Castleford Tigers' Paul McShane insists he is under no pressure - despite Man of Steel award
Man of Steel Paul McShane has a lot to live up to this season, but says he doesn’t feel under any pressure.
The Castleford Tigers’ hooker was hailed as Betfred Super League’s best player in 2020, based on ratings after every match and the casting vote of all-time great Ellery Hanley.
McShane’s award came despite a disappointing season for Tigers who slipped from second in the table before the coronavirus shutdown to an eventual eighth-place finish.
The former Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity man will be pivotal to Castleford’s hopes of getting back into contention for silverware, but insisted he is “just excited to try and build on” last year’s form.
McShane, 31, said: “It was a strange one, I base my game on how we are as a team.
“After lockdown it was pretty frustrating we weren’t getting the results and I think that showed in how shocked I was at getting Man of Steel.
“I base things on our team performance and winning things as a team.”
McShane was the second Tigers hooker to win the European game’s top individual honour, after Daryl Clark in 2014 - and the club has another youngster emerging in the same position.
Cumbrian Jacques O’Neill caught the eye with some feisty performances last year and McShane reckons he has a bright future.
“He is great, Jacques,” McShane said.
“He is really settling down into a first team player.
“When he first came on to the scene he was probably a bit erratic with his game, which we all are when we’re young.
“We just want to go out there and impress, but now he is getting a composure to his game as well which is only going to benefit him in the long run - and the fact he can play a bit of 13 as well gives him more chance of getting into the 17 each week.”
McShane feels Tigers have more strength across the board now than last term, when injuries took a severe toll on their form.
“I think the lads that are here from last year, a fair few of them got a bit of experience with other players getting injuries,” he recalled.
“The players we have brought in are established Super League players.
“I think if you look at our squad list, from one to 26/27 they have all had a fair few Super League games, so if someone were to pull out of a game there’s a ready made replacement there.”
Tigers travel to Hull KR on Sunday for Adam Milner’s testimonial match and begin their Super League campaign 14 days later against Warrington Wolves at Leeds’ Emerald Headingley.
McShane - who had minor shoulder surgery in the off-season - said: “Everyone’s desperate to get out there, it feels like it has been the longest pre-season ever.
“I think everyone’s chomping at the bit to right a few wrongs.
“There’s a good feeling and I think that’s down to the depth we have.
“People are training hard and competing with each other and pushing each other to get in the first 17.”
Of his shoulder operation, McShane revealed: “It was just a clear out - it has been niggling me for a few years and it was the perfect time to get it done.
“I have been training a month now and I am ready to go.”