Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell has spoken about how he keeps his players’ feet on the ground to ensure they stay focused for each game.
With the Tigers enjoying their best campaign for years and coming in for huge praise for the way they play the game the temptation would be for the players to start believing the hype, but Powell makes sure they stay grounded by breaking games down into small blocks to avoid anyone getting ahead of themselves.
He said: “Some of the things we’ve done within our environment have helped us stay focused and I think we’ve got a lot of players who are pretty relaxed and don’t get too excited. That really helps.
“We’ve got a lot of experience on the coaching side as well.
“We’ve kept our feet on the ground, that’s the main thing. We’ve not got carried away and need to keep it that way.
“I’ve talked a fair bit about breaking the season down into blocks and setting little goals for each block. We’ve done that and rather than looking too far ahead you focus on week to week and just small targets.
“I don’t think we’ve talked ourselves up too much, it’s just been about getting through the season week after week. We’ve been good at that and the players have responded in an outstanding way so far.
“There’s another two blocks left and this is the start of the first one. There’s some big games in this one so we need to be exceptional. We are building up to finals football really.
“For me it’s just one at a time. Everybody always says that, but that is the way it is, particularly for players. Game plans change here and there and you can’t think too far down the track.
“In these blocks it’s bit of points targets and performance targets. It’s only simple things, nothing too scientific, but they are things that just help players keep focused.”
When asked if he expected Castleford to be challenging for top spot going into the last seven games, Powell honestly answered that he probably had not, but he always believed he had a side good enough to get in the play-offs.
He said: “I was hopeful that we’d be competing around the top eight. I was having a tough job earlier in the season convincing anybody outside of the club, but the players have been immense the way they have gone about their business.
“They have been really tough, professional and consistent as well.
“I think we’ve unlucky at times not to win more games. We’ve been a bit fortunate on another one, probably the Salford one here, but we’ve been really good.
“The key for us now is to continue to get a little bit better, maintain our focus and keep our nerve.
“We’ve got some big games coming up, starting with Leeds, and we need to stay consistent. I can’t see anything to stop the players from doing that.
“We’ve got a strong leadership group that drive standards as well and that’s been the foundation for what we’ve done this year.
“If you don’t play well you might not be in the team so there’s no point looking over there because you might not be playing.
“It’s important that players keep focused on what’s in front of them and don’t look too far away.”
Powell admitted he did not know when it was that the players began to believe they were in a team good enough to challenge.
He added: “Obviously we had what we did in pre-season. Against Bradford it showed that the way we were going to play the game had a bit of impact.
“I know that Bradford were struggling, but you could see we had something going here and see it in the players’ eyes that there was a bit of belief growing.
“We had an excellent start and that cemented the belief among the players that we could do something this year.
“We haven’t yet, we are not getting carried away, we have just given ourselves the opportunity to do something.
“I think it just grew in the first five, six games. We were defending better and that was a bit of a foundation for us.
“Once the players started to see what the capabilities were of the new players that had come in that’s where the belief started to grow from.”