WHAT next for Castleford Tigers?
Well, the beginning of the new Betfred Super League season for starters and in just over a week’s time.
However, yesterday’s announcement that revered head coach Daryl Powell will leave at the end of the 2021 campaign was a bolt from the blue which has left people pondering what the long-term future will hold.
Maybe Powell’s exit should not be such a surprise, though; this will be the former Great Britain stand-off’s eighth full season at Wheldon Road, a long time for anyone to be in the head coach role at one club.
He was contracted until the end of 2022 but Castleford will now start their search for a new head coach to take care of next year. It will be a key appointment and one they must get right so as to make sure they do not undo all the excellent work Powell has overseen.
Firstly, the 55-year-old hopes to sign off in style and, given the positive impact he has had on the West Yorkshire club, it would be truly fitting if he could now lead them to Grand Final glory or a Wembley success.
It cannot be forgotten that Tigers were on their knees when Powell replaced Ian Millward in May 2013, fearful of being dragged into a relegation battle and with morale at a low ebb.
Nevertheless, the Yorkshireman, who had more than earned his stripes at Championship Featherstone Rovers, quickly instilled not only belief and confidence but also a style of football that the club’s ardent supporters relished.
Castleford is close to Powell’s heart – he grew up nearby and suppported them as a child – and that became clear as he strove to give the town something to be proud of again.
They reached Wembley in his first full season in charge and, although they lost to Leeds Rhinos, the tone was set for how he planned on reviving one of rugby league’s famous old names.
No one will forget the brilliant manner in which they strode to the League Leaders’ Shield in 2017, finishing top for the first time in the club’s history and by a massive ten points, too.
Some of the rugby league played that year was truly sublime.
Undoubtedly, that was Castleford’s greatest chance yet to lift a maiden championship.
They bombed , though,against Leeds in the Grand Final after star full-back Zak Hardaker was infamously banned on the eve of the Old Trafford showpiece for failing a drugs test.
Looking back, that was Castleford’s time to strike; it was the best opportunity to end the dominance of Leeds, St Helens and Wigan.
Powell has done his utmost to recreate another such vintage but, for myriad reasons, it has simply not happened again.
Maybe it is time for someone else to have a shot at it, fresh eyes and a fresh voice, with fresh faces, too.
This could be the final season for a number of Castleford’s legendary players who have been with Powell throughout the ride, captain Michael Shenton and Australian prop Grant Millington both turning 35 this year.
It is understandable, then, why 2022 could be an ideal time for a new coach to take charge.
Various other players who lifted the League Leaders Shield, such as Jesse Sene-Lefao and Nathan Massey, are entering the final year of their contracts, too.
Still, if Castleford can avoid any major injuries, something that has blighted Powell and his squad in recent seasons, there is no reason why they cannot challenge for honours in 2021.
They need a lot to go their way for that to happen.
But with reigning Steve Prescott Man of Steel Paul McShane, gifted young half Jake Trueman and Niall Evalds finally offering a solution to the problem of Hardaker’s exit, they have the tools.
As for who replaces Powell, there will be plenty of interest with York City Knights’ James Ford, London Broncos chief Danny Ward and Warrington Wolves assistant Andrew Henderson – all former Tigers players – obvious candidates.
Brian McDermott is another or could Danny Orr, Powell’s former assistant and a club legend, return from Salford?
Whoever it is, Powell has certainly laid solid foundations.
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