We don’t want to be one-sea­son won­ders says Tigers’s Shen­ton

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SUPER LEAGUE KICK-OFF - RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER Email: dave.craven@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @DCravenYPS­port

IN THE IM­ME­DI­ATE af­ter­math of their painful Grand Fi­nal de­feat against Leeds Rhi­nos, Castleford Tigers cap­tain Michael Shen­ton won­dered out loud whether the club’s best chance of lift­ing a maiden league cham­pi­onship had just dis­ap­peared.

You could un­der­stand his point; Tigers had roared to the League Lead­ers’ Shield – the first in their 91-year his­tory – ut­terly an­ni­hi­lat­ing teams at times, play­ing an ex­hil­a­rat­ing brand of rugby that left many op­po­nents clutch­ing at shad­ows.

They fin­ished a record 10 points clear of near­est ri­vals Leeds, rightly earned a place at a first Grand Fi­nal, had Coach of the Year Daryl Pow­ell at the helm, Man of Steel Luke Gale in their ranks along with four other Dream Team mem­bers and many more at the top of their game.

The time was right to fi­nally claim the ti­tle – only to de­liver by far their worst per­for­mance of the sea­son when it mat­tered most, meekly los­ing out 24-6 against Rhi­nos with a cat­a­strophic, er­ror-rid­den dis­play.

All the por­tents were there but they blew it and it was easy to see why – at that point – Shen­ton could feel they might never get another chance like it.

Move for­ward four months, how­ever, to the eve of the new cam­paign and the ex-Eng­land cen­tre has had plenty of time to re­con­sider that as­sess­ment.

Castleford start all over again at St He­lens on Fri­day and, asked if they can go one step fur­ther in 2018, he said: “It’s a big chal­lenge, but of course.

“Hav­ing had a look at it last year and the sea­son we had, we def­i­nitely want to back that up with another qual­ity sea­son and give our­selves the best op­por­tu­nity we can to get back in those big games.

“I think once you get a good feel­ing for it and you get a feel for those big games – that lit­tle taste of sil­ver­ware we got last year as well – you do get hun­gry for more.

“We don’t want to be a team that peo­ple say ‘ oh they had a good year that year’.

“We want to back that up; we want to know this group of play­ers is good enough to be chal­leng­ing for a long time.”

Clearly, af­ter per­form­ing so ab- FI­NAL MIS­ERY: jectly in that Old Traf­ford de­cider and also stum­bling at Hull FC in the Chal­lenge Cup quar­ter-fi­nal, there re­mains ques­tion marks about whether they can de­liver un­der pres­sure. It is some­thing Pow­ell hopes his squad will have learned from in readi­ness for this term and Shen­ton, too, be­lieves it can be­come a pos­i­tive.

“When you put your­selves up there at the top, you are up there to get knocked off,” said the 31-year-old, who en­joyed the finest form of his ca­reer last term.

“What you have got to do is use that bit of mo­ti­va­tion, but then not take too much no­tice of it.

“There’s plenty to prove, we know that – no­body needs to tell us we didn’t do the job at the end.

“It def­i­nitely hurts, but we are def­i­nitely hun­gry to do it again.

“It took a while to get over it, but I think we’re now ready to give it a good crack.”

Although the bulk of Castleford’s squad re­mains, there is one no­table ab­sen­tee in 2018 – Zak Har­daker, the Eng­land full-back who was sus­pended on the eve of that Grand Fi­nal af­ter fail­ing a drugs test which is ex­pected to see him banned for two years.

Nev­er­the­less, Pow­ell is renowned for his canny re­cruit­ment and with the likes of ex­plo­sive Pa­puan winger Garry Lo, ex-Hud­der­s­field Giants sec­ondrow Joe War­dle and for­mer Tigers half-back Jamie El­lis com­ing in, they are cer­tainly in a po­si­tion of strength.

Still, with the likes of War­ring­ton Wolves and Cata­lans Dragons ex­pected to be back in the top-eight mix af­ter dic­ing with rel­e­ga­tion last term, Shen­ton re­alises it is un­likely his side will ever have such a com­fort­able ride again.

“I think this year will be even tougher,” he said.

“There’s been lots of changes in and around the league, coaches and play­ers com­ing in and we are ex­pect­ing a real chal­lenge.

“It’s go­ing to be re­ally dif­fi­cult to be as con­sis­tent as we were last year, but that’s the goal.

“The win­ning men­tal­ity we grew last year is still there.

“We are in a good place to build on that and I think we’ve added some depth in some of the play­ers we’ve brought in.

“They are hun­gry to come in and do well.

“We’ve got play­ers who’ve seen what we did last year and want to play in those games and oth­ers who played and want to go one step fur­ther.

“We’ve got a good dy­namic in the team at the mo­ment and a great coach­ing staff.

“It’s a re­ally good feel­ing about the place, like it was last year, but ev­ery­one knows what we are about and we have to han­dle that.”

Saints, of course, lost out at Castleford in a thrilling and dra- matic Super League semi-fi­nal and are ex­pected to im­prove them­selves in 2018 un­der Aus­tralian coach Justin Hol­brook.

Fur­ther­more, the West York­shire club have not won at Saints since 1992 so their opener is un­doubt­edly an in­stant test.

Shen­ton – a 2011 Grand Fi­nal loser with St He­lens dur­ing two years away from Whel­don Road – ad­mit­ted: “It’s a big game and a good in­di­ca­tor of where we’re at.

“It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it’s all we are fo­cused on now.

“They will def­i­nitely be a big threat with the ball and they’ve al­ways got great in­ten­sity but we’re fresh and rar­ing to go.”

It will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see just how this Castleford team do re­act as they seek to make up for that big­gest dis­ap­point­ment of all.


Hav­ing won the League Lead­ers’ Shield at a can­ter, Castleford were hot favourites to win the Grand Fi­nal too. But cap­tain Michael Shen­ton and his men found mul­ti­ple Old Traf­ford vic­tors Leeds Rhi­nos too strong as the big­gest day in Tigers’s his­tory ended in bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.