Shenton ends four-year exile as form earns England recall

Castleford's Michael ShentonCastleford's Michael Shenton
Castleford's Michael Shenton
Castleford Tigers’ captain Michael Shenton says his recall to the England international scene after a four-year absence proves that anything is possible.

The in-form centre had been overlooked by Steve McNamara ever since a Four Nations tour Down Under in 2010.

He moved from Castleford to 
St Helens after that trip and was expected to see his career blossom and add to his eight caps.

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But Shenton’s ascent stalled and, instead, after struggling to make an immediate impression with Saints he was omitted by McNamara for the following Four Nations here and has not been recognised since.

However, having moved back to hometown Castleford ahead of last season, he has recaptured his old swagger and, this term in particular, discovered the finest form of his life.

Shenton, who has scored 17 league tries and contributed as many assists in a formidable partnership with winger Justin Carney, steered them to a first Challenge Cup final since 1992.

He also helped achieve the West Yorkshire club’s highest Super League finish of fourth, missing out on the League Leaders’ Shield only due to a final-day defeat in Perpignan.

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With such stellar form came a first inclusion in the Dream Team and it was almost a foregone conclusion that the 28-year-old would be recalled by McNamara for the Four Nations tournament that starts in Australia later this month.

Shenton was, indeed, selected in the 24-man squad named on Sunday and will fly out in a week’s time to the Gold Coast as England begin their preparations to tackle Samoa, their hosts and New Zealand.

Asked if he thought this opportunity would ever appear again, he told The Yorkshire Post: “There is always that chance. Some players do force their way back in but four years is quite a long time.

“With the World Cup last autumn as well, Steve seemed really happy with the players he had in that.

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“Obviously they went really close to getting into the final.

“I thought they’d made real strides forward during that tournament and I know now, being back in the set-up, certain things have definitely improved.

“But I did think maybe my chance had gone. There was some quality young players coming through in my position all playing well.”

Huddersfield Giants’ Leroy Cudjoe is the player who has most obviously missed out.

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He, like Shenton now, was in the Super League Dream Team in 2013 having helped Huddersfield to a top-place finish for the first time in 81 years.

Cudjoe, 26, duly went on to enjoy a fine World Cup, being ever-present in the England team alongside Kallum Watkins.

The stylish Leeds Rhinos centre has retained his place in 
McNamara’s squad but is joined by Shenton and uncapped Wigan Warriors tyro Dan Sarginson, a contender for Super League’s Young Player of the Year tomorrow night.

Shenton, meanwhile, has thanked Castleford coach Daryl Powell, the former Great Britain centre who is expected to win Coach of the Year at that awards evening, for helping him to achieve his England recall.

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“I always hoped to get another chance and when Daryl took over at Cas he did tell me he thought I should make that my goal,” he said.

“He wanted to see me playing for England again and really pushed me to aim for that.

“He’s really helped me do that and I am really chuffed now.

“It does show that people do always have that chance.”

That said, Shenton – who played in the 2009 Four Nations final defeat to Australia at Elland Road – was getting worried he had not made the cut.

“It was a pretty anxious wait, to be honest,” he said.

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“I remember thinking earlier in the season that this (England) was miles away and I wasn’t thinking about it too much but then, all of a sudden, here we are.

“On Friday night I did start wondering if I’d got in and especially so come Saturday but, with Steve being in Australia and the time difference, I knew it could happen at any time.

“When I did get the call I was pretty relieved – and very excited, too.

“It’s clear to see that Steve’s picked a lot of players on form.

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“Hopefully we can all take that form shown in Super League and do something quite special over there.”

England, who lost out to New Zealand in the final seconds of last November’s World Cup semi-final, open their account against Samoa in Brisbane on October 25 before further games against Australia and the Kiwis.

Former Australian international Antonio Kaufusi has become the third overseas forward to announce his departure from Huddersfield.

The 29-year-old former London Broncos prop, who made 18 appearances for the Giants this year, is to join team-mates Jason Chan and David Faiumu in returning home to Australia.