CASTLEFORD Tigers coach Terry Matterson (pictured) plans to treat Sunday’s final pre-season trial against Hull FC as a dummy run for the new Super League season.
A smaller squad than in previous warm-up games will be selected and at stake will be places in the line-up for the Millennium Magic opener against Wakefield Wildcats.
Matterson reckons he has a stronger squad this year and is keen to have a look at the remaining first teamers who have yet to feature in the pre-season games to help him decide on who gets the nod for the trip to Cardiff.
That means new boy Willie Isa will make his debut and there will be places for Brett Ferres, Stuart Jones, Paul Jackson and possibly another off season signing Martin Aspinwall.
Ryan McGoldrick, Dean Widders and Richard Owen are still recovering from injuries and are more doubtful starters, but without taking unnecessary risks, Matterson intends to pick his strongest possible side to take on Hull.
He said: “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get as many out as possible this week. Richie Owen definitely won’t be playing, but hopefully I can get everyone else out, although we do have one or two injuries.
“We had six or seven guys who were very close to playing last weekend, but we just felt we should hold them back another week.
“If anyone’s not 100 per cent they won’t be playing and there’s two or three that are borderline and we’ll wait as long as we can for those guys - players like Martin Aspinwall, Ryan McGoldrick and Dean Widders are going to be close.
“Willie Isa will definitely be playing. He only got here on Friday so I didn’t think it was fair to put him in on Sunday, it was best to let him find his feet. But he will definitely be in against Hull and he’s really looking forward to it.
“He’s a really good kid, physically he’s strong and he’s fitted in really easily already. It’s a credit to our guys as well that’s he’s fitted in so quickly and he’s comfortable.
“Ryan McGoldrick’s got a bit of a niggle with his knee and I’m not to sure how bad it is, but Brett Ferres will definitely be all right for next Sunday and Stuart Jones will be. I’m pretty sure Paul Jackson will be okay and Nick Youngquest and Richard Mathers as well so it all seems good.
“Dean Widders hurt his neck wrestling so we’ve got to be careful with that, but this is the one we want to get him all right for and hopefully we can do that.
“We’re probably going to go with 18 or 19, not as big a squad as we’ve had so we’re going to try and get some game time into the players. We’ve got a fortnight’s break after this game so plenty of time to recover.
“This is a really important game for us in the preparation for the Super League season. It was a good run out against Batley, but the Hull game is the one I’m really looking forward to.
“This is our only Super League trial and both teams will be looking to have as many people as possible available to make it a good test.”
Matterson was happy to report no new injuries from the Batley game last Sunday and reckoned the game proved useful in building up towards the serious stuff next month.
He added: “I think the two trials we’ve had so far have certainly helped us, especially the young guys and I’ve been pretty impressed by what they’ve done in the games.
“It got competitive on Sunday and that was good. You don’t learn anything winning by 50 or 60. At 18-all we had quite a few of our senior players off at that stage, but we looked pretty dominant towards the back end, which is pleasing.
“I thought our front rowers, Craig Huby, Jonathan Walker and Nick Fozzard, really laid the platform. Olly Holmes was really good in the back row and Greg Eden did some good things at full-back.
“Greg got caught out of position once or twice, but he’s got something and I’m looking forward to seeing him develop. He carries the ball really strong. Defensively we’ve got to do some work with him, but I thought it was a very competent performance by him.
“It was a good mix and I thought everyone put their hand up, but it was the platform laid by the big men up front that made the big difference and that’s what we’re looking for from those guys.
“Nick Fozzard was good and that was what I was after when I brought him here, someone who runs hard and gets us onto the front foot. He did a solid job for us.
“Raz (Ryan Hudson) was really good as well and I thought he led the way with the senior players. Danny Orr did some good things as well.
“Rangi (Chase) didn’t have one of his better games, but it’s nice to know that he doesn’t have to be the star every week. Danny’s going to take some pressure off him.”
Hull are set to field a strong side for Sunday’s fixture, including Joe Westerman, who is set to make his debut for the club on the Castleford ground he made his name.
Following his transfer from the Tigers late last year he has yet to pull on a Hull shirt, but coach Richard Agar is keen to see his new man in action before the first round of Super League.
It will be the reverse situation for Castleford winger Kirk Dixon, who will be facing his former team-mates and hometown club on Sunday.
Dixon spent three seasons with Hull FC, from 2004-2006, and is eager to line-up against some of his former team-mates.
He said: “The game obviously has a bit of extra spice for me, being a former player.
“There’ll be a bit of banter flying around during the week so it should be good.
“I still speak to quite a few of the Hull boys. Danny Washbrook and Richard Whiting are really good mates of mine. I’m actually going out for dinner with them, so it’s obvious what the topic of conversation will be.
“It will be a big test for us as Hull have some top players, but we will have some strong players back for Sunday which is a real positive for us.
“I think the game will help the team in becoming more confident both as a unit and individually.
“It will also help us develop our cohesion further leading up to the first game of the season.
“Personally, I am just looking to keep working on the little things in my game and to develop some strong partnerships in the backs.”
Admission for Sunday’s match (kick-off 3.30pm) is £13 (adults), £6 (juniors and OAPs).