As they close in on finishing top for the first time in their 91-year history, Castleford coach Daryl Powell believes that the League Leaders’ Shield is the biggest prize possible in the sport.
Castleford can win the trophy for the first time ever on Thursday night should they avoid defeat to local rivals Wakefield at the Mend-A-Hose-Jungle.
Many still see the Grand Final as the ultimate accolade in rugby league in this country – but Powell disagrees, telling TotalRL that while they want to win both trophies, finishing top is the ultimate test of a team’s capabilities.
He said: “For me, it’s the biggest prize without a doubt.
“Winning the championship and finishing top is the truest test of being consistent over a whole season in my opinion.
“Warrington were the best team last year, regardless of what happened in the Challenge Cup and the Grand Final – they were the best team and they finished top to prove it.
“There’s now more prize money being given to it and I agree with (Leeds chief executive) Gary Hetherington; when we first started with the Grand Final concept a lot had to be put that way in terms of building it up – but for me, the best team finishes top. Although we want to win both, of course.”
However, Powell refused to underestimate Thursday night’s opponents in Trinity, who sit inside the play-off places themselves after a remarkable season.
“I’ve been around this game a long time and you can see when a side needs no motivation – they, like us, will have it in bucket-loads,” he said.
“It promises to be an outstanding game, doesn’t it? They played really well against Leeds and totally dominated them. They know how good we can be – but we know how good they can be too. They dominated us for 40 minutes at their place, after all.
“We don’t need to hide away from the fact that there’s a significant prize at stake this weekend but we’ve got to play well and be on our game – because Wakefield will be on it.”