Michael Shenton full of belief as Castleford Tigers aim for Challenge Cup glory
HE HAS been there for Castleford Tigers’ heartbreaking losses in big finals but captain Michael Shenton believes Daryl Powell’s side can achieve something “very special” at Wembley this weekend.
The Tigers head to the capital aiming to win their first Challenge Cup since 1986.
St Helens the back-to-back Super League champions, stand in their way of a major trophy in head coach Powell’s final season at the club.
Shenton was with Castleford when they lost the 2014 Challenge Cup final against Leeds Rhinos and played as they were beaten in the Grand Final by their West Yorkshire rivals in 2017.
The Tigers captain has not yet confirmed his plans for next year, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.
The 34-year-old has made over 300 appearances for Castleford in two spells with the club and made his debut in 2004.
Saturday could prove his last chance to win the Challenge Cup with his hometown team and he feels Castleford are much better equipped for this final than in the ones in years gone by.
“It is a big occasion and it is just about how you handle that,” he said.
“You need to make sure everyone understands their role, you don’t want the atmosphere and the occasion to be too much for people.
“There is lots to talk about and lots of emotions to go through, it is all about having good preparation.”
He continued: “You have to recognise that it is a bit of a different occasion and there is so much on the line but you can’t let that get on top of you.
“It is about making sure you are prepared to the best of your ability and that the people around you are prepared.
“As one of the leaders at the club, it is about making sure we are on the money with our preparation.
“We know what St Helens are going to throw at us. In the build-up, we can talk about our past experiences and learn from those and so can the club.
“When we last went to Wembley there were a lot of changes that had just taken place at the club and it was a lot for us.
“I think we are much better prepared this time around, with the experience the boys and the club has in dealing with big games.
“We are in a much better position I feel.”
A victory for the Tigers would see Shenton be the first Castleford captain to hold the trophy aloft in 35 years.
However, he insists that envisaging the triumph is not helpful if the preparation for the game is not done right.
He said: “Something I have spoken about is not worrying about the end result, it is hard not to think about lifting the trophy because of how special it would be and how much it means to people.
“One of the lessons I have learned is to not worry about the end result but focus on your preparation and getting the process right.
“You can’t jump ahead to that end result.
“You have to focus on being there and concentrating on winning the game.
“It is not about the end result, of course we want the win, but what is going to get us the win is more important.
“It is going to help you dig deep, the emotions with some players and Powelly moving on.
“We are going full circle, this team really got started in 2014 when we got to Wembley for the first time.
“We didn’t quite perform on that day, that cycle of this team is going to finish back at Wembley. It is going to be very special if we can make that happen.”
Castleford’s road to Wembley has been filled with plenty of thrills. They won their first game of the 2021 competition in the fourth period of golden point extra time after pulling level with the final play of normal time in a 33-32 victory over Hull KR.
They also defeated Salford Red Devils in golden point before producing a remarkable display to beat Warrington Wolves in the semi-final.
“The build-up to the Warrington semi-final was one of my favourite weeks in rugby, out of all the weeks I have had,” Shenton added.
“Powelly had all the senior blokes up talking about what the club means to us and the focus we should have for that week. It just made it a really special week, the boys really bought into all the emotional things we spoke about.
“There are going to be a lot of changes moving forward, so this is the year we have got to get this done.”