GIVEN he has just celebrated his 300th Super League game and the vast majority came in Castleford Tigers colours, it is understandable how captain Michael Shenton has experienced all manner of things at Wheldon Road.
Promotions, relegations, financial difficulties, a Grand Final, Challenge Cup final, numerous renditions of Sweet Caroline and even sharing a changing room with Olympic sprinter Dwain Chambers.
Yet that only begins to scratch the surface.
When the former England centre is retired, and looks back on his career, Friday’s 16-12 win over Wigan Warriors might not instantly be recollected as vividly as walking out at Wembley or Old Trafford.
Nevertheless, there is already an appreciation from Shenton of just how important the against-all-odds triumph was.
Depleted Castleford sit with two victories from two in the new Super League season ahead of playing Catalans Dragons in the south of France this Saturday.
The campaign is scarcely even embryonic but there is much to cheer in Daryl Powell’s side.
“It was a terrific night all round and I can’t even count how many players we had out missing,” Shenton told The Yorkshire Post, with the answer being a dozen.
“We only had one session going into the game. It was only a five-day turnaround from our first match against Toronto.
“Wigan had an eight-day turnaround; it’s a big difference. But the coaches backed us just to do that one session all week and some of the young guys to come in and do a job for us. They played well, the middles were outstanding and our halves and Macca (hooker Paul McShane) did a really good job controlling the game; speeding it up when needed and slowing it down towards the end when Wigan started chasing.
“They did some really smart things but I think there’s plenty more in the bag as well; there’s lots of opportunities that we didn’t quite take. We didn’t mind that, though. We knew it was always going to be a tight game.”
It was the sight of three youngsters coming off the bench which left Shenton and plenty of Castleford fans thrilled.
Forward Sam Hall is still just 17, just as Shenton was when he debuted – also against Wigan – in 2004, while Lewis Peachey and Jacques O’Neill are also products of the club’s academy.
Shenton, 33, recalled: “I remember by debut and it is an intimidating time.
“Sammy’s only 17 and he’s not with us full-time; he’s in and out of first-team training and I think he’s still at school.
“He’s still not properly a man at that age so to come in and play in the middle, it’s a bit different to be chucked in on the wing like I was.
“He did a good job and hopefully he’ll keep developing now.
“They all did well – Peachey having another crack at it, Jacques doing an important stint – those guys came on and did really well as did Junior (Moors) back into the side after a long lay-off.”
At 33, veteran New Zealander forward Moors was the only old head among those replacements but Shenton admits youth is central to the West Yorkshire club’s ongoing development.
“We’ve spoken for a while now how we have a hotbed of rugby league talent in our area,” he said.
“But we’ve had a period where we’ve not been able to get as many through our system as much as we’d like. So this is showing the benefits of Cas changing the direction of the club – promoting more youth and developing more kids through our own system.
“The more we can do that the better. You’ve seen the rewards clubs like St Helens, Wigan and Leeds have had in the past doing that and showing faith in the kids is the only way to do it.”
Catalans will be well-rested after Sunday’s game at Wakefield Trinity was postponed due to Storm Ciara while – just a fortnight after facing Sonny Bill Williams and Toronto – Castleford could now be the first opponents for the controversial Israel Folau.
“Catalans have only had that one game we’ve seen them (Huddersfield loss) but we’re more focused on us,” said Shenton.
“In that Toronto game, there was a lot of bluster – all the people coming in there, a new team in the comp’, a sell out – and we got told to not get caught up in that.
“We didn’t. It was the same for Wigan; short turnaround, guys coming in, pretty simple gameplan but let’s just get it done.
“Catalans will be the same. Of course Sonny Bill was a big talking point and this (Folau) will be the same sort of thing but I don’t want to talk about that.
“If we keep defending like we have, hanging tough we’ll be in with a real shout. I could tell straight away some of the stuff we’ve worked on pre-season has really paid off. Let’s keep it going.”