Reaching the Grand Final and winning the League Leaders’ Shield in 2017 may have surprised some people, but not so Castleford Tigers forward Jesse Sene-Lefao.
The Samoa international forward admitted he would not have come over to Castleford if he did not think they were capable of challenging for the top honours.
Sene-Lefao was part of the Cronulla Sharks squad that reached the Australian Grand Final in 2016 and followed up by playing at Old Trafford in the Super League showpiece last year.
He told the Express: “I came here to win so I expected when I signed that we would be challenging.
“I never expect anything less of any team I go to. I’m going there to win, to do my best and the best is to be in the Grand Final.
“It doesn’t matter what shirt I put on I play to win and that’s like everyone in our team.
“I certainly came over to make a dent in this competition.”
Sene-Lefao admitted the way the team ended last season with defeat to Leeds Rhinos hurt, not just with the result, but the performance.
He said: “It was great to be part of the first Castleford team to win the league. History stands forever and I’m proud to say that I was in that team.
“But, not taking any way from that, I feel that if we had won the Grand Final it would have made it extra special for the club and for myself.
“I want to push harder this year and work on my game, on areas I think I need working on. Hopefully the team can just get back to that high standard.
“It was disappointing the way we played in the Grand Final. It hurt after all our hard work.
“It wasn’t just that we lost, it was the way we lost – we hadn’t lost like that all year with our strong team.
“We had a few hiccups leading up to the Grand Final with players, but I still thought that we had a strong team and a team to win.
“I didn’t think it was a lack of experience. I think in key positions players hadn’t played there all year and Leeds capitalised on the mistakes we made.
“Leeds played really well and stuck to their game plan better than us.”
Jesse says he and his team-mates are determined to put right the wrongs of the final.
He said: “It feels like the season has come around real quick.
“We fell short last year so it’s given me more drive to do well this year and try to make some more history for the club as well as reach some goals that I’ve set for myself.
“Everyone at the club is equally determined to go that one step further this year.”
Sene-Lefao believes everything is in place for a good season for the Tigers.
He added: “Preparation has been good and we’re all going to play in this next trial against Leeds, that will give us a good idea of where we’re at as a team and as a unit.
“I’m very excited for that and excited just to get back into the swing of things. I love playing.
“It was good to get a run out against Featherstone, but they gave us a hiding.
“It was good to play with a lot of the young guys who have come through the system at Cas. Some of the boys get a bit teary just to know that they have played for the club they have supported since they were young.
“Some of the boys who played that day have been life members since they were six weeks old so it was great they got an opportunity. I can also tick the box off that I played in the 2017 Boxing Day game, I like that.
“It’s tough to play after Christmas Day, but it’s all good.”