Samoan star could make debut against Batley

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CASTLEFORD Tigers are set to field as strong a side as possible for the second of their pre-season trials at the Probiz Coliseum on Sunday and may include new signing Willie Isa when they run out against Batley Bulldogs.

Head coach Terry Matterson confirmed that Samoan international Isa (pictured) is in the running to play after his visa came through on Monday, thereby clearing him to play in this country.

So long as his travel from down under goes according to plan he will line-up in a Tigers team which will see experienced forward Nick Fozzard definitely make his debut alongside several players who will be having their first pre-season run-out.

“Everyone who is available and 100 per cent will be playing,” Matterson told the Express.

“We have got some niggles, but the guys that haven’t played yet this year will be playing - guys like Ryan McGoldrick, Nick Fozzard, Craig Huby, Nathan Massey and Steve Snitch.

“Jake Emmitt and Jonny Walker will also be playing as well so it will be closer to our first team pack than it was against York.

“Willie Isa arrives on Friday and he’s got a chance of playing.

“He got his visa through on Monday and booked his flight to arrive here on Friday. Hopefully if he lands all right and trains with us he’ll have a run out. We’ll have a look at him when he arrives, but he’s had a full off-season with Melbourne so he should be in good nick.”

Matterson is keen to get a quick look at former Newcastle Knights centre Isa ahead of the uper League season and reckons the Batley game would be a good opportunity for the player to introduce himself to his new fans.

He said: “I’m looking forward to seeing what Willie Isa has to offer. He’s really excited about coming over and can’t wait to get started.

“He’s going to give us some strength in depth. I see him primarily at centre, but I’m not 100 per cent sure yet what he will bring to the team, that’s why I want to have a good look at him.

“He’s played a few first grade games back home. He has got a good pedigree and he’s been scouted highly and rated by a few figures who are well respected in the game. It’s an opportunity for him as well to show us what he’s got.

“The Batley game will be good for us. The opposition had a good win last week against Halifax and they are a really well drilled side with a good coach. It should be a good test.

“We’re building for the new season and we will move on to the last trial against Hull – hopefully we can get just about everybody back for that one. We see this next game as the next stepping stone for the season.

“It’s been a long, tough, pre-season so the players can feel the competition is not too far away now and I think they’re all looking forward to playing.”

Before deciding on his squad for Sunday Matterson will check on the fitness of several first teamers, including full-back Richard Mathers, who sprained his wrist in the first warm-up game against York.

But definitely out are Dean Widders, Adam Milner and Stuart Jones along with Paul Jackson, Martin Aspinwall and Richard Owen, who are still building their fitness back after operations.

Matterson explained: “Richard Mathers is okay, but whether he plays this week I’m not too sure. The wrist injury is not major, but another week off will make sure he has time to get better.

“Paul Jackson and Martin Aspinwall are coming on fine after their off season operations, but they won’t be ready this week.

“Stuart Jones had a small injury as well, but he’s been training a couple of weeks. They are there or thereabouts, but we’ll probably wait until the Hull game for those three.

“Adam Milner’s got a groin injury and Dean Widders injured his neck in training on Tuesday. Hopefully we think they’re only minor at this stage, but they definitely will not be playing. Richard Owen is going well. He’s still got a lot of work to do, but he is further ahead at this stage than we thought he would be so that’s very encouraging.”

Matterson declared himself happy with the way pre-season training has been going.

He added: “It’s been excellent to get out onto the field at last and we’ve done a lot of quality work in the last couple of weeks.

“It was obviously a tough period with the weather, but we’re in really good shape. Training’s been good. I’m really pleased with the work we’re doing.”

Tigers held their squad number launch event at King’s Croft, Pontefract, on Tuesday night when fans were given the opportunity to meet the new signings and the rest of the first team squad as well as hear the announcement of the shirt numbers for the new season.

New boy Isa has been given the number 17 shirt while Mathers is the new number one with Richard Owen moving to five. After their promising efforts in 2010 Joe Arundel (4), Jonathan Walker (15) and Adam Milner (16) have been awarded a first-17 shirt.

“There’s a few players who like to stick to their same numbers – Dean Widders wants to keep 25, Ryan McGoldrick 23 and Stuart Jones 14 – but there’s not a lot of significance in it,” said Matterson.

“The number four shirt was a tough decision with Jordan Thompson also pushing hard. But at the end of the day a squad number doesn’t guarantee a first grade position.”

The full Castleford Tigers squad numbers are: 1 Mathers, 2 Dixon, 3 Youngquest, 4 Arundel, 5 Owen, 6 Chase, 7 Orr, 8 Jackson, 9 Hudson, 10 Huby, 11 Emmitt, 12 Snitch, 13 Ferres, 14 Jones, 15 Walker, 16 Milner, 17 Isa, 18 Cas Fan, 19 Fozzard, 20 Aspinwall, 21 Massey, 22 Thompson, 23 McGoldrick, 24 O Holmes, 25 Widders, 26 Davies.