Castleford Tigers winger Kelsey Gentles believes their youthful squad could be the key to Challenge Cup glory in Warrington on Saturday.
Seven members of the Tigers squad to face Leeds Rhinos are under the age of 18, while the average age of the 20-strong squad is just 20 years old.
“This club has been working hard for two years now since we formed and this will be some of the girls’ first major final,” said 19-year-old Gentles.
“Quite often it’s the youngest players who go out there and give the biggest whacks because they aren’t thinking about anything else. They don’t think about who’s watching, or how certain things are going to affect them. To them, the game is the most important thing happening at that time so we’re not feeling the pressure. We’re just going to go out there and enjoy ourselves.
“Win, lose or draw, whatever happens we know we’re going to be here again, we’re determined about that.
“But we’re feeling quite confident. We know we’ve earned the right to be in this final – we have beaten St Helens, York and Bradford to get here. That Bradford game in the first round was huge for us given how easily we were turned over last year by some teams.
“We’ve earned the right to be here and compete with Leeds. We know we can give them a good game and whoever comes out on top will deserve it.”
Despite neither side not having played a league game since the semi-finals in mid-July, the Tigers will not be going into the game cold having taken part in, and winning, the recent London 9s Tournament – an experience sure to stand them in good stead when they get back out on the field.
“Playing in the London 9s is obviously different to what we’ll be doing on Saturday but it still gave us a chance to prepare and get our heads into a game before we actually play in the final,” added Gentles.
“We went into the tournament thinking of it as a bit of fun but we also knew it was a way of setting the bar and putting down a marker ahead of the final. It also gave us an extra opportunity to stay focused on playing and not going away from the game set up, which helps our preparation.
“Winning that, and knowing we can do a job when there is a prize at the end of it, was a major boost to us all.
“Being away for the weekend has also brought us even closer together as a group and that’s what you need as a team going into a game like this.
“If we could win the Challenge Cup it would phenomenal and a great way to pay the club back for all the support they have given us in letting us use their facilities and really getting behind us.”