Castleford coach Daryl Powell insists his ‘upstart’ side draw extra motivation from receiving little recognition in recent weeks – and believes they are out to prove they belong as an elite Super League side over the next fortnight.
The Tigers blazed a trail throughout 2017, finishing as runaway league leaders before reaching the Grand Final for the first time. They were also heavily featured in the Dream Team and scrum-half Luke Gale was named Man of Steel: while this year, it is a very different story.
Castleford did not receive a single nomination for either the Dream Team or Man of Steel this year – something Powell insists is fuelling his side’s preparation for tonight’s play-off semi-final with Wigan.
“There is some real motivation there for Castleford as a club. Take the Dream Team as an example; not one of our players is in there and I’m a little bit surprised by that,” he told TotalRL.
“It’s disappointing for the players but we’re going under the radar, like we have done all year. We’re the upstarts, aren’t we, in and amongst the ‘big’ clubs – but I love it. I love the challenge and we feed off every single bit of motivation we’ve got. It’s a fantastic challenge.”
When asked if he had mentioned the snubs to his players, he said: “It’s already been discussed, and I’ve spoke about it. It’s a motivation – we’re going out to prove we belong and if it helps get us over the line on Friday night, then fantastic.”
Powell also believes the heartache of last year’s Grand Final defeat to Leeds will also be a driving force for his side to win their first Super League title over the next two weeks.
He said: “They key is to be on it for the next two games, and hopefully we can do what we couldn’t quite do last year. It’s exciting for us, we’re going into a cauldron of emotion with Wigan, the atmosphere will be electric – but by the way, there will be 4,000 Castleford fans there too.
“Our fans, I reckon, will be just as noisy as the Wigan fans. We go there with confidence and we go trying to justify their incredible support. We are capable of doing something special.
“The pain we went through last year.. it makes us stronger. I think we’re in a great, great place. We’ve got a fantastic squad and a real determination to show that we belong in this mix. We have been a top-five side for the last four or five years, and we have nothing to fear. We need to enjoy this challenge, and we will.”