Few players will be more excited than the New Zealander to see the new Betfred Super League season kick-off.
In his debut campaign for Castleford last year, having become the West Yorkshire club’s main recruit following his high-profile switch from Cronulla Sharks, Feki did not manage to play a single league match.
In his solitary competitive game for Daryl Powell’s side, a Challenge Cup loss against Hull FC in September, he lasted just 24 minutes before limping out with yet another injury blow.
Feki, who won the 2016 NRL Grand Final with Cronulla, had torn a calf muscle in a pre-season friendly against Toronto Wolfpack and, just days before his planned return in March, did it again in training.
But it was a knee problem that occurred against Hull, having barely touched the ball on his long-awaited debut, that subsequently saw him being ruled out for the rest of the term.
None of that was what he envisaged after moving across the world and the 29-year-old conceded: “It was a tough one.
“I came over, we did the Yorkshire Three Peaks as part of our pre-season training, and after that I just caught a few injuries. You could say it was the unluckiest year of my career: there was Covid and lockdown as well so it’s been tough not just for me but for my partner as well as she’s far away from her family.
“We just have to move on and hopefully I have a better year this time. I’m looking to change that around and get a few games in.”
Thankfully, the former Tonga winger is in good shape as he starts the second year of his three-year deal at Wheldon Road.
Moreover, if Powell can get him fit and firing from the off, it will essentially be like having a new signing in their ranks.
There is no doubting Feki’s prowess; a powerful ball-carrier, he scored 67 tries in 148 Cronulla games, establishing himself as one of the NRL’s best widemen, and was also an unused member of New Zealand’s victorious 2014 Four Nations squad.
That said, the Aucklander knows it is not a given he will be an automatic starter for Castleford: Derrell Olpherts made the most of his chances after joining from Salford Red Devils last year while the club also has one-time Super League top-try-scorer Greg Eden and the rangy James Clare to call upon.
“We have good outside backs and some depth there,” he added.
“So it is definitely a challenge for me just to get into the team.
“But I’m looking forward to it.”
Given there have been no games in front of crowds since last March, Feki is also excited by the prospect of actually getting to know Castleford’s ardent support when spectators are hopefully allowed to return at some point in the new campaign.
He admitted: “The fans haven’t really met me. So when I walk around the town no-one really knows me which is pretty good!
“But hopefully this year they can see what I bring to the team.”
Understandably, it was hard for him to settle in 2020 but, asked if he feels settled now, Feki replied: “Yes, right now we do.
“My partner’s finally settled in. She was a bit homesick but we’ve got each other and that’s all we need. At the end of this year, hopefully it (Covid) will be better and we can go see family.
“But everyone here’s really welcoming. It helps when you come into training and everyone’s saying ‘hello’ as I am quite a shy person so it’s hard for me to go up to them. And I’m looking forward to the footy.”
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