GOALKICKING hero from last year’s memorable Challenge Cup run Kirk Dixon has come through his first two Castleford Tigers games after shoulder reconstruction with flying colours.
The Hull-born winger or centre missed the last month of the 2011 campaign with a shoulder injury picked up in the cup semi-final against Leeds at the Keepmoat Stadium and missed the first part of pre-season training while recovering from an operation.
But he has fought his way back to fitness and came through his comeback matches against against Huddersfield Giants 11 days ago and Wakefield Wildcats last Sunday unscathed.
The 27-year-old, who has signed a three-year contract to stay at Castleford, is confident of being fully fit in time for the opening Super League clash next month.
He said: “I’ve recovered from the injury. I had a shoulder reconstruction, but it felt fine against Huddersfield.
“It was good to get the boots back on and get out there. I need the friendlies to get my confidence back and get match fit and stuff like that, but I’ll be all right for the start of Super League.
“You can do as much training as you like, but with all due respect you can’t replicate match fitness and that’s what I need to get. “
Dixon is pleased with the way training has been shaping up.
He said: “Everyone’s settled into the new regime really well and everyone’s looking forward to the start of the season.
“Training’s been totally different to what we’ve been used to. I think it’s been a good shake-up for the club and it’s maybe what it needed.
“Terry Matterson did a fantastic job, but it was time to move on and Ian (Millward) has brought in a lot of good ideas. He’s brought in some good staff as well and everyone’s bought into it. We’re all pushing in the right direction and working as hard as we can to do well on the field.
“They’re longer days, but it’s what we’re paid to do and it’s enjoyable. We’re playing rugby for a living and we’re very lucky to be able to do so.
“There’s a lot of people out there who want to do it so you can’t complain about the long days. We do get a lot of rest at times and we just need to get on with it and enjoy it while we’re here.
“Super League moves on every year and every team gets better and better so if you don’t you get left behind. Hopefully with the pre-season work we’ve been doing we can show that we’ve improved.
“Everyone’s aim at the start of the competition is to be in the play-offs at the end of the year, but there are only eight spots and we need to concentrate on ourselves and work very hard on our own game then the rewards will come. As an individual you need to work on your own game and progress and then help the team get in the play-offs.
“We’ve been there before and the semi-final last year and once you get a taste for it you want more of those big games.
“Hopefully come the end of the season we’ll be in the mix, but it’s a long way off and we need to concentrate on the start of the season first and the opening game against Salford. We want to get off to a good start.
“There were some good things to come out of last Friday’s game and also some things we need to work on.
“You are not going to be firing on all cylinders for the pre-season trial games and with new ideas and new faces in the side it took us a little while to gel. But I think we’ve shown there’s some good combinations there now.
“We’ve got a little bit to work on during this week and we’ll go into the Wakefield game and try to put that into practice. Then there’s one more week training to go into that first Super League game and hopefully it will all be working out by then.”
Dixon played on the right wing against Huddersfield, but does not yet know which position coach Millward sees his future in.
He added: “It’s a case of me trying to get into the team to start with.
“Everyone’s put their hand up and are good enough to play Super League so from a personal point of view I need to concentrate on my own game and get into the 17 then hopefully a starting spot.
“After that everything’s a bonus.
“I enjoy playing both centre and on the wing. Even though they are close to each other they are two totally different positions.
“At centre you are probably doing more defending where on the wing it’s more about attack, but I’m happy playing both and want to help the team out any way I can.”