While most of us will be enjoying Boxing Day with our feet up having eaten and drunk to excess the day before, some rugby league players will be taking to the field for their first pre season games in preparation for the upcoming season and Castleford Tigers are one of those teams.
Following a sensational 2017 which saw them fall at the final hurdle in the Super League Grand Final, the reigning League Leaders’ Shield winners are getting ready for their 2018 assault by, firstly, taking part in their traditional Boxing Day match at Wheldon Road against his former employers, Featherstone Rovers. This year, unlike many previously, the club have only three matches this off season with the 2017 Coach of the Year throwing down the gauntlet to his players, saying “make your chances count.”
In his squad for the match, Powell has named many youngsters alongside first team and squad players, stating further that “it should be a good test for us,” partly also due to the strong squad selected by Rovers for the match – a squad which features former Tiger Tom Holmes, sure to see him play in his first match for his new club. Powell expects this to be an added motivation for Holmes and other former Tigers in the squad, suggesting that “they will be looking to play well.”
Castleford’s players themselves have been back in training for around two months already with their coach feeling that they are itching to get back on the field, saying “it gives you a good gauge of where you’re at with the work you’ve been doing in pre-season.” The likes of Jake Trueman and Tuoyo Egodo – two hat trick scorers late on last season against Wigan and Hull FC respectively – are in line to play for the Tigers and may be two of the players Powell was referring to when he said that “there’s guys who have been given an opportunity to put a marker down for what’s coming up.”
With the likes of Luke Gale and Michael Shenton not included in the squad, there is an early chance for players in key positions to show their ability as the season approaches in the hope that they can feature more in the upcoming campaign. Powell himself will be keen to see if his squad can present him with selection dilemmas across the field while also demonstrating the depth available to him for 2018.