Castleford Tigers skipper Michael Shenton says quality signings will inspire push for honours in Super League and Challenge Cup
Castleford Tigers have gone for quality rather than quantity in their recruitment this year and long-serving skipper Michael Shenton is confident the tactic will pay off.
Tigers have made only four signings - ex-Huddersfield Giants duo Suaia Matagi and Jordan Turner, Niall Evalds from Salford Red Devils and former-Hull man Lewis Biernek - but Shenton reckons they will all make a difference.
“I think the guys we’ve brought in, the potential they bring, is outstanding,” Shenton - now entering the final season of his contract - said.
“I am excited to see them. It’s that competition for places and the experience all of them bring.”
Matagi, Turner and Evalds, in particular, are all proven at the top level.
Shenton noted: “Suaia Matagi has a cannonball style of play and a good offload game.
“He has got some real punch in his carries and natural aggression.
“We identified we need someone like that and he fits the mould perfectly.
“Jordan Turner is very experienced in the outside-backs, in the halves, at 13 and back-row.
“He will be a valuable member of our squad this year. He creates competition for places across the park, especially in the centres and the halves.
“I am excited to see him play and obviously Niall Evalds has just got in the England squad.
“What he did at Salford, he has been immense. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but losing Jordan Rankin last year after the Covid break was a massive dint to us.
“We didn’t want to make it an excuse, but looking back, missing him was massive for us.
“Getting Gaz O’Brien in was important and he’s like a new signing to us, with what he adds.
“We have gone from no full-back to two really high-quality ones and Gaz can play in the halves as well. Right across, we have got a bit of depth now and you can see in training it is really playing off.”
Motivation is high at Castleford after last year’s slump from second when coronavirus struck to eighth on the final table.
“I don’t think we achieved what we are capable of last year and we let things affect us a little bit too much so we are looking to bounce back from what was a disappointing season for us and really make a statement this year,” Shenton insisted.
Tigers had a three-day camp in the week leading up to Christmas and training began in earnest on January 5.
“It has been a good pre-season, plenty of work done,” the captain added.
“We are still building our combinations and style of play; the way we want to play the game is important to us, as always here at Cas.
“There’s lots of bits to improve on, but there’s been some really great stuff in there as well.
“You can feel the excitement among the boys, there’s a real unity there and that’s an important part of our pre-season.”
Shenton also feels lessons have been learned from last year’s struggles during the pandemic.
“It is just handling the whole situation and dealing with it in a professional environment,” he said.
“I think all teams will be better.
“Since we have come back in we’ve all learned that you’ve got to get on and deal with it; it does affect you at times, but you have got to block that out.
“It is part of the game now, part of life for the time being.
“We are trying as much as possible to minimise the effect of that.
“You have got to have your precautions in there and stick to the rules.
“We are very fortunate we are able to come to work, we all appreciate the privilege we’ve been given - that we get to get out of the house and come and do what we love.
“That’s how we have looked at it.
“It is what it is, we have got to get on with it and we are just focused on trying to be ready for the start of the season.”
As for Tigers’ aims this term, he stressed: “What we pride ourselves on is being in the mix for the play-offs and nothing will change.
“We all want to do well, I am sure every player in the competition would say the same thing, but we have got to make sure we are prepared for it.
“I am fed up of saying it now, sometimes you have just got to get on with it and do the business on the field. You can say it as much as you want, but we’ve got to do our job on the field.”