If there is one time of the year which reminds Greg Minikin just how far he has come, then it’s Magic Weekend.
The 22-year-old’s rise to prominence has been quite the story in the last year or so but, as he prepares to be involved in the game of the weekend at St James’ Park this weekend, Minikin can still remember seeing Magic Weekend from a completely different perspective.
“It’s a little bit different to how I remember,” he tells TotalRL. “I’ve been as a fan a few times when I was younger and I’ve always had a really good time so it’s good to get all the teams on the same pitch over the same weekend – it must be great to be here as a fan in this stadium.
“My team was Bradford, they weren’t actually playing when I came though! I just came for the laugh when my mates came – I went to Cardiff and the Etihad.”
Even as recently as 12 months ago, when Minikin’s professional dreams were starting to become a reality after signing full-time at Castleford a few months earlier, the winger was still a world away from being in the showpiece event at Newcastle.
He explains: “I played in the Summer Bash last year but I reckon it won’t be quite the same. Hopefully we’ll bring a big following and Leeds will do the same, and with all the other supporters too, hopefully it’ll be a really good game. I’ve heard a few people say Leeds owe us after last time but we’ll expect them to come out firing.
“I worked as a landscaper, digging holes and laying patios – it wasn’t great. I used to work for one of my dad’s mates in Harrogate. I never thought it would come to this; I was playing at York and there was a little bit of talk of me playing Super League but I never really bought into it until Cas took a chance on me. I’m still having to remind myself where I am.
“Sometimes you do have to pinch yourself and it is a bit surreal – but you’ve got to try and not get ahead of yourself. It is easy to score tries when you’re playing on the wing for Castleford.”
Castleford will aim to preserve their position at the top of Super League with victory against Leeds – but Minikin accepts the Rhinos will be fired up after their hammering at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle earlier this season.
“I would have thought they’d be fired up, it’s how I’d go about preparing for this,” Minikin says.
“We’ll have to be on top of our game to get the win this weekend. We played well that night; they were off and it was a highlight of our year to date but we want to do it again this weekend against them.”