It was at a stage during their defeat to Widnes that many Castleford fans realised just how big a miss Luke Dorn will be following his retirement at the end of the year.
Cas’ experienced Australian sat out their reverse at the hands of Denis Betts’ side last night, and the void he left was painfully evident at times.
Daryl Powell’s side was sloppy in their execution, with passes and offloads going astray at an alarming rate. His calming influence was evidently lacking during the defeat, and it isn’t the first time this season.
Cas’ record is only slightly better when he is in the side. They have lost just three of nine games he has played compared to five defeats in ten without him. However, he didn’t play a part in either of Cas’ two heaviest defeats of the season, against Warrington and Hull KR. In contrast, Dorn has featured in their two most comprehensive victories against Wakefield and Leeds while he scored in their fantastic victory over the Wolves at Magic Weekend.
His influence, or lack of it when he doesn’t play, can be compared to that of Kevin Sinfield’s at the Rhinos. They appear more vulnerable to a collapse without him and they tend to maintain their stranglehold on a game when he is pulling the strings out of the back.
The importance of a full-back has developed in recent years, and most sides would be weakened without their senior number one, but Dorn holds as big an influence as any of his backline counterparts in the competition.
But Castleford aren’t just losing a player, they are losing an influential person too. Sporting success has a complex formula, and ability is just one very small ingredient. Dorn has been a part of a culture change at Cas in the last few years. If you asked Powell, he might well tell you that Dorn has played a big part in that positive transition.
Pressure is now on Powell to recruit a suitable replacement, which is by no means an easy challenge. Denny Solomona was tasked with playing at full-back on Thursday, but his undoubted talents appear best served on the wing.
Recent talk has linked Brisbane Broncos star Greg Eden with a move to the club. If that move comes to fruition, Powell will be hoping he can follow in the footsteps of Solomona, Mike McMeeken and Junior Moors, who have all flourished since Powell snapped them up.
Powell has had fantastic success in recruitment during his time at Castleford, but his next move in the market could well be his most important as the club’s ongoing aspirations of a top four finish remain.