Castleford Season Preview
Ahead of the 2019 season we have contacted fans from our Super League opponents, to help to give us a steer on how they see the season going for their team.
Castleford Tigers are today’s club in focus and my thanks go to Darren Mattison and Terry Richardson for replying to the questions.
Darren has been watching Castleford since 1985 and has been a regular season ticket holder since 2004 – but the increased number of Thursday and Friday night games are making it more difficult to attend due to work. I’m sure there are quite a few Saints fans who echo this, especially with regards to disliking Thursday night matches and us having more Sunday afternoon games.
Terry is a life long Castleford fan who also played for the club between 1973 and 1983, notching up 2 Yorkshire County Cup wins (1977 vs Featherstone Rovers; 1981 vs Bradford Northern). Terry also represented England in a win over Wales at Old Craven Park in 1981. He loves watching all rugby league, including the Academy and Womens’ Super League sides.
After 30 rounds last year, Castleford finished 3rd and headed into another semi final, only to be beaten by eventual champions Wigan. Can you sum up last season as a Cas fan?
Terry Richardson: Last season – think we did fantastically well to finish in 3rd after losing key players for large parts of the season. Obviously disappointed with how it finished as in 2017 but taking everything into account it was a good season. The Zak Hardaker position had a big effect at the end of 2017 but carried on well into 2018 with our difficulty in replacing him. The big plus point was the emergence of Jake Trueman who will now be even more important after the latest injury to Luke Gale.
Darren Mattison: Very disappointed with the Wigan game but all in all happy with the season. Injuries to key players disrupted the squad all season so to reach the semi was good going.
Losing Luke Gale is a massive blow ahead of the new season – can your squad cope?
(Note: Since asking the questions Castleford and Huddersfield have swapped Jordan Rankin and Joe Wardle)
TR: We have 3 players who could step in to the gap left by Gale. All have question marks. Ben Roberts is experienced and can be devastating but has had lots of injury problems over the last few seasons. Whether he can endure a full season is open to debate. Jamie Ellis has filled in occasionally but I don’t think he can hold the position down long term. The last option is Corey Aston who has yet to play SL for the Tigers after joining from Leeds. Aston played in the friendly against a below average Featherstone side and was MOM in many eyes. Apparently his attitude to training which has been questioned in the past has improved considerably and as an 18 year old was tipped to go to the top and was picked up by Leeds Rhinos. Things didn’t work out and Cas brought him in (his dad Mark Aston and Daryl Powell go back a long way at Sheffield). Think he could be the answer if he maintains his attitude and has some luck.
DM: Yes. Gale was missing for most of last season, even when on the pitch. I personally think he missed Hardaker on the field but this year Cas are better prepared & when he comes back it’ll be a great boost to the squad.
No signings have come in in the off season (Cas added Liam Watts and Peter Mata’utia during 2018) is that a worry? Is there anywhere you’d like to strengthen in the squad?
TR: As for the squad – plenty fans have been moaning about not having sign any players in the off season but I agree with the club that the squad is strong. Mata’utia should make a big difference at full back and Liam Watts will have a big season and hopefully get rewarded with an England squad place. We have to settle on someone to replace Jake Webster in the centre and that’s a position where we need a bit of luck. There are 2 or 3 candidates – Alex Foster (utility), Greg Minikin and Tuoyo Egodo. Foster is a very good utility who can fill centre to cover short term injuries but I don’t think we can expect him to do it full time. Minikin looks like he wants to tie the spot down and has bulked up considerably over the off season. He needs a big season to start fulfilling his undoubted potential. Egodo is the dark horse and many fans would like to see him given a chance. If he doesn’t break into the team for at least 5 or 6 games I think he’ll be on his way.
DM: Every Cas fan will tell you our back line looks weak & yes it worries me.
Who should we be looking out for in a Tigers shirt this year (and why)?
TR: As for the young players Jake Trueman, if he carries on progressing, could be one of the Super League’s shining lights. I just hope he doesn’t get bogged down with responsibility now Gale is missing. Another player who forced his way into the team last year was Mitch Clark and I hope he also progresses to become a regular. That will be hard for him though as we seem to have plenty of competition in the forwards.
DM: Jake Trueman & Peter Mata’utia. A big year for Jake & I think he will shine with having last year under his belt. With a full pre season with us I think he’ll be up with the best full backs in the comp.
Which of your young players is most likely to break into the first team this year?
TR: Out of the young untested players we have a couple who could be exciting and in fact remind me of two Saints players. Calum Turner is a young fullback who made his debut last season. He played off the bench as a winger a couple of times and on his only full appearance at fullback won the MOM in an excellent win at Warrington. He reminds me of a young Jonny Lomax with his running style and his all-round game. The other is a young winger called Lewis Carr. He plays the game in the mould of Tommy Makinson – is quick and finishes well. He will be lucky to feature this season but is definitely one the club have high hopes for in the future.
DM: Calum Turner. I can see Cas making the same mistake they did with Hardaker by not replacing him. We haven’t replaced Jake Webster & can see Mata’utia being moved to centre. That would give Turner the opportunity. A cracking young full back.
The Super 8’s have gone and the top 4 play offs have been replaced with the top 5, theoretically giving the top place team a better chance of reaching the Grand Final – are you in favour of the changes?
DM: Yes I’m in favour of the changes, I never liked the top 8 system.
How do you think Cas will go in 2019? (Where will they finish, Cup run etc)
TR: As for how we’ll fare in 2019 – with teams like Saints and especially Warrington & Leeds spending big on marquee players it’s going to be harder than ever to make the top 5. If we have a decent run injury wise I think we have the squad to get there and the hopefully the experience gained in the last 2 seasons might help us to climb the top step. Don’t have much an opinion on the Challenge Cup as it seems to be becoming less important and harder to predict.
DM: I’d be happy with a top 4 spot but we want some silverware now
How do you think the Saints will go in 2019? (Where will they finish, Cup run etc) Which player are you most worried about when we face each other?
TR: As for Saints I wouldn’t be surprised to see them top the league again but it will not be as clear cut as 2018. They will definitely make the 5 and then like with Cas it will be a question of will lessons learnt in 2017/8 help to go out as winners at Old Trafford. I think your pack should develop into the most feared in the league. Can’t fail to be impressed by the amount and level of player brought though your junior system. The sheer number of quality young forwards in the squad is something to envy and it’s a thing I hope Cas can replicate a little more over the next few years! Luke Thompson is phenomenal and would be the player I am most looking forward to watching.
DM: I can’t pick a stand out Saints player, they have so many. In my opinion, Saints are favourites to win the lot.
Top 5, 1) Saints 2) Wire 3) Wigan 4) Cas 5)Leeds
Grand Final: Saints v Wigan
Challenge Cup Winners: Cas
Man of Steel: Hardaker