Niall Evalds is relishing the prospect of being part of the new era at Castleford.
Fullback Evalds is seen as key figure in new coach Lee Radford’s plans for 2022 and he can sense a new atmosphere around the club as the Tigers hunt silverware.
“I’ve not been here long term and it was all new for me last year, but it’s definitely a different environment and style of learning this year,” Evalds explained.
“It’s always exciting to learn under someone new; I think you become a better player when you learn from different viewpoints.
“Radders has brought in his own style and how he wants to play; it’s not been massively tweaked but there is definitely a change around the club.
“All the boys love him.
“He works hard, he’s brought his own staff in and that’s been a big change for everybody.
“Pre-seasons are always tough, but it’s been exciting, learning how Radders wants to play.
“It’s not a huge difference, and now we’re building towards the season and getting some combinations going in the friendlies.
“We want to be up there contending and playing in finals.”
Asked about whether his own role in the team will change, Evalds responded: “Everyone pretty much uses the fullback as a ball handler out of the back, which is pretty similar for most teams.
“Radders has made some tweaks on how he wants me to defend and with the ball I’m looking forward to being that link between the halfbacks and backs and hopefully get some tries and assists.”
Evalds himself had an unforgettable 2021.
The 28-year-old won the Lance Todd Trophy, earned his first England cap, signed a contract extension, got married to Sophie and had his first son August.
“We had our little boy and then got married in December, so those were two massive highlights off the pitch,” he said.
“We became a family last year, which has been amazing.
“I had my first year at Castleford and got to a Challenge Cup Final, although unfortunately we didn’t win. But was a big day for all the boys involved.
“Then I played for England, which I wanted to do for a long time.
“The injury to Sam Tomkins was unfortunate, but it gave me an opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do.
“It was a proud moment for me and my family to pull on the England jersey. I’d been in the Knights set-up for a few years and to step up was an amazing day that I’ll never forget.
“Then I had the contract extension. There was a lot of speculation when I signed a one-year deal, but it was to do with Covid and the financial uncertainty at clubs at the time.
“That allowed them a bit more time and I was always going to sign an extension.
“It was a big year; we’ve not had much sleep at times but it’s amazing for me and my family.”
Evalds has two key targets to ensure 2022 can be just as successful for him personally.
“The World Cup at the end of the year will be a big aim for a lot of players,” he added.
“There’s a lot of competition at fullback from Zak Hardaker, Jake Connor and some other outstanding players.
“It’s something to aim for but I have to take care of things at Castleford first. We want to win a trophy this year and be up there.
“The aim week-by-week is to make sure the performances are there for the fans and we want to take the next step and win something.
“Castleford have made it to finals and big games before and just missed out. We want to take that next jump, although it will be tough with Saints and Warrington looking strong.
“But we’re confident that we can have a big year.
“Daryl Powell did an amazing job and it was great to work with him for a year; I learnt a lot.
“This pre-season has been different for all of us but there’s a real positive vibe around the place.”
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