CASTLEFORD Tigers boss Terry Matterson (pictured) reckons his players will be up for the challenge when they resume their Super League campaign with a testing trip to Warrington tonight.
The Carnegie Challenge Cup proved a pleasing distraction for the Tigers when they ran in 13 tries at Rochdale and the head coach hopes that has given them the confidence boost they needed after three straight defeats and a crushing loss to Leeds Rhinos.
Cas know they face an all together different proposition against a Wolves side that has run up some big scores this year and is rated as genuine title challengers by Matterson, but they are determined to get back to their early season form with the week’s break from the league helping to freshen everyone up.
Matterson told the Express: “It’s a tough test next at Warrington, but it’s one we’re really looking forward to.
“We’ve performed pretty well this season and they are one of the bench marks, especially playing them away.
“But we’ve won there before in recent seasons and it doesn’t scare us going to Warrington.
“There’s no tougher challenge with the form they’re in this season so we know we have to be at our best, but we’re excited by the challenge.
“It would be nice to bounce back after the last game on television against Leeds when we didn’t put in a good account of ourselves.
“One match doesn’t give you the bench mark, it’s over a heap of games, but if we go to Warrington give a good account of ourselves and turn them over it will show how good we can be.
“They’ve got some good players right through the team and they’re pretty healthy. I think they’ve only got Richie Myler and Ben Harrison out and have quality players to replace them. They’ve got threats all over the park.
“Warrington and Wigan are probably the stand-out teams at the moment and they are definitely title contenders so it’s going to be a real challenge for us.”
Matterson expects to have several players back after they missed the Rochdale trip, but will still be without four injured players in Willie Isa, Nick Youngquest, Jonathan Walker and Craig Huby.
He said: “It looks like Richard Mathers will be back to play against his former club and I’m hopeful Brett Ferres will be available. He’s been on the England training camp so we’re not certain, but he should be okay..
“I’m confident Martin Aspinwall, Stuart Jones and Paul Jackson will also be back and they are in the frame.
“Nick Fozzard came through the Rochdale game fine after his injury and that was another bonus of the weekend. It was a good opportunity to give him a bit of match time and he came through it okay so he’ll be right as well.
“Ryan McGoldrick started at stand-off and came through okay so he’s also in the frame for Friday.
“But Willie Isa won’t make it. He’s coming along, but it’s a slower recovery than we thought and he won’t be available this week.”
One player set to feature in his first Super League game of the season is prop forward Nathan Massey after a strong showing and two tries in the Rochdale cup tie.
But 19-year-old Greg Eden returns to the under 20s side despite impressing Matterson on his senior competitive debut. His day will come, however, according to the coach.
He said: “We had some injuries and the people left out weren’t 100 per cent. Sometimes you’d risk them, but we felt the opportunity was there to give Greg Eden a run, as he’s been playing really well, and Nathan Massey as well as we wanted to have a good look at him. They turned out to be two of our better players.
“Besides scoring the tries Nathan looked really strong. He’s put himself right in the frame for Friday night and he’ll be in the 17.
“He was unlucky to miss out on the last game with Leeds, in hindsight, but he’s got his chance now.
“He’s had a couple of opportunities previously and probably hasn’t grabbed them, but everything he does in training suggests he can handle Super League and he’s probably more ready now. I’m looking forward to seeing him play.
“Greg looked really sharp. He is working hard and it is pleasing to see him come in and do so well. He’s certainly someone we’re looking at in the future to move him into the first team squad – it’s just a matter of time for that one.
“I’m not too sure what his best position is yet. He can play full-back, wing, centre and a little bit of stand-off as well. Obviously we’re fairly well off for full-backs so the fact he can play in three or four positions is handy and he’s looking really good.”
Matterson was pleased with the way his team overcame a tricky start to convincingly see off the challenge of Rochdale last Sunday.
He added: “Credit to the opposition. They came with a plan and kicked two 40/20s in the first five minutes of the game, which probably shocked us a little bit, and scored a try off a grubber kick.
“We dropped quite a bit of ball and in the first five sets we only completed one, but once we got back to controlling the ball we were fine.
“It was good to just get back and have a good win after the disappointing Easter. Obviously the hit-out wasn’t overly taxing on us, but getting that win should help confidence, which is something we’d been a little down on.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers have made 1,000 free junior tickets for the home game with Harlequins available on a first-come-first served basis at the Carlton Lanes club shop.
The junior ticket giveaway is part of the club’s marketing plan to aim for a 10,000 crowd for the Super League game on Sunday, May 29. The free tickets are for collection only at the club shop and are capped at a maximum of three per person.
England forward Gareth Ellis, currently playing for Wests Tigers in Australia, has expressed a wish to finish his career with Castleford.
The 30-year-old former Wakefield and Leeds second-rower remains contracted to the Sydney club to the end of 2013, but he told the Australian Rugby League Week magazine he would love to play for his home-town team.
He said: “I’d love to go back to Castleford. It’s the team I grew up watching home and away. It’d be like my career played out perfectly.
“They’re going pretty good. They’re showing signs of improvement and they’ll have a new stadium in a year or two. It would be good.”