Liam Watts looking to recapture the ‘buzz’ at Castleford Tigers as fans return

MAKING his family proud has always been Liam Watts’s main priority for playing rugby league so the Castleford Tigers prop is relishing his return to action tomorrow for more reason than one.

Family man: Castleford Tigers’ Liam Watts is looking forward to playing in front of a crowd again, after missing the last two games – and the return of supporters - due to suspension. (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

He lines up against Leeds Rhinos after serving a two-match ban for a late hit on Elijah Taylor in the Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Salford Red Devils.

The suspension was already frustrating – it was doubled from one game following a so-called “frivolous” appeal – but it also coincided with the club playing in front of fans for the first time in 14 months.

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Castleford have lost both of those, a late defeat at home to Hull KR and Saturday’s 38-14 loss at Warrington Wolves when they were severely depleted.

Daryl Powell’s side will be augmented for the visit of Leeds tomorrow and Watts cannot wait to experience the noise of Wheldon Road once more.

“For me, when I step out onto that pitch, it’s all about looking up at the stands and seeing my kids, my missus, my dad and my brother, family and friends who have supported me all my life,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“I had a few chats with Daryl and said that my sole purpose in rugby league is for my family and friends. I’m always wanting to have my kids close to me and watching me and them not being able to come and watch their dad, they don’t understand.

“It’s like my newborn son: he’s eight months old now and has only watched me on TV. He’s not been down there yet and experienced that atmosphere and little things like that matter to me.

Castleford's Liam Watts (Picture Chris Mangnall/SWpix.com)

“My sole purpose in rugby league is to make my family and friends proud. It gives me the buzz to play the sport and it’s not been the same without fans.

“To have them back and not be able to go (last two games) was just another kick in the teeth.

“But this week I’ll try and get as many family down as I can and get back playing in front of a crowd.

“That’s where I get my buzz from; everything I love about the game is having those people in the stands and cheering for us.”

Castleford’s excellent start to the campaign has wobbled slightly during Watts’s absence.

On his latest suspension, the 30-year-old conceded: “It has been rubbish. Getting one match was frustrating. To go into the tribunal and come away with two and a £500 fine was just madness.

“You’ll never beat them. They always try to make an example of people who go against them and I think that’s what happened.

“It was frustrating. I’ve seen worse tackles that have seen people cautioned. I thought I was hard done by to get sin-binned and it was a penalty at the max’.”

He will look to make up for lost time against Rhinos who have won just twice all season and only once in their last seven outings.

Watts insisted: “They are struggling but I don’t think they are far away, They played a full strength Hull FC side and pushed them close. They’ve had injuries, just like every other team but (Luke) Gale’s come back into the side and I’m expecting a tough encounter.

“They have no game the week after and we have the Challenge Cup semi-final (against Warrington). I’ve seen how these games sometimes go; I’ve played in them and you’ve always got an eye on the following week.

“But we have a few players returning from injury and me from suspension so the fresh faces will do us well. And we’re all playing for our spot next week so we all have to be on our game.”

Oli Holmes and Pete Mata’utia – late withdrawals before the Warrington fixture – are named in Powell’s 21-man squad while Cheyse Blair and Jacques O’Neill are also back from injuries.

Niall Evalds remains sidelined and Adam Milner also drops out along with Lewis Bienek.

Missing recent games has not helped Watts’s hopes of forcing his way into Shaun Wane’s England squad for next month’s clash with the Combined Nations All Stars. One of Super League’s best props in recent years he was omitted from Wane’s plans last November but the uncapped player was keen to prove his worth in time for the World Cup this autumn.

However, Watts said: “To be fair, I’ve sat down too many times and put all my eggs in one basket – ‘I’m going to try this, I’m going to try that…’

“I’ve put too much focus on trying to get picked. Then I do get in there and I’m getting dragged out.

“I’m over it now. I’m over being in and out. I’m 31 next and I just want to concentrate on playing rugby and playing well for Cas.

“They pay my wages and that’s who I’m loyal to. I understand the England set-up and it’s nice to have those honours but all that matters to me at this moment is playing well for Castleford.

“The few conversations I’ve had with Waney, he was saying if I had to pick the side now would I be playing? My own personal opinion is no.”

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