Oliver Holmes is proud of the progress that Castleford Tigers have made since his graduation from the club’s Academy to the first team and the local hero is aiming to complete a remarkable journey with victory over Leeds Rhinos in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final on Saturday.
The second row has spent his entire career with the Tigers, and this season has racked up more first team appearances than in any of his previous five years as a full-time professional.
“Playing regularly has definitely been a positive for me,” said Holmes. “When I was first coming through we were down at the bottom of the league and, looking at where we are now, it gives me an even bigger sense of pride.
“A lot of clubs perhaps didn’t think that we would be where we are at the start of the season and Daryl Powell has really brought us together from pre-season.
“He has brought in the majority of the team of ’86 for inspiration. Unfortunately I missed the meeting leading up to the semi-final with a 24-hour bug but Daryl has brought them in for the previous rounds of the competition.
“For me, I have come through the Academy and have been here for seven or eight years altogether, five as a full-time player, and it is fantastic to get to the final. I get butterflies in my stomach thinking about it, and the semi-finals were unchartered territory for me as well.”
Castleford head to Wembley for the first time since 1992, looking for a first Challenge Cup win since 1986, and although the Tigers’ squad is young, Holmes is confident his side has the personnel capable of winning the competition.
“The older players have been exceptional this season with the younger lads,” said Holmes. “We aren’t an old team and although we do have quite a lot of experience, it is not in play-offs and finals – they are doing very well at keeping the squad grounded.
“We know that we are a team that needs to be on it all the time, we are not a team full of stars, we just work very hard for each other for 80 minutes.”
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