COACH Terry Matterson says Castleford’s players are “really excited” about playing in Saturday’s Millennium Magic game against Wakefield Wildcats at Cardiff.
“It’s great for us to play there and a derby game as well. We’re ready to go,” he said.
“The preparations have gone well. I feel everybody’s contributed in the off-season, which is pleasing, and we’re in decent shape.
“Last week was a little bit difficult not having a game, but we got through it and the guys are really excited and can’t wait to get on the field this week.”
Matterson (pictured) admitted he had some difficult selection decisions ahead of the opening game.
He said: “The squad we now have gives us more options and it’s kept us on our toes. That’s good, it’s what we’re after and I want to have to make some difficult decisions. We want that to happen right through the year.
“Touch wood, we’ll have a good run with injuries and it will make my job difficult if we have players pushing for spots on the team. We haven’t had enough of that in the past.
“There’s going to be some people who miss out that can probably feel hard done by.
Castleford are favourites to beat Wakefield, but Matterson is expecting a tough game against opponents who have a good record against the Tigers in recent big games.
He added: “Obviously they’ve had some issues off the field, but we’re not taking too much notice of that.
“More than anything that should steel them and make them closer together for this game. There’s nothing like a derby game to bring the best out of you. We’ve got to make sure that we’re on our game.
“I’m not really worried about what they’re going to bring to the occasion, we’ve got to make sure we’re right on for it.
“I’ve watched a couple of Wakefield’s pre-season games and know what they can do. Sam Obst, Julien Rinaldi and Ben Jeffries are big keys for them and we’ve got to make sure we handle them.
“Sam Obst has been a real thorn in our side over the years so we’ve got to do a real good job on him.
“It shouldn’t be a case of us having to handle the occasion. I think the atmosphere should be exciting for the players. It’s a great stadium, everyone saw it last week in the Six Nations, and these are the games you want to play in. It should be exciting for everyone and we’re all looking forward to it.”
Tigers star half-back Rangi Chase is fired up for the Millennium Magic start and the fact it is Wakefield first up.
He said: “You don’t really need much motivation going into such a big derby game.
“I’m really keen to get out there and kick off the season with a bang.
“Terry’s got us all really fired up. He’s got the squad into really good shape and team morale is high going into the first game.
“We’re all really excited about the season and can’t wait for it to start for real.Hopefully we can kick it off in the best possible way by getting one over on Wakefield down at the Millennium Stadium.”
Castleford’s former Wakefield player Ryan Hudson has backed the new way to open the season.
He said: “It will be an exciting start to the 2011 season. On a national front it’s going to be a huge, spectacular event. The Millennium Stadium is a fantastic venue and Cardiff is a great city.
“Playing Wakefield is obviously a massive derby for us. We have a great rivalry with them and it should be a great game.
“I don’t think the season could start in a better way.”