After an injury-hit campaign in 2017 Castleford Tigers back rower Oliver Holmes is aiming to make up for lost time.
The 25-year-old one-club man is a mainstay of the side, as shown by his selection to start in the Grand Final, but faces increased competition for his place with the arrival of the strong running Joe Wardle.
The Tigers also have England player Mike McMeeken in Holmes’ position and last season they brought in Alex Foster, who did well. With Jesse Sene-Lefao, Junior Moors and Grant Millington all capable of playing in the back row too this is an area of the team that must be the best in Super League.
Holmes is hoping for a change of luck with injuries and determined to play a full part next year, having already resumed pre-season training a couple of weeks before many of the senior players at the club.
“So far it is mainly young lads and new signings, plus a couple of others for a bit of a head start.
“The criteria was if you played 10 games or less you were in early and I played 10. That’s down to being injured.
“It’s not a punishment, it’s just to give you every chance you can get to have a good season.
“I have freshened up ready to have a good pre-season.
“I am coming into the last year of my contract so I need to have a good pre-season and start of the season.
“There’s a lot of competition for places. We’ve got a fairly big squad, we are strong on numbers in each position and if you’re not on top of your game you’re not going to be in the 17.
“There are places up for grabs so it is going to be quite interesting.”
Holmes admitted that it had been frustrating for him in 2017.
He said: “I had an operation on my left knee. I had three pieces of bone stuck in the back of my patella tendon and had them taken out, then towards the back end of the season I tore my groin and I was lucky to get back for the Grand Final.
“It was quite annoying, I’ve had two years of pulling this injury along and it has been two very frustrating seasons.
“You just want to be playing rugby as regularly as you can and getting out there and having some game time.
“Injuries are part and parcel of rugby league, but I’ve had a fair two years of it and hopefully my luck will change and I can stay injury-free.”
Holmes said there has been no talk of the Grand Final yet.
He added: “That will come on the 20th when everyone’s back in. We’ll go through what our plans are for pre-season and the season, where we are looking to go and what we want to do.
“It’s going to be in the back of people’s minds that we saved our worst game for the biggest stage.
“It was very disappointing, but it will stand us in good stead for next year. We will learn from the experience and it is going to drive everybody in the squad to get back there and put things right.”