Michael Shenton: ‘Castleford Tigers desperate to rediscover form ahead of Wembley’

SEEING a game forfeited was “painful” for Castleford Tigers but, with Wembley looming, captain Michael Shenton says their only target now is to rediscover some much-needed form.

Castleford's Michael Shenton ahead of the Challenge Cup semi-final (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
Castleford's Michael Shenton ahead of the Challenge Cup semi-final (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

The West Yorkshire club should – the emphasis has to be on ‘should’ in the current Covid climate – return to action at Huddersfield Giants on Tuesday.

Last Wednesday’s game against Super League leaders St Helens – a dress rehearsal for the Challenge Cup final in a fortnight’s time – was controversially cancelled with Castleford essentially unable to raise a team.

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They listed 17 players who were unavailable to face Saints, with all but one injured.

Furthermore, a young first-team player also tested positive for Covid, leading to seven of Castleford’s young first-team environment players and joint first team/Academy players needing to be stood down.

They had to shut down their Academy but the RFL awarded St Helens a 24-0 victory because the club did not meet the threshold for a postponement under the framework of seven senior players unavailable as a direct result of positive tests or close contacts.

However, Castleford had seen three of their players come back from last Friday’s England v Combined Nations All Stars game carrying injuries so the decision seemed tough to say the least.

Centre Shenton – who should return from a minor knee injury against Huddersfield – told The Yorkshire Post: “It was just massively unfortunate what happened to us with the series of events – short turnarounds, injuries catching up with us – and we’ve just not been able to put a strong team together for so long.

On the way back: Castleford Tigers' Michael Shenton. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

“We’ve had so many injuries and the international as well hurt us with those guys coming out of there sore and unable to risk being played on the Wednesday.

“It’s very painful to do that (lose points); it’s not very often anyone has to forfeit a game and to have to do that under the circumstances of our Under-19s being shutdown for Covid so we couldn’t dip into those guys to fulfil the fixture, it was very frustrating.”

Asked if he felt it was harsh, the former England international added: “With the pandemic, it does feel a bit harsh but we’ve moved on. We’ve done what’s best for this team. No-one at Cas’ is happy with giving points up.

“It was a tough pill to swallow but we had to move on fast from it. It wouldn’t have been the right thing for our team to play that game and play people absolutely busted or make people play with bad injuries so, no, we did what we had to do.

Castleford Tigers' Michael Shenton (Picture: Paul Currie/SWpix.com)

“The RFL have made their decision and there is no point whingeing about it as they are not going to change their mind now.”

What Castleford can look to change is their erratic form; they know they have to find some consistency if they are to defeat Saints and win the Challenge Cup for the first time since 1986.

They have won just one of their last six league games but, encouragingly, produced a brilliant display to defeat Warrington Wolves in the Cup semi-final.

Moreover, head coach Daryl Powell should have at least half-a-dozen of that injured list back to face a struggling Giants side.

Shenton added: “There’s the negative that we had to forfeit but coming out of it we do have a positive camp.

“We should be a lot healthier for Huddersfield. A lot of emphasis is on that. I know we have something important coming up but our league form hasn’t been great and injuries have led to that.

“We have to get back on track, find some form, get our combinations going again and find our strongest team going into an important few weeks for the club.”

Long-serving Shenton, 34, said: “We need to find the form we showed in the semi against Warrington. There’s bits there.

“The rugged determination was there against Wakefield a couple of weeks ago when we dug deep and won. Even against Catalans (16-6 loss) we dug deep in defence. We just couldn’t find the attacking fluency to break them down and that’s what happens when you are changing your team regularly and missing your spine.

“We’re not too disheartened; there’s a lot of spirit and character that we are finding. But we must find out attack game again.”

Castleford’s England hooker and Man of Steel Paul McShane, 31, has signed a new deal until the end of 2025 in a huge fillip for the Super League club.