With several players well on the mend after operations Castleford Tigers are close to reporting a clean bill of health ahead of the start of their pre-season games.
Back row forward Frankie Mariano remains the biggest doubt to play in any of the warm-ups after having an operation on his wrist while centre Ashley Gibson has picked up a knee injury, but head coach Daryl Powell is pleased with the recovery of all the other players in his squad who have had treatment or operations in the off-season.
Leading those on the recovery trail is prop forward Ryan Boyle, who is getting close to full fitness and is expected to be ready for the start of the 2015 Super League season after missing most of 2014’s matches.
After making a big impact on his return to the club from Salford in the 2013 season, a knee injury ruined his 2014 campaign when he was only able to play two first team matches.
But he is back in full training now and with Craig Huby gone could be a big player in the front row for the Tigers.
Fellow prop Nathan Massey is also progressing well after suffering a knee injury in the final game of last season against Warrington, while hooker Adam Milner is training fully after an operation on his ankle.
“We’re not too bad for injuries,” Tigers boss Powell told the Express.
“Ryan Boyle is pretty much doing everything now after his cruciate operation.
“Frankie Mariano had a biggish operation on his wrist and he’s still not in training yet, but he’s working hard on his fitness levels.
“Ash Gibson’s got a bit of a knee problem, which is keeping him out of some things at the moment, but other than that we’re not too bad.
“Adam Milner and Nathan Massey are going well after their operations, both back in training no problems and looking good so the people back from ops apart from Frankie are looking okay.”
Powell feels that after almost two months of pre-season training the players are ready for a game now.
He said: “We’re moving forward now, we’ve got the game at Christmas and once we get into January the games will come thick and fast and the job for the coaching staff is to put it all together and make sure that the people who need to get the right opportunities get the chance to put themselves forward.
“Everyone’s looking forward to the pre-season games now and it will be good to get on the field.
“It’s Featherstone first and obviously by playing on the 28th it gives us a few extra days after Christmas and gives us a little bit of prep time.
“I think it’s an important game and they all are.
“We’ve got five pre-season games and they are all important for people to put a marker down to see if they can make the team for the opening game in Super League.”
After Sunday’s match at home to Featherstone Rovers the Tigers take on Bradford Bulls at home on Sunday, January 11, Doncaster away on Sunday, January 18, Widnes Vikings at home on Sunday, January 25 and York City Knights at home on Friday, January 30.
Catalans Dragons have confirmed that their home game against Castleford Tigers on Saturday, February 14 will now kick-off at 3pm (local time).
The Super League round two clash at the Gilbert Brutus Stadium was originally due to start at 6pm.