CASTLEFORD coach Terry Matterson (pictured) does not know whether he will be still in Super League in 2012 but he is adamant the Tigers should be.
Castleford could be one of the clubs at risk when the Rugby Football League hand out the new three-year Super League licences in July.
One current club will be relegated to the Championship to make way for Widnes, who have already been given the nod to return to the top flight, and a second could follow if the RFL’s board of directors decide that Halifax have a strong enough case for promotion.
The Tigers’ new stadium will not be ready until the start of the 2013 season but, under Matterson, they are making an extremely strong case for a new licence on the pitch with their best-ever start to a Super League campaign.
They go to Harlequins on Friday top of the table after winning seven of their opening eight matches and have a game in hand on most of their rivals.
Matterson also believes the club have got most things right off the field, pointing to a prudent financial administration and the presence of a host of local players in his Super League team as evidence of a successful youth policy.
The good times have arrived for Matterson, who took over at Wheldon Road following their promotion from the old National League in 2005 and stayed loyal despite relegation at the end of his first season in charge.
“It’s been tough but they’re a real good example of how the franchise system works,” he said. “I think they’re a blueprint for it.
“We’re still not spending anywhere near the salary cap - our resources are stretched - but we’re doing the best around what we have.”
Despite operating on a shoestring budget, Matterson guided the Tigers to the play-offs in 2009 and has taken the team to a new level this year despite the departures of home-grown high-profile duo Joe Westerman and Michael Shenton.
Matterson plugged the gaps with the signing of former captain Danny Orr, as well proven operators like Richard Mathers and Nick Youngquest and experienced campaigners Martin Aspinwall and Nick Fozzard, while the emergence of exciting youngsters Joe Arundel and Daryl Clark have provided an unexpected bonus.
“It’s not one or two things, it’s a whole lot of things,” said Matterson. “We have had a bit of luck and we had a great off season.
“The newcomers all have a good work ethic, the young guys have come through quicker than we expected and those already there, guys like Kirk Dixon and Craig Huby, are all playing well.”
It says much for the current array of talent that the Tigers have not missed experienced Australian utility man Ryan McGoldrick, who proved invaluable in the past but has yet to play this season due to a knee injury.
“We came to rely on him and it has probably been to his detriment,” said Matterson. “He probably played when he shouldn’t.”
McGoldrick made his comeback for the club’s Under-20s last weekend and is set to return to Super League action over Easter.
However, Matterson is anxiously waiting to discover the extent of a knee injury sustained by leading tryscorer Youngquest, who took his try tally to eight in just seven matches with a brace in their 52-20 win over Salford on Sunday.
“We’re crossing our fingers because Nick has been a wonderful buy for us,” said Matterson. “He definitely won’t be playing this week and he could be a bit of a concern.”
The Tigers will also be without another of their close-season signings, Willie Isa, who missed the win over Salford because of a one-match ban and ruptured ankle ligaments in training.
Meanwhile, Matterson is out of contract at the end of the season and has yet to decide whether to seek a renewal.
Only fellow Australian Justin Morgan, who took over at Hull KR in July 2005, has been with his current Super League club longer than Matterson, who spent three years as a player with London Broncos before the advent of Super League.
“I’ve been here nine years, counting the three I had in London, and I’ve loved it,” he said.
“We want to go back to Australia - that’s where we see our life in the future - but whether that’s at the end of the year or two years or whatever, I don’t know.
“At the moment, I’m not looking down the track. I’m really concentrating on what we’re doing now.”