Video: Castleford is place to be, says captain Shenton

CAPTAIN Michael Shenton says signing a new long-term deal with Castleford Tigers was the “easiest decision” he has ever had to make during his career.

Castleford's Michael Shenton is tackled by Mark Percival of St Helens

The England centre still had a year left to run on his deal with his hometown club, but has now extended it by another three to the end of 2019.

Securing the signature of such a classy player, who won a place in the Super League Dream Team this year and was deemed deeply unlucky not to feature against New Zealand, demonstrates that aspiring Castleford are certainly a club on the up.

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Indeed, Shenton believes actually winning some silverware – he led them to their first Challenge Cup final in 22 years in 2014 before losing against Leeds Rhinos – should be the next step under the guidance of Daryl Powell, the head coach who has transformed the West Yorkshire club’s fortunes in recent seasons.

Castleford's Michael Shenton is tackled by Mark Percival of St Helens

“It was pretty much the easiest decision I’ve had to make in rugby league since I’ve started,” he said, about the new contract.

“It’s the club I care about and, since Daryl took over in the last couple of years, I love my role here and I love playing again.

“They’re such a great set of lads and coming back in for pre-season training and seeing the boys working so hard, I’m excited by the ambition; you can feel it – on and off the field – and I just thought this is the place to be.”

Shenton came through the Academy at Castleford, making his first-team debut in 2004, and he has spent his career at Wheldon Road aside from a two-year stint at St Helens.

A dynamic centre who has scored 130 tries in 240 games for the club, he feels his best form could still be in front of him.

“I feel great now and do think I’ve developed even more as a player over the last couple of years,” he said.

“But I’m still learning. Being experienced helps me. It helps the boys on the field and my decision-making as a captain.

“I’m still developing that kind of role, but am really enjoying it as well. It brings the best out of me. Hopefully I’ll keep getting better and 2016 can be the best year I’ve had yet.”

Shenton hopes, too, that during the next four years he will be able to lead Castleford out at a planned new purpose-built 10,000 capacity ground as part of a £135m development in Glasshoughton.

“That is definitely something to look forward to,” he admitted, as an expected departure from their traditional, atmospheric home of Wheldon Road moves closer.

“Looking at the long-term future it’s definitely in the pipeline. I’m not sure which year it will happen, but there’s the chance to do that.

“You never know if I’ll be captain or not. But just to be part of that transition will be special.

“Moving to Cas’s new home is pretty exciting for the club as a whole and thinking about where it can go from there.

“As much as this place is special in peoples’ hearts and holds a place within rugby league it kind of holds the club back off the field so much, too.

“So, to see the club grow and develop as a business is quite exciting for me as well.”

He will be 33 when his new contract expires so, theoretically, could finish his career at Castleford.

Shenton said: “You never know, but it’s nice to have long-term security there. It means I can just focus on my rugby now. That’s what helped me on my last deal as well. It means I’ve got four years of security now and I can just focus on that and role developing as a captain and as a person.

“Daryl’s big on that – growing as a person and helping out with the team with the young boys coming through, which is a big part of the club as well now.

“There’s some great talent coming through.”

Castleford have also signed former Hull FC centre Ben Crooks from Parramatta Eels plus prolific Warrington Wolves winger Joel Monaghan and Featherstone Rovers utility-back Jy Hitchcox for 2016 to bring fresh blood into their backline alongside Shenton.

They finished fifth last season, just outside the play-off spots, having earned a best Super League finish of fourth the year before.

Powell added: “Michael has been a massively important player for us in the two and half years I have been at the club.

“That’s not just in his game and the quality of it you see on the playing field, but his leadership off the field and his influence in the group is hugely positive.

“It’s great news when someone who has that high a standing within the club wants to stay on a long-term deal.”