TERRY Matterson believes competition for places can drive Castleford Tigers on to improve on last season’s efforts in the Super League.
The Tigers head coach does not want to publicly set a target for where his 2011 squad will finish, but regards it as stronger all-round than last term. And, if they can improve the defensive side of their game, the team can aim higher than 12 months ago.
He said: “If you look at the make-up of the sides I think there’s six or seven teams who have spent the salary cap and everyone’s expecting them to finish in the top eight so everyone’s saying that the rest of us are fighting for that one spot. Whether it works out that way I’m not too sure.
“I’m confident that we have improved our side. That remains to be seen, but everyone here is feeling pretty confident. We want to make the top eight, where I don’t know.
“I’m not too sure how far this team can go and I wouldn’t want to put a barrier on them. We want to go as high as we can.
“Everyone talks about the top eight because that gives you a chance to play semi-final football and we want to do that. If we can keep on improving each week the points in the table will take care of itself. Getting consistent performances week in week out is the key.
“I think it’s a more rounded squad than I’ve had here before. It’s got more experience and it’s more capable to be able to handle injuries and loss of form.
“We feel we’re on the right lines to improve on what we’ve done in the past couple of seasons. Other teams have improved so it’s really important we get better and I feel we have.
“There’s a lot more competition on for the spots in the team, which we haven’t had before.
“We’ve spent three or four years bringing these kids through and I feel about six of them are ready now to break through into Super League. Whether they do or not is up to them, but while they continue to play well and put pressure on there’s going to be some bigger names who miss out.
“There’s going to be some pressure on people to perform this year and if they are not performing well they won’t be on the team.”
Matterson is pleased already with the influence his new senior players are having on the youngsters and bringing in the vastly experienced Danny Orr (pictured), Nick Fozzard and Richard Mathers since the end of last season could prove to be key decisions, but the coach is also looking forward to seeing the contributions of all seven of his off-season signings.
He said: “There’s a lot of reasons to be excited. I’m happy with the way the squad is shaping up. The senior guys like Nick Fozzard, Richard Mathers and Danny Orr have been really good for the young guys and the new boys have fitted in well.
“It has been an encouraging off season with no hiccups at all and we’re all ready for the kick-off.
“We have more depth and we’ve got a good mix of youth and experience.
“If we have players out of form or with injuries we have some people ready to go to step in. Young guys like Olly Holmes and Jonny Walker are going to be hard to leave out.
“They’ll make me have to make some tough decisions and I don’t think that’s happened in the past.
“The form of the young guys is encouraging and I’m optimistic about what we can do with this team.”
Matterson outlined the one area his team would have to improve on was defence and they were working on cutting down the number of points conceded to less than the average last year.
He added: “Defensively we want to do better. We leaked too many points last year and probably again in the match with against Hull it’s probably too many points to leak.
“We’ve got to get the points against under 20 and we didn’t quite manage that. But there were some encouraging signs in that area.
“With the signings we’ve brought in we’re still going to able to move the ball around, but we need to be smarter at when to do it. The focus to defend some of our mistakes has got to be stronger and we’re working hard at that.”