CASTLEFORD Tigers boss Ian Millward wants his side to sign off for the season with two wins to reward fans who have loyally stuck by the side this year and to give retiring players a great send-off.
Defeats in both could see the Tigers end up with the Super League’s wooden spoon, but the head coach is aiming to end a disappointing first campaign with the club on a high note when Cas run out against Catalan and Hull in their final two games of 2012.
His hopes of a winning finish have been boosted by confirmation that three players - Rangi Chase, Daryl Clark and Jamie Ellis - will all return to the squad for next week’s match against Catalan at the Probiz Coliseum, although hopes that blockbusting prop forward Jonathan Walker would also be fit in time to play against the French side have been dashed.
Stand-off Chase and hooker Clark are back in training after overcoming knee injuries while scrum-half Ellis will be available again after sitting out last Friday’s game at St Helens after picking up a one-match ban for a dangerous throw in the previous match against London.
Millward said: “There is no doubt the return of our three best playmakers, Rangi, Daryl and Jamie will give us a much-needed boost for the Catalan game.
“Rangi and Jamie have only played together once this season so it will be great to see that combination back on the field.
“It will be a particularly emotional day next Sunday as some players will be playing their last ever home game for the club and in some cases, of their careers. We hope to give them all the send off they deserve.
“Obviously we’d like to finish our season and our next two games against Catalan and Hull on a high and look forward to a good 2013.”
Plans are already well on the way for next year with six players already brought in and more to follow. The Tigers have been linked with moves for utility player Scott Murrell, who has been released by Hull KR, and Leeds Rhinos’ New Zealand Maori back row forward Weller Hauraki, although no new deals have been completed this week.
Millward, meanwhile, saw some encouragement in the Tigers’ spirited display in defeat against St Helens at Langtree Park.
He said: “I was very happy with our attitude, our focus and our commitment. I think St Helens will be as well, I was impressed with them and their defence was really good.
“We made them work hard for their tries. I think they scored five tries from kicks and one a long intercept.
“We went close a few times, but their defence was too good. They are a top-three team and played better than they have in recent weeks.
“We were really competitive in the first half, but our completion rate went down from 70 per cent to 50 per cent.
“We tried really hard, but unfortunately the lack of possession and the lack of field position in the second half made it very hard for us.
“But I was happy with the way the guys went about their business.
“We had seven players out and three gone and we are not a big enough club to have that many players out.
“We’ve released some players already from the club for 2012 and we’ve sent some people for operations and had a lot of players out injured.
“There’s no promotion or relegation, but we still want to win every week. But we need to get our best team out every week to be competitive. We’re recruiting like everyone else and we’ve bought six players for next season.”