Castleford hooker Paul McShane says he is determined not to let his first Grand Final experience end with a whimper tomorrow – after admitting he thought the chance to play at Old Trafford had passed him by after leaving Saturday’s opponents, Leeds.
McShane, a Leeds lad born and bred, was released by the Rhinos in 2013 forcing him to head across West Yorkshire to Wakefield and rebuild his career after failing to make his mark at Headingley.
And having eventually established himself as one of Super League’s best players, McShane admits he’s proud of how he’s battled his way to the top having spent his previous experience at Old Trafford watching from the stands.
He told TotalRL: “I definitely thought it had passed me by. I watched three Grand Finals from the sidelines as a squad player and when you leave a club as successful as Leeds, you think that’s it in terms of your chances of winning silverware.
“Thankfully, Wakefield gave me an opportunity to play on a regular basis and from my first couple of weeks at Castleford, I knew there was the opportunity to do something special.”
Given his prior connections with Leeds, it is perhaps inevitable that McShane will meet one or two friends on the pitch at Old Trafford on Saturday night. However, he may also see one of his former team-mates before that.
“They deserve it, do Leeds,” he said.
“They finished second and have been really consistent all season, and to beat Hull who are a huge threat, makes it thoroughly deserved for them.
“I normally go for a coffee on a Friday in Woodlesford with Danny McGuire actually, so if he’s in there during the week, we’ll grab a coffee.
“It’s strange, because we were all sat around the table on Monday at the press day having a laugh; that’s how strange rugby is that we’re mates one minute and then we’re bashing bits out of each other a few days later.”
And McShane admits he believes the Tigers, accused by many of being unable to handle the big games when they rolled around, are determined to repay the fans for their support this season.
He said: “People have tossed it up all year that we can’t win big games. It’s a bit frustrating to hear all the time but it’s nice to show people we can win tough; we weren’t great on the night but the way we did win shows we can do it and it shows the character we do have.
“It’s one of the things I love about Castleford. We’ll go to pre-season training in the early hours in January and there’s people in Castleford shirts walking around in the snow. They’re proud to be from Castleford and hopefully we can make them even prouder by getting our hands on that trophy. The support is outstanding and they deserve everything they get.”