Long serving forward Nathan Massey has hailed Castleford Tigers’ special talents who have stepped into the breach following injuries to two key half-backs.
Tigers have a 100 per cent record in Betfred Super League after wins over Catalans Dragons and Hull, despite being without pivots Luke Gale and Jamie Ellis.
Teenager Jake Trueman - the reigning Super League young player of the year - and new signing Jordan Rankin have formed an impressive new partnership and Massey reckons their form has been crucial to Tigers’ “great start”.
He said: “Truey is a special talent. Razor [Rankin] has come in and done a great job and we are just really working hard for each other.
“I think you can see that in our goal line D [defence] and we are in a good place at the minute.”
Another player who has helped fill the hole left by Gale’s Achilles injury, which is likely to rule him out for the entire campaign, is hooker Paul McShane.
Massey enthused: “Macca is different class. He directs us around the park in the middle and he is just a natural rugby player.
“He is one of the best players I have played with and he has taken control when we need it.”
In the engine room prop Liam Watts has also made a strong start to the season.
“He is a machine,” Massey said of the former Hull man. “He’s had a full pre-season under his belt and he has got to know our systems now and I am sure he and Macca will definitely be in contention for internationals at the end of the year.”
Massey started at loose-forward against both Catalans and Hull and the 29-year-old, who made his Tigers debut 12 years ago, stressed: “I am just happy to play my role. It has changed a little bit now with the interchanges and I am playing big minutes. I am happy with how I am going.
“It is tough, the game has speeded up a lot now, but we will grow and get better throughout the year as we play and I think it’s going to be a good year for us.
“We’re really happy; it was a really tough win at Hull, they are a good side there and we’ve found it hard there in the past, but it was good to get the result.”
Castleford are without a fixture this weekend, due to the World Club Challenge and Massey insisted they will put the time off to good use.
“We’ve been a bit scratchy with the ball, but we’re two from two and we’ve got a break now and we can work on a few combinations,” he said.
Defence close to their line has been key to both Tigers’ victories so far, which is a reflection of work put in during pre-season.
“We conceded a couple of soft tries (last week), one was from a kick, but it is something we’ve had a real emphasis on through pre-season and something Daryl [Powell, Tigers’ coach] has wanted us to work on,” Massey added.
“We are reaping the rewards now and if we can just fix up a little bit with the ball I think we are going to be a real threat this year.”