It has been described as one of the biggest seasons in the history of Rugby League and Castleford Tigers want to start it with a bang.
A local derby with Wakefield Wildcats is first up to get the Mend-A-Hose Jungle rocking straight away and Tigers head coach Daryl Powell believes his players will be raring to go come the big kick-off on Sunday afternoon.
He told the Express: “We are getting there.
“I’ve been having a good look at Wakefield through their pre-season games. It’s always difficult your first game in, you don’t have an awful lot of evidence, but it’s pretty close to game time now, it’s a crucial game for us and we need to get it right.
“The next few days are going to be really important.
“But the players have worked hard for a tough pre-season and we are ready to go.
“We need to start well. Everybody knows this year is going to be an important one.
“It’s going to be a suck it and see kind of season in terms of how it looks when it gets to the Super Eights. You want to be in the top eight, it’s absolutely crucial.”
Powell is happy with the way preparations have gone.
He said: “We’ve gone well. We could have gone a little bit better, but you always feel like that in pre-season.
“You never have the perfect pre-season, there’s always some little issues along the way. The games as much as you want them to have some fluency you struggle with that.
“We’ve defended really well in our last two performances and if we can do that and just tweak our game a little bit and be a little bit sharper we can be happy that we are fully prepared.”
Powell is expecting a big challenge from a Wakefield side likely to have improved on last year when Cas beat them three times.
He said: “It’s a great game first up, a local derby. It should be a vibrant crowd, there’ll be banter in there and hopefully we can get the performance we need to give our supporters something to cheer about.
“But Wakefield will be happy with the way pre-season’s gone for them. They had a really good result against Hull in their last game and they’ll feel like they’ve built and improved.
“Last year they were all over the place with people coming in late. This year they’ve got much stability about them and they will be a tough challenge for us.
“It’s good for us to start at home and home games are going to be really important for us this year. We’ve got fantastic support and we want them shouting for us again.”
Castleford go into their opening game without four of their first team squad with full-back Luke Dorn and forwards Matt Cook, Frankie Mariano and Lee Jewitt all ruled out through injury.
Powell explained: “Luke Dorn isn’t right, he’s got a pec muscle injury from the game against Widnes, Frankie Mariano and Lee Jewitt are long term injuries and Matt Cook has got a hamstring problem that will keep him out.
“But apart from that we’re okay. Benny Roberts and Ollie Holmes are all right from injuries picked up against Widnes.
“Junior Moors is available. He’s recovered from his hamstring and would have played against York. Obviously that game’s gone, but it’s handy to have him available with some big men still struggling.”