Returning half-back Jamie Ellis believes Castleford Tigers will be able to handle the pressure of following up their successful 2017 season.
The Tigers finished 10 points clear at the top of Betfred Super League in 2017 and produced some thrilling attacking rugby.
The pressure is on to deliver again, but after coming back to the club following spells with Huddersfield and Hull KR Ellis reckons Cas are well placed to go well again.
He said: “I think everyone is going to go after us this year.
“I think they caught people a bit by surprise last year, but they were the best team by far.
“People have got to catch up to that level if we play the same sort of rugby. We know people are going to come after us, so we are ready for them.
“There’s a lot of talent in this squad, as everyone sees when they play. There’s a lot of competition, especially in the forwards, but the halves, wingers, everyone has to be on their toes because there’s someone behind them chomping at the bit to get a game. It is going to be good throughout the squad.”
Ellis is expected to be one of the Tigers’ first-choice half-backs, alongside Man of Steel Luke Gale, with last year’s stand-off Ben Roberts moving to full-back in place of the likely to be suspended Zak Hardaker.
He said: “I just can’t wait for the season. Galey has been one of the best halves in England for a few years now and hopefully partnering up with him is going to bring the best out of me.
“I have got the likes of Jake Webster on one side of me and Mike McMeeken on the other and hopefully they’re going to bring the best out of me as well so I am looking forward to it.”
Ellis made 44 Super League appearances for Cas, scoring 10 tries, 80 goals and a drop-goal, during his previous spell at the club from 2012-2014.
He had two seasons at Huddersfield Giants before kicking 158 goals and running in eight tries in 30 appearances for Hull KR last year when an important member of the Robins’ Championship promotion-winning squad.
But Ellis admitted he had stayed in touch with a number of his former Tigers team-mates and that returning to Castleford was a dream move.
“I love it,” he said. “I shouldn’t say I should never have left – I don’t regret anything – but coming back it’s the same coaches and there’s a lot of faces I’ve kept in touch with since I left.
“It has been good, they’ve all been welcoming and I am enjoying it.
“I watched a lot of their games, especially when they got to the Grand Final and I was just thinking I want to be involved in those games. Thankfully Daryl (Powell) has given me another chance to do so and hopefully we can go one better this year.”
Ellis was initially set to miss last Sunday’s pre-season warm-up against Leeds Rhinos after suffering an ankle ligament injury in training, but he recovered in time to make the squad and after playing the whole of the second half he showed he would be ready for the start of the Super League season.