TWO WEEKS ago it looked like being a routine fixture, but now coach Daryl Powell admits tomorrow’s visit of Widnes Vikings could define Castleford Tigers’ season.
Last year’s Betfred Super League leaders were hammered 46-6 by St Helens in round one eight days ago and already rival fans are accusing them of being one-season wonders.
Powell insists that is a long way from the truth, but knows another defeat – against a Widnes outfit who got off to a flier with a 40-12 win over Catalans Dragons – would be a shattering blow.
“You hear a lot of coaches talk about not reading the press,” Powell observed.
“Generally I do, but I certainly haven’t this week.
“It’s about what we do and fixing things up. It was the first game of the season and it gave us a fair kick up the backside.
“Our response from it is going to define how good we are as a group of blokes and as a team.
“It’s about responding now. I think we handle defeats all right and we get a response, that’s what we’re looking for again.”
The 2015 and 2016 table toppers, Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves, both made a poor start the following year and found themselves in the middle-eights Qualifiers so Powell says Tigers have to get off the mark as quickly as possible.
“In our first block of games we’ve got to get some wins under our belt to give ourselves a chance,” he stressed.
“The first month is important for me, it’s where you set your standards and where you get your confidence.
“Clearly we haven’t got a lot of confidence from the weekend and we need to get that back.
“We’ve got off to a poor start and we’ve got to respond now.”
So far, Powell says the signs are positive. He added: “We’ve trained well and I think we’re ready to go for this week.
“We’ll only know on Sunday really, but the attitude to training’s been awesome this week.
“It’s a pretty important game for us.
“We are proud of our home record and proud of our standards as well, which obviously we were a way off last week,” he added.
“St Helens certainly played like a highly motivated team last week and I didn’t think we did particularly.
“That’s something we’ve had to address and make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“I don’t think it will. We’ve got a group of blokes who’ve shown they can play to a high level and we’ve got to make sure we do that on a consistent basis.”
Jy Hitchcox and Alex Foster have been recalled from dual-registration with Halifax and Greg Minikin is vying for a call-up, but Jake Trueman (concussion) drops out from last week’s side and Joe Wardle remains on the casualty list.
Catalans Dragons will seek to get their campaign up and running when they host St Helens in Perpignan today.
Catalans have lost new signing Samisoni Langi to injury while prop Sam Moa is suspended, but back rowers Greg Bird and Thibaud Margalet are fit to return after missing the defeat at Widnes through injury.
Coach Steve McNamara has called up hooker Alrix Da Costa in place of Paul Aiton, who pulled out of the opening game with a neck problem.
St Helens have called up winger Adam Swift in place of Ryan Morgan, who was concussed in the win over Castleford. Scrum-half Matty Smith and prop Luke Douglas, who were left out of the opening game, are retained in coach Justin Holbrook’s 19-man squad.