HE MAY still be sidelined by injury and duly frustrated but experienced Castleford Tigers captain Michael Shenton can still acknowledge quality when he sees it.
That is why he feels today’s clash with Warrington Wolves could be the tie of the entire Magic Weekend extravaganza.
The England centre, who is continuing his recovery from a cruciate ligament tear suffered on the opening day of the season at Hull KR, is relishing seeing his improving colleagues take to the field in Newcastle.
Shenton said: “You’d think our game would be one of the highlights.
“Warrington have been the best team this year for me; the players they’ve brought in have clicked and (ex-Cas hooker) Daryl Clark has found his game.
“They’ve got some real talented players and they’re playing well but we’re in a good place, too, I think.
“Warrington getting beaten by Wakey has probably hurt us because they’ll be desperate to stay at the top of the table. But we’re hitting decent form and we’re confident going there.”
Castleford have strung back-to-back wins against Salford Red Devils, in the Challenge Cup, and a record-breaking 52-12 victory at Leeds Rhinos.
Another win would see them strengthen their top-eight position and traditionally they do fare well this time of year.
“We’ve done some good stuff at the Magic Weekend in the last few years,” added Shenton, with Castleford defeating usual opponents Wakefield Trinity three times in four meetings.
“We’ve bought into the concept of it all and the atmosphere. We’ll be confident but we’ve got to show the attitude we have done in the last couple of games to make sure we make a bit of a statement.
“There’s no excuses anymore; we’ve a strong team out, it’s time to show what we’re made of.”
That side is bolstered by the potential return of Benny Roberts, the silky ex-Kiwi stand-off who has not played since the loss at St Helens on March 4 due to a troublesome foot injury.
Full-back Ryan Hampshire is also back in the reckoning if needed and centre Jake Webster is set to return after being rested at Headingley although Castleford are still missing Shenton, Andy Lynch, Frankie Mariano and Oli Holmes.
On his own recovery, the 29-year-old says he is desperate to return for Daryl Powell’s side before the end of the season.
“I saw the consultant last week and he’s delighted with how the knee’s progressing,” explained Shenton.
“It’s looking pretty good; the toughest part of the rehab’ is to come with the on-field running and getting used to contact work. How I come through that will depend whether I can scrape a few games together, which I’m hoping to do if I’m being honest.
“Some people say it might not be worth it but I want to cap this year off with some games, because it’s driving me mad now.
“Daryl has given me things to do to keep me involved with the boys, because that’s one of the biggest dangers – being alone.
“I’ve been doing some rugby stuff and it’s kept me focussed and kept me motivated throughout a dark period.
“The medical team have been superb and we’ve been ticking off little goals one at a time, and we’re progressing through them. I’m in a pretty good place with it all.”
Meanwhile, prop Ryan Boyle has joined Championship club Halifax on loan until the end of the season.