After receiving positive news on the injury front Castleford Tigers expect to be near full strength for this month’s big Super League kick-off.
Although a full team’s worth of first team squad players have undergone operations or been nursing injuries in the off season their progress is such that Tigers boss Daryl Powell expects no more than three or four to miss the start of the 2014 campaign.
Prop forward Ryan Boyle is the most long term of the injury absences with April being earmarked for his return, but by the end of this month everyone else could be available, including centre Jake Webster, who has not played since last March.
Powell told the Express: “It’s pretty positive with just Ryan Boyle on the long term list. He will be out for a while still and he’ll be into April.
“The injured players are pretty much all getting there.
“We’ve had some good news with Jake Webster. He is in training at the moment and he’s building up. It’s good to see him out on the training field with the boys this week.
“Jake had a clean out and we are hopeful that by the back end of February he might be available.
“Jamie Ellis and Nathan Massey are not too far away and I’m hoping they are going to play against Dewsbury this weekend.
“Lee Gilmour is one we’re not sure about. He’s had some time off now after he had an infection in his knee after he had his operation.
“He’s one who is going to have to put a little bit of weight on and we’re checking on him to see if he has any swelling on his knee from the infection. Hopefully he will be okay soon.”
“Ashley Gibson’s been training with the team for a while and he made his return against Bradford last Sunday.
“Adam Milner has also come back pretty well and was in the squad at Bradford.
“We should have a pretty strong squad to choose from into the back end of February.”
Powell reported no further major injuries from the latest pre-season game at the Provident Stadium.
Outside back James Clare did pick up a knock to his chest which is causing him a few problems, but it is hoped it is not too serious to put him out of contention for the opening Super League match, back at Bradford on February 16.
Powell, meanwhile, is pleased with the way the players have knuckled down to training, particularly since the turn of the year.
He said: “I’m delighted with the way things are going.
“Obviously Boxing Day raised a few questions. I challenged the boys straight after the game and I have to say that since they came back after Christmas they’ve been sharp and pretty tough about the way they have gone about things.
“We’ve been running a lot of 13 on 13 games, which is a great tool to be able to do thanks to having a deep squad.”