LONG serving Castleford Tigers star Ryan Hudson is backing the team to have a big season in what should be their last at their current home.
The 31-year-old hooker (pictured), who was the Tigers’ only ever-present last year, is starting his sixth season with the club next month and feels they are better placed than were a year ago to make an impact in Super League.
Strength in depth could be the key and some potentially smart signings as well as the continued development of youngsters from the Academy set-up have given Castleford a quiet confidence they can improve on seventh and ninth place finishes in the last two years.
“I think it’s an important season and if it’s the last one at this ground we want to make it big, “ Hudson told the Express.
“I don’t see why we can’t have a big year. With the players that have been brought in and the kids we’re bringing through we seem to have the blend right.
“You need a good squad these days to cope with injuries and Easter when you have three games in a week. I’m not a fan of that time of year and we always seem to pick up injuries at that time, as other clubs do, so you need that strength in depth and I think we’ve got it this year.
“Danny Orr’s going to be a key player for us. He can kick us round the field and he and Rangi Chase are working together already.
“Last year we only really had Rangi as a half-back, but this year Danny will settle the team down.
“It’s looking good. The players we’ve brought in have added some experience and there’s some younger guys as well. Jake Emmitt’s only young, but he’s looking good and he’s come from a good school at St Helens. Big Fozz (Nick Fozzard) and Danny will add some valuable experience and be good for the balance of the team.
“We’ve got Richard Mathers, who’s still young but with a lot of experience, playing in two Challenge Cup finals in the last two years.
“It’s a good mix and we’ve got some good young kids as well. You can’t take too much from the trials, but the kids have stood up really well and Cas’s future is really good with these lads.
“There’s going to be more competition for places this year and competition breeds success.
“I’ll have my own competition because Adam Milner’s a good young kid and Clarky (Daryl Clark) as well - they’re good prospects for the future and keeping me on my toes.
“If I can give them some of my experience and bring them on it’s what it’s all about. We all want the same things for the team.”
Hudson believes the opening games will hold the key to a successful season.
He said: “We’ve got to start big this year. It’s a massive first game against Wakefield, we’ve got to get a win.
“I know we got a good win first up at Headingley last year, but we’ve got to build this time and the first six games or so are crucial I believe.
“It’s going to be a huge start to the season and hopefully we’ll be ready after this week’s run out against Hull.
“Obviously it will be a big game for our preparation and we’ve got a lot of the injured lads back so it will be good for them.
“All the senior players are bursting to get out there and it will be exciting to see how Willie Isa goes. From what I hear about him he’s a good prospect.
“I’m really looking forward to the season. Training’s been going well, but it’s been a long pre-season and you just want to get playing now.
“We got a bit of a beasting last week in training, it was a tough week, but it should toughen us up.
“It’s been a good off season, not just with the developments off the pitch. The lads have really bonded. They have most years, but this time with the players that have been brought in being good people as well as good players.
“The new lads are professional players and good role models as well.”
Hudson will be sad to leave the Wheldon Road ground at the end of the season if plans to move to the new Glasshoughton ground come to fruition, but sees the move as progress for the club.
He added: “Personally I’ve always loved playing at The Jungle. It’s always been awesome and even speaking to Fozzy since he signed he said he loves it down here. It’s always had a great atmosphere.
“I can see why some fans don’t want to go to a new ground, but you’ve got to move forward and a new ground can help improve your fan base - look at Warrington and how their new ground’s helped them. It will also help create more commercial possibilities off the field and the more money the club can bring in the more that can be spent on the team.”