Castleford Tigers back rower Alex Foster admits it has not properly sunk in yet that he is a League Leaders’ Shield winner.
Foster joined the Tigers earlier this year after being released when Bradford Bulls went into administration and had to prove his worth initially on trial before winning a contract.
It did not help his chances that he had picked up an injury, but head coach Daryl Powell liked what he saw in the 23-year-old former Leeds player and he has gone on to prove a valuable member of the squad, playing in the last 11 games.
Foster is delighted with the way it has gone for him at Cas and is still pinching himself at the success of the team he is part of.
He said: “It’s crazy. At the start of the year I was on Bradford’s books and when administration happened it was a difficult time and a lot of us were left without clubs.
“Some of the lads through that period had to go back into employment doing what they used to do before rugby or try and do something else. That was a tough time.
“A couple of weeks later I was weighing up options on what I was going to do with my future because there was nothing set in stone, nothing in place, I had rent to pay so it was difficult.
“But my family and friends and my agent kept faith in me and an offer from Castleford came up to take me on trial.
“It was fantastic from the club because at the time I was actually injured and had a hernia. It was whether to get an operation done or not so it was a bit of a risk for Castleford as well. It felt like one thing after another, but since then it’s been amazing to be honest.
“I couldn’t have ever thought that from that time there I would be here now with a League Leaders’ medal having strung a dozen games together for Cas at the top of the league.
“I was looking probably at going to university, but I’ve been in rugby league since I was 18.
“I am so grateful that Castleford came in with the offer to take me on trial.”
Foster admitted it was not easy for him when he first came to Cas.
He said: “The one thing that was very difficult was the speed. There’s the intensity as well.
“I’m fine to say that I was a bit behind the pace when I came back, obviously having been injured and playing in the Championship for the last two years.
“It took me a while to get back into the swing of things.
“But after I got the first few games under my belt I felt I wasn’t breathing so hard after two or three minutes or felt as heavy legged as I had done.
Foster continued: “It’s fantastic for the Castleford club to win the league, it’s something that hasn’t happened for 91 years as we all know.
“You could see the joy on all the fans’ faces and what it actually meant to them and this club. For me personally I still don’t think it’s hit home yet. It was unbelievable.”
Foster reckons the players have now got all the celebrations out of their system and are fully focused on what they need to do in the remaining Super 8s games to ensure they are ready for the play-off semi-final.
He added: “We’ve worked really, really hard and we’re just going to keep on going from where we left off.
“These next four games are as crucially important to us as the last four games. We want to get on a roll and get into that semi-final with a bit of momentum – and then we will be one game away from a final that would turn a great season into a truly amazing season.
“When you look through the squad we’ve got a lot of players fighting for positions so no-one wants to lose their place and see someone else come in and absolutely kill it. You would then find yourself sat on the sidelines.
“It’s been one of the best things we’ve had at Castleford this year, the strength in depth and the competition for places.”