CASTLEFORD Tigers fan turned star in the making Daryl Clark has confirmed his commitment to his hometown club by putting pen to paper on a new five-year deal.
The teenage hooker tipped to go onto international honours will stay with Cas until at least the end of 2016 and insists that despite rumours of interest from other clubs he was always intent on staying with the club he has always supported after growing up almost within a stone’s throw of the ground.
A former Fryston Warriors junior and Airedale High School pupil, Clark exploded onto the first team scene as a 17-year-old at the beginning of the 2011 season, playing in nine of the opening ten games. He went on to score nine tries in 21 appearances in the season overall and is one of the hottest young properties in the game.
He told the Express: “I was aware of interest from other clubs, but there was nowhere else I wanted to play. I’ve always wanted to be at Cas and I’ve no ambitions of playing anywhere else at the minute.
“A lot of my mates and family are Cas fans and I’ve been getting a bit off them in the last few weeks, asking me what I was doing and if I was signing, but there was no doubt in my mind about going anywhere else.
“I’ve always been committed to the club and have grown up being a Cas fan, coming from just up the road.
“I’m pleased to show my commitment again by signing the five-year contract. It’s all I want to do to play for the club.
“It was an honour to play in the academy in the past there years and then to get into the first team has just been brilliant.
“Obviously I’ve played in the first team in the last year and personally I think I’ve done all right so the club’s rewarded me for that. The club has always told me they believe in me and they’ve always had faith in me.
“It was only four years ago I was sat in the stands watching games and dreaming of playing on the pitch myself. It’s amazing I’ve actually achieved that and I’m pleased I’ll be here for at least another five years.
“It’s a good place to be at the minute and there‘s good times ahead. It’s where young lads get an opportunity and you can see that from last season when about half of the first team squad were young players that have come through.
“It makes easier when you do get through that you are playing with people you have played with for a few years at lower level at the academy and stuff. You get to be good friends.”
Clark enjoyed his first full season in Super League and wants to kick on now next year.
He said: “I didn’t expect to play as many games as I did. Ryan Hudson got injured in the first game and Terry Matterson gave me an opportunity.
“He must have thought I’d done all right because he kept me in and around the side all year. I enjoyed every minute of it and it was a good year, it was just a pity we missed out in the semi-final and in the last game at Hull KR.
“I can’t wait to get into the pre-season and I’m looking forward to working with new coach Ian Millward.
“He’s come in and is trying to change a few things and I think it’s going to be a good experience to work with another coach.
“My aim for next year is just to carry on from last season and play as many games as I can, keep playing well and stay in the side.
“I’d like to push on and possibly get into the England Knights side. I missed out on playing for England Academy this year because of first team duties, but I would like to play for my country at some stage.
“I was called up to play for Scotland, but that’s not what I really want to do. Hopefully it will give me a better chance for next year with England.”
On committing Clark to the new contract, which replaces a three-year deal he signed only last year, chief executive Richard Wright believes the club have further underlined their ambitions for the future, having also given long term extensions in the past month to Man of Steel Rangi Chase and fellow home-grown talents Richard Owen and Adam Milner.
He said: “Daryl is a special talent, but he is also an outstanding young man. There has been huge demand for his services from a number of Super League clubs and it was a big priority that we kept him here.
“For him to see his long term future here with Castleford Tigers shows that he believes he can realise his full potential here.
“We are proving that we are prepared to reward our home grown talents with long term and improved deals when they have proven themselves on the Super League stage. Daryl is the latest example of this.
“He has already shown that he has what it takes to become a leading star in Super League and has proven that his unique style at hooker is applicable at this level. I fully believe that it won’t be long before we see him and Adam Milner both on the International stage together.
“Following Joe Arundel’s appearance for the England Knights at the weekend, Daryl is another success story for our youth development department and the board’s long term strategy of investing heavily in bringing our own players through to first team.
“It has taken a number of years for us to get to this stage but we are now seeing plenty of rewards and I’m confident there are more exceptional talents like Daryl to come through at Castleford in the near future.”