Daryl Powell hoping for trophy farewell at Castleford Tigers
Winning a trophy would “mean everything” to Daryl Powell in his final season in charge at Castleford Tigers but he insists nothing is being taken for granted ahead of this weekend’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Salford Red Devils.
The Tigers haven’t reached the last four of the competition since 2014, when they were runners-up to Leeds Rhinos at Wembley under Powell.
Castleford defeated the Red Devils last week as the sides faced off in Super League.
Powell’s charges have won five of their six games in all competitions this year despite battling some injuries in key positions.
Given the adversity faced early on, and their poor form in a disappointing 2020 campaign, Powell has been delighted with the opening weeks of the 2021 season.
“Obviously, it is my last year at Castleford so it would mean everything to me. It would be huge,” responded Powell when asked what bringing silverware back to the club would mean this year.
“This is the first one up, we have an opportunity to get to a Challenge Cup semi-final early in the season and that would give us all a big lift.
“We are looking forward to the challenge but we won’t be taking anything for granted against Salford.”
Powell believes Castleford are yet to show their best despite recording wins over the likes of Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves in the early stages of the campaign.
Their only loss has come at the hands of Wigan Warriors but Powell believes improvement will come when injured players can return to provide sterner competition for places.
He continued: “We have started well but there is a lot more to come from us. We just need to keep improving.
“Once we start to get people like Jacques O’Neill and Suaia Matagi around the squad then it is going to be a really competitive team to get into.
“The last couple of weeks I have been picking from 18 or 19 players and there have been a couple of young players in there.”
Castleford could be bolstered by the return of up to four players this weekend as Powell added: “We have got a few boys who could come back into contention.
“George Griffin, Daniel Smith, Gareth O’Brien and Jordan Turner, we will check on those guys this week.
“I am not sure if they will all get through but we should have a few more players available to us.”
Powell has been pleased with how his squad has handled injury problems in the opening games of the campaign.
Reflecting on the first six games, Powell said: “We have gone okay. The injuries we have had have made it a little bit harder. We have been really unlucky with some of the injuries we have got in games.
“Last week, a couple of young boys came in and did great. I am really pleased with how we have started the season. We have won five from six games when you include the Challenge Cup.
“We have got the chance to get into a semi-final pretty quickly. We know it will be a tough game.”
Castleford have fielded a number of half-back partnerships with Danny Richardson and Gareth O’Brien held back by injuries.
Powell believes that the Tigers’ attack will begin to look sharper once they can get more consistency with their half-back pairing.
“I don’t think we have really got a fluency to our game at the moment,” he said.
“It is there at times but not consistently. I suppose we haven’t had the same two half-backs two weeks on the trot and that makes it a little bit hard.
“Once we get some consistency with our half-backs, then that will help. There is some more clarity needed in certain areas of our game and we just need to work our way through it.”
Salford are the lowest-placed club left in the Challenge Cup but Powell doesn’t expect his players to take this weekend’s contest lightly.
He added: “It is important we don’t take anything for granted.
“There wasn’t much between the teams last week, it was a tight game and we had to work hard to win it.
“In the second half I thought we were really good. We started a little bit slow and we don’t want to do that again.
“It is important we keep our focus and don’t get too carried away. I don’t think the players will, they understand it was a tough game and know we can play a lot better than that.”