Craig Lingard on why it went wrong for Andy Last at Castleford Tigers, what experience he never wants to have again and Danny Ward’s appointment

IT’S been an interesting season to say the least for Craig Lingard.

After leading Batley Bulldogs to the 1895 Cup Final at Wembley mid-season, he was also tasked – as assistant coach – to help Castleford Tigers stave off relegation.

Brought to the West Yorkshire club by former Tigers head coach Andy Last in early May of this year, Lingard watched Last lose his job in August before Danny Ward came in to help Castleford secure their Super League status for 2024.

For Lingard, it’s been an “interesting” ride.

“It’s been interesting, it’s a bit of a strange one and something I’ve never really experienced. It’s the first time I’ve been at a club where a coach has lost his job and then having to deal with the fallout from that and then waiting until the last two games of the season before survival has been secured,” Lingard told League Express.

“There were a few new experiences that I haven’t gone through before, so it’s been an interesting time. It’s been enjoyable as much as it has been difficult, it’s been a learning curve being in that full-time environment.

In terms of juggling the workload between Batley and Castleford, Lingard explained that it has been more difficult in terms of family life.

“It’s not been too difficult, Batley train Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday morning whilst Castleford train through the day so in terms of time constraints and clashes there have been very few. A few games clashed but at that moment in time Batley took priority and I missed a couple of Cas games because of that.

“It was more difficult for family life than rugby life because you are working all week during the day and in the evening with two games at the weekend. It took a lot of time away from home and family but there weren’t any real struggles in the work environment.”

The veteran boss explained how tough it was to see Andy Last lose his job after growing close with the ex-Hull FC assistant during the short spell the two spent together at The Jungle – and what he never wants to experience again.

“It was really difficult, I’d never met Lasty before I went to Cas but during the time I was there we built a good working relationship and that friendship was growing as well.

“When you see how hard someone works and how much commitment and desire they have to succeed and it doesn’t work out, it was really difficult because you feel a certain extent that you’ve contributed to that and let them down.

“It was really disappointing for Andy because I thought if we could get to the end of the season and then have a good off season where he could put his own stamp on the team then it might have been a different story. But, unfortunately, performances meant that we couldn’t get to the end of the season with him in charge.

“If results were based on effort and commitment, desire and hard work and detail that Andy went into, then we would have been top of the league but for some reason that didn’t work out.

“It’s an experience that I’ve taken a lot from and it’s one I certainly don’t want to go through again.”

So, why didn’t it work under Andy Last?

“It’s difficult to say (why it didn’t work out). I don’t think there was one contributing factor, there was a lot all together. I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of the Castleford following put him and Lee Radford together and classed them as the same individual.

“And I think with how it went under Lee Radford, all that was pushed onto Andy so I don’t think he had the greatest of starts.

“Coupled with that, I don’t think the performances were great all the way through the season but it’s a difficult one to put your finger on.”

With Last sacked, the Tigers brought in former London Broncos boss Danny Ward. But what did he change if anything?

“I don’t think he changed or tweaked a massive amount. Sometimes people think that a coach loses his job and someone else comes in that reinvents the wheel, but it wasn’t that at all.

“Danny came in with a different voice and outlook and sometimes when a different voice comes in you get a bit of a response from certain people.

“Obviously with some of the performances we put in towards the end of season in conceding a lot of points, it’s not like we won six games from six.”

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