Castleford’s ground-breaking 2017 season is set to have a positive spin-off for Super League in 2018, according to the head of their arch-rivals Leeds Rhinos.
Although Leeds put paid to the Tigers’ bid for a maiden Grand Final triumph, chief executive Gary Hetherington has paid them the ultimate compliment by claiming the rest of Super League will be out to copy them.
Despite their defeat at Old Trafford in October, Hetherington says Castleford deserve all the plaudits for their refreshing attacking style in 2017 that brought them 170 tries, compared to 135 by the eventual champions, and enabled them to accumulate 216 points more than the Rhinos in the 30-game regular season as they topped the table for the first time in the club’s 91-year history.
Hetherington goes as far as to suggest his home-town team’s efforts topped those of the Rhinos’ treble-winning team of 2015 and is poised to rub off on the rest of Super League.
“I believe the 2018 season will be the most open, competitive and entertaining competition to date and I credit our local rivals for bringing about a significant potential shift in the game,” said Hetherington.
“The game is played pretty much the same throughout the world, but what Castleford did last year deviated from convention by introducing an efficient attacking style of play, which proved to be highly successful.
“In winning more games than any other team and scoring a record number of tries, they brought a refreshing style of play to the competition and I do believe it will be emulated by all of the Super League clubs next season and could change the face of the competition.
“We have seen many advances in teams’ defensive techniques and tactics over the past decade and many coaches have focused on perfecting this aspect of their team’s performance, which makes it difficult to score against, but I now detect a change in the mindset of coaches who believe that a team will have to score four or maybe five or six tries to win a game next season.
“If this proves to be the case, it could also filter through to the NRL and the international game.
“We saw a World Cup final that was gripping and tough and tense all the way through, but we’ve all said that, for England to win the World Cup, we have to score tries.”
This suggests Hetherington would like to see Tigers’ chief Daryl Powell, whom he appointed as head coach of Leeds in 2001 before removing him two years later, as the next England head coach if veteran Australian Wayne Bennett opts not to seek a new contract. He is aware of the recent interest expressed by Leeds coach Brian McDermott and says the issue is far from straight forward.
“It’s not a simple decision,” said Hetherington. “First of all the RFL are going to have to say what their policy and criteria is. Is it full-time or part-time and could a coach continue to coach a Super League team?”