Ben Roberts has offered a frank admission that life as Castleford Tigers’ first-choice fullback has been a major challenge: but he insists it is one he is slowly warming to.
Ahead of tonight’s Grand Final rematch against Leeds at Elland Road, Roberts – who has transitioned from half-back to fullback following the departure of Zak Hardaker, has lifted the lid on just how tough the adjustment has been.
However, he admits it is a challenge he is enjoying – and is confident that as the weeks progress, both he and Castleford will steadily improve as they go in search of a fourth successive win tonight.
“It’s been challenging,” he admitted to TotalRL.
“I always knew it was going to be, but the thing I’m happy about is that I’m improving every week, and as long as I keep doing that, I’ll be going in the right direction.
“There are a lot of factors behind why I’ve had a slow start; only having a three-week pre-season after the World Cup was one, but again, nothing simulates match fitness and playing games, and that’s something that is definitely helping the more I play.
“It’s a very physically demanding position, especially in our team and the way we like to play. But I’m enjoying every minute of it, and I’m still learning as the weeks go on. That’s probably why I’m enjoying it at the moment. We’re in a good place as a team, we seem to be improving too alongside myself, and we’re getting there.”
Roberts also admits he is hopeful the backdrop of a potential record-breaking crowd at Elland Road tonight will help bring the best out of himself and his Castleford team-mates, as the Tigers begin an interesting run of fixtures against several of their fellow title contenders.
“To play against a team like Leeds, who are performing well at the minute, at a big venue.. those are the games you want to play in,” Roberts said.
“It’ll be good for us to see where we’re at as a team which will be nice, and we’re looking forward to it.
“It’s going to be a tough period of fixtures – and all in the space of about 10 days. We’re looking forward to the challenge, and it’ll be a good indicator as to where we’re at.
“We sat down this week and spoke about the importance of playing at such an iconic venue. I didn’t know too much about it until the boys filled me on it, and there’s some die-hard Leeds United fans in our team who are excited – and that gives everyone else a bit of a lift.”
And with last week’s game against Wigan postponed just hours before kick-off, Roberts admits he’s simply looking forward to hopefully stringing a run of games together – which will benefit the entire Tigers squad.
“You’re looking to play week in, week out so you can build cohesion as a team, and unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that,” he said.
“But we’ve been training pretty hard on the field regardless, and hopefully that will have some sort of positive impact and we can produce a good performance on good Friday night. Nothing can simulate actual games and game-time. It is what it is though; we’re doing the best we can to manage it and hopefully you’ll see that on Friday.”