Some wonder if last October’s Super League Grand Final was Castleford’s best chance of winning the big prize.
Not Daryl Powell.
The Tigers came so close to becoming Super League champions for the first time a few months ago, but were ruthlessly beaten by the masters of Old Trafford, Leeds, in the season’s showpiece finale.
But, as they aim to go one step further this season – which begins for the Tigers tonight at St Helens – Powell has delivered a Churchillian message to his players: don’t believe that was your best chance.
He told TotalRL: “I don’t worry about that. I was at Leeds in 1998 for the first Grand Final, and we lost that.
“That was an ageing team compared to this one, and while we won the cup the year after, losing the Grand Final drove us. I see something similar in this team – with the exception that this group are younger.
“They can maintain a quality standard for a number of years to come – I don’t think our best chance has gone. There will be some big challenges and we’ll have to deal with it, but it should motivate us and it should inspire us. What I’ve seen from the boys so far in pre-season suggests that is the case.”
“You move on. Things change pretty quickly and whatever happens in your life, time heals it. We’ve got a chance to take the next step, and that’s the focus now: to take the next step. We’re confident we’ve got the players to challenge everyone we play against – and I think it’s going to be a great season.”
Another suggestion the critics have made is whether Powell’s team will now have to change their free-flowing style of play. Teams, according to those ‘in the know’, now know all about Castleford’s style.
But Powell believes that was already the case before 2017 anyway.
He said: “I don’t think it’s a big issue. A lot of people have said that teams won’t be surprised by us this year, but we’d been playing a similar style of play since 2013. What we did was we showed some maturity and tightened up our defence – and we look like we could be even better defensively this year too, having changed a couple of things.”