THE decision to make Challenge Cup winners Warrington Wolves play just five days after their Wembley heroics has been described as “crazy” by Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell.
Warrington, who stunned hot-favourites and Super League leaders St Helens in last Saturday’s Cup final, are back in action tomorrow when they visit Salford Red Devils.
Originally scheduled for Sunday, the game has been brought forward for live television coverage on Sky Sports and the result could have a bearing on where Castleford finish the regular season.
Powell’s side are sixth in the table, one place behind Salford who hold the final play-offs spot on points difference.
They are also only two points adrift of second-placed Warrington so Powell, whose team visit the Cup runners-up 24 hours later, will be keeping a close eye on tomorrow’s outcome.
Powell expects Salford to maintain their recent good run and said: “Friday for St Helens to turn around is a tough ask, but Thursday is ridiculous.
“They will have been celebrating no doubt – and they should do – but that’s tough.
“It could easily create an unbalanced competition, I think the scheduling is abysmal.
“I don’t know whose idea it was, but it is what it is; if we win on Friday and Warrington lose on Thursday we are level with them.
“It is pretty tight, there’s nothing in it at all.”
Powell feels Castleford are still masters of their own destiny, though he rates their run-in as the toughest of any of the seven teams in top-five contention.
“We are going to need to win at least two of the three games, I would think,” predicted the Tigers coach.
He added: “After Saints we have got Hull at home and then we are away at Wigan so it is a tough run-in, but if we do get there we will deserve to be there and we will be a threat.
“If not, we won’t have been good enough, but I think we are capable of coming up with three high-quality performances that’ll get us where we need to be.”
Powell gave his players last weekend off, but said they have actually stepped up the intensity in training since their 24-0 win at Huddersfield Giants 10 days ago.
He said: “I think we are already in play-off mode.
“We are looking forward to it, we had some decent sessions last week.
“We wanted to keep training fast; we know the games leading into the play-offs will be fast so we have stepped our training up a bit. The boys had some time off during the earlier Challenge Cup rounds, but we felt we needed to keep training going into what is going to be a really big game for us this week.”
Powell will name his initial 19-man squad today and is hopeful front-row forward Liam Watts will be in contention after missing two games due to finger and ankle injuries.
Meanwhile, former full-back Geoff Wraith, who played more than 200 games for both Castleford and Wakefield Trinity, has died, aged 72.
Born in Leeds, Wraith was considered one of the finest players in his position during the 1960s and 70s not to earn a Test cap.
He scored 48 tries for Wakefield in 227 appearances from 1964-74 before moving to Australia to join Brisbane club Northern Suburbs Devils.
Tempted back to England in 1975, he went on to play 216 times for Castleford, scoring 42 tries and collecting winner’s medals in the Player’s, BBC Floodlit and Yorkshire Cup competitions.
After joining the backroom staff at Wheldon Road, Wraith returned to Trinity as team boss for the 1984-85 season but lasted only 10 games, two of those as player-coach at the age of 38.
Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar insists he won’t take any risks with his squad for Sunday’s huge game at Super League’s bottom club London Broncos.
A Leeds win would effectively banish the threat of relegation for the Headingley club, with two games still to play.
Agar has yet to decide whether to call up back-rower Stevie Ward who has not played since suffering a knee injury six months ago.
“He is a bit closer,” Agar said of Ward’s prospects of featuring on Sunday.
“Whether we play him or not, we will make a decision a bit later.
“We are not going to rush him back, unless he feels 100 per cent confident and fitness-wise and strength-wise and mentally he feels good to go.
“He has had a full week’s training and he will come into consideration.”