New Castleford Tigers centre Ben Crooks will realise an ambition he has had from being a young boy when he takes the field as a home player at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Crooks, 22, used to stand on the terraces at the ground cheering on his hometown team so he knows all about the kind of roar that will greet him when he gets to play for the Tigers in the season ahead – and he cannot wait to get started.
He told the Express: “I’m really looking forward to running out in front of the Cas fans.
“I used to stand in exit 7 or exit 9 in the corner as a kid and watch the team so to get the opportunity to run out in front of everyone will be amazing.
“I still used to watch them even when I was playing and it’s a great place to watch games, it’s always a great atmosphere.
“I know what to expect and can’t wait. Running out to that bottom end is something I’m really looking forward to.
“Obviously I know all about the local rivalries, they’re still there. Everyone from Cas hates Leeds and everyone from Leeds hates Cas and there’s Wakefield and Fev as well and Bradford and Hull. It’s something I’m really looking forward to playing in those matches.”
“I played at Cas with Hull and got four tries and still lost! I made a couple of errors in the game as well that people didn’t pick up on, that probably cost us the game. But coming back here is great.”
Crooks has spent the last year in Australia and enjoyed his time down under, but is happy to be back home.
He said: “I missed the English weather believe it or not.
“Over there you start training you’re sweating, you come home, you can’t stop sweating.
“I got brought up a bit of a country lad even though I lived in Cas. My aunty and uncle lived in Pateley Bridge and they had a farm so I spent a lot of time there. So I’ve always been a country boy. I enjoy my shooting and stuff like that so I enjoyed it over in Australia. It was great and a completely different lifestyle change.
“But there’s no place like home and I missed home.
“I’m really enjoying being back, they are a great set of lads here and Daryl Powell’s a great coach. I’m a local lad, I grew up in this town and hopefully come the start of the season I will have done enough to be able to pull the shirt on and run out in front of the Cas fans.
“I’m just processing a house in Methley and will be there soon. It’s nice and local, just enough to get away from it all and close enough to still be involved.”
Crooks does not think it was a wasted year in Australia, but he admitted to being frustrated by a lack of opportunities at the highest level.
He added: “I look back on my year in Australia with some pride. A lot of people get the opportunity and don’t go because they don’t want to step out of their comfort zone. But I got the chance to go and took it with both hands.
“I loved my time there although things didn’t turn out as planned. There were things I didn’t see coming, but that’s the sport, you’ve just to crack on and get on with it.
“The opportunity came here to leave a year early and come back to Cas. After speaking with Daryl it was an easy decision to come home.
“The rugby aspect and meeting everyone out there was great out in Australia, but I didn’t go out there to play New South Wales Cup, I wanted to play NRL. Circumstances arose that were out of my control and I had a couple of injuries that didn’t help. But I want to move on.
“I’m only 22 and me and my girlfriend have discussed it that if another opportunity came to go out there we would sit down and have a think about it. She loved it out there and didn’t want to come home.”