Castleford stars embracing underdog role in Betfred Super League

 | January 15 | 

5 mins read

Paul McShane Castleford Tigers 2024

It’s fair to say that Castleford Tigers were in need of a new direction after a chaotic 2023 Betfred Super League season. Just three games in, they sacked head coach Lee Radford and replaced him with his assistant Andy Last. But Last wouldn’t see out the campaign, losing 15 of 19 matches in charge before being shown the door in favour of former London Broncos boss Danny Ward.

Ward helped the Tigers to record a massive win over fellow strugglers Wakefield Trinity in his first game in charge and eventually led Cas to safety, but the club will be determined to steer well clear of bottom spot 12 months on as they aim for inclusion in Super League for 2025.

Under new coach Craig Lingard there is a feeling of a fresh start around the playing group, whatever the uncertainties surrounding the Tigers off the field. And ably supported by assistants Scott Murrell and former England international Danny McGuire – still Super League’s record try scorer, the former Batley Bulldogs chief has his squad looking forward to better times.

Castleford Tigers odds

  • To finish in top six - 5/1
  • To finish bottom - 5/1
  • Innes Senior to be Castleford's top try scorer - 3/1

Skipper Paul McShane has led the praise for the major alterations in the staff, telling Betfred: “We’ve gone through a fair bit of change so there’s a lot of fresh meat in there, who are looking forward to getting out there and representing Cas. With that change it probably lifts everyone around them and keeps people on their toes, which is good.”

On the coaching setup, McShane adds: “It’s been fairly smooth because we had Lingard and Scott Murrell for a fair chunk of last year, and bringing Magsy [McGuire] in is massive for us, what he’s done at Hull KR has been great, so it was a smooth transition and people are really buying into what they want from us.

“[Craig] is a chilled-out bloke, he cares, he wants us to do well and he’s really simplified how he wants us to play, so hopefully as a group we can do that when we go out and play.

“It’s only been positive so far, and I know people in pre-season say it’s the best one so far, but it has been really good, it’s been positive, it’s been tough. It’s probably been one of the toughest I’ve had for a while, especially being one of the older lads trying to keep up with these younger lads we’ve brought in, but it only brings healthy competition too, which is good.”

Half-back Jacob Miller adds that the focus on going back to basics has helped to create a more positive feeling in the camp: “There have been a lot of changes and I think we’ve kind of stripped it right back and just gone back to working really hard in the break. We’ve done a lot of running and a lot of running in the pre-season, making sure we’re fit and strong and our skill’s good. There’s a good work ethic within the new players who have come in and that’s hopefully going to help us.”

The Tigers have injected their senior lineup with a host of new faces, including Hull KR duo Rowan Milnes and Sam Wood, Huddersfield Giants’ Innes Senior and Lebanon international Elie El-Zakhem from the North Sydney Bears. And Miller believes such additions will help the Tigers to outperform expectations in 2024.

“Last year I think there was a little bit of hype and a little bit of pressure to do well with some of the signings we made and the squad we had, so I think the underdog tag this year will probably suit our group well.”

Castleford Tigers to finish in top six at 5/1

Star ultility back Jack Broadbent says the emphasis on youth is also a big deal. “It was like being at a different team when I came in on day one of pre-season,” he explains. “Craig’s come in and done a lot, put us on a clean slate. It’s a brand new environment so it’s really exciting to get going.

“We’ve brought the age of the squad down massively, which helps because we’ve got young, eager players who want to impress and want to play for Castleford. And bringing in a new head coach and a new assistant in Danny McGuire with the pedigree he has, when they speak, people listen.”

And the 23-year-old thinks there are small things Lingard has brought outside of training which will help to bring the squad together too.

“He just wants to build that togetherness in the squad. We’ve seen a lot more group-related activities, which might not be things on the training field, it might be things like getting us together for a coffee and things away from the field, but it’s building friendships and if you can have them bonds off the field then it can show on the field.”

The Tigers begin their 2024 campaign with a home fixture against the reigning Super League champion Wigan Warriors on Saturday, February 17 at 15:00 GMT.

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