AS the pressure builds with knockout football now upon them, Castleford Tigers’ second-row Mike McMeeken believes his improving side have learned from last year’s mistakes.
They head to Wigan Warriors on Friday night seeking the win that will see them play in the Super League Grand Final for a second season running.
Castleford, of course, fell short against Leeds Rhinos 12 months ago but McMeeken feels they are now better placed to win that elusive maiden championship.
“Playing the conditions is what we’ve learned,” he said.
“The atmosphere maybe got the better of us a bit last year and the occasion.
“But obviously it was chucking it down with rain and we didn’t handle the conditions well; the ball control wasn’t great from us.
“It’s been a massive learning curve and over the year we’ve developed our knowledge of playing in the rain and just handling the ball better.
“Leading into this Wigan game we feel confident and feel we are in good shape.”
McMeeken, who suffered the disappointment of being left out of the England squad yesterday, acknowledges second-placed Wigan will be a stern challenge.
They beat Castleford 24-22 at DW Stadium in the first round of Super 8s and he said: “Wigan are the in-form team at the moment – eight games undefeated.
“But personally I think we’re going into the game in a bit of form as well.
“We had a bit of a blip last week (losing 26-0 at St Helens) but since the second half of that last Wigan game we’ve hit some form.”
They will hope to have captain Michael Shenton fit again after a knee injury.
“He’s a key player for us; he’s a massive leader for us and a real calming influence on the left edge,” said McMeeken.
Castleford also have doubts over Jake Trueman and Junior Moors ahead of today’s 19-man squad naming while St Helens host Warrington tomorrow.