’s elite performance squad – especially as he has not played a single Super League game since last February.
The experienced centre tore his cruciate ligament during last season’s opening game at Hull Kingston Rovers and, after a knee reconstruction operation, did not feature again throughout the entire campaign.
However, having successfully made his comeback in the Boxing Day friendly against Hull FC, he is now further buoyed after being included in Wayne Bennett’s 31-man group that is planning towards the World Cup Down Under at the end of this year.
“It was bit of shock to me, to be honest,” Shenton told The Yorkshire Post.
“Matt Crowther, who’s our physio at Cas’, is the England physio as well and he mentioned it to me that they were asking about me so it was very nice to hear that sort of thing.
“But they’ve a talent pool of players and they have to pick from that so it does not mean anything yet. I’ve got to prove to them on the field and do a good job for Cas’. That’s more important.
“I have to make my mark in the training sessions we’ll have, but most importantly it is playing well for Cas’ and hopefully I can do that.”
Shenton has won nine caps for his country – starting in the 2009 Four Nations final against Australia – but has not featured for the last two years, surprisingly omitted by then coach Steve McNamara for the 2015 Test series against New Zealand when he preferred to play Wigan Warriors’ second-row John Bateman as a centre.
Obviously, he missed the 2016 Four Nations through his injury with Wigan’s Dan Sarginson –now at Gold Coast Titans – and St Helens’ Mark Percival both having a stab at making the left centre their own under Bennett.
Leeds Rhinos’ Kallum Watkins was ever-present in the right channel, but if Shenton can recapture his best form in 2017 there is no reason he cannot reclaim that other jersey.
“There’s some quality players out there and whoever finds their form and is playing well for their club I’m sure they will be the ones he goes for,” said the 30-year-old.
“There’s some serious challenges now for me this year. I’ve got to get back playing, find some form in Super League and if I can get the sort of form I know I’m capable of, there’s that opportunity of going on tour with England for a World Cup which would be pretty amazing. There’s four of us from Cas, too, and it’s great to see Mike McMeeken get a shot.”