Alex Mellor on Leeds Rhinos exit, play-off heartbreak and having ‘fire back in belly’ at Castleford Tigers

ALEX MELLOR says he has the “fire back in my belly” ahead of his first full season at Castleford Tigers.

The backrower is at his fourth West Yorkshire club following previous stints at Bradford Bulls, Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos.

He departed the latter midway through last year, leaving early for Castleford in June ahead of an expected move at the end of the campaign.

Mellor made eleven appearances as the Tigers narrowly missed out on a Super League play-off place, but with two more years on his contract he has returned excited for a big year.

“I definitely feel that fire back in my belly, of really wanting to compete and win something,” said the 28-year-old.

“The change was good for me. It was a fresh start. I got some games in last year so I got to know everybody, settled in and I know how things work and what the club’s about.

“The only hard thing about the switch was committing to it and deciding it’s what I wanted to do. Once I committed, it was a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m really glad I did.

“It happened in a couple of days; Leeds had just switched coaches with Rohan (Smith arriving). They weren’t sure where they’d fit me in, so I just took the onus on myself and made the leap.”

Mellor’s first return to Headingley was a bittersweet one, as Castleford lost a final-day decider for a play-off place in the final minutes to his old side.

“With eight minutes to go you can’t stop the thoughts in your head of ‘what a feeling this would be to win, I hope we can cling on’,” he recalled. 

“It was quite heart-wrenching to lose, especially in the fashion that we did. It was a game I obviously really wanted to win to get us in the play-offs and there was a bit of personal pride at stake as well, playing Leeds.”

Mellor says he was able to forget the disappointment quickly, however.

“You wear a few bullets in this game and you get to a stage where you can shrug off a loss like that,” he said. 

“Don’t get me wrong, it hurts at the time, but once you’ve had a sleep there’s nothing you can do about it and you’ve got to move on from it. 

“When you start to dwell on things, that’s when it becomes a negative spiral.”

Now all his focus is on the 2023 season, and Mellor has been rated by some at Castleford as among the most impressive in pre-season.

He said of his attitude: “I always try and be the best, the fittest and the strongest, so if someone is outdoing me, I take it personally. 

“I think I make that apparent as well, as I drag other people into that competitive mindset. The result is that we all become better together.

“All through my life, I’m competing and trying to be the best.”