Castleford Tigers have made a decision on who will lead the club forward as their permanent Head Coach in 2023 and beyond.
The Tigers were left coachless when they parted company with Lee Radford.
Cas lost their opening three games in what was Radford’s second season in charge after he had missed out in the playoffs in 2022 due to a final day defeat to Leeds Rhinos who went on to reach the Grand Final.
Radford left after defeat to Wigan Warriors in Round Three and since then Andy Last has been interim coach and Last has now been given the role permanently having pushed heavily for it and picked up the Tigers’ first two wins of the season.
Last was assistant to Radford at Hull FC and at Castleford and replaced him upon his departure at both clubs.
He guided Hull FC to the Super League semifinals in 2020 before Brett Hodgson stepped in and then impressed in the England setup with Shaun Wane.
Now after defeating West Yorkshire rivals Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity in his six games in charge creating a buffer between them and Wakefield at the bottom he has been given the job full time.
He has already made changes to the squad such as bringing in Will Tate permanently and Luis Johnson on loan from Hull KR.
Last will now lead the Tigers on a two-and-a-half-year contract.
The 42-year-old has an enormous amount of experience having represented his hometown club Hull FC as a player and a coach for over 23 years before moving on to Wakefield Trinity and eventually linking up with the Tigers ahead of the previous campaign.
During his time as assistant at the Black and Whites, Last helped the club achieve back-to-back Challenge Cup final successes in 2016 and 2017.
Now at the helm at Wheldon Road, Last spoke to castlefordtigers.com and began by explaining the pride he feels to now be taking charge permanently.
“I am absolutely over the moon! I have been waiting for an opportunity as a head coach for a number of years now and I feel as though I have served my apprenticeship working alongside some outstanding coaches whom I have learned a great deal from.
“I’m looking forward to putting my mark on Castleford over the next two and a half years. It’s a very honest and hardworking club which is steeped in a rich history, and you look at the players who have represented Castleford Tigers over the years, there have been some fantastic players who have worn the shirt. I’m looking forward to influencing the current group of players that we have and putting my stamp on things moving forward.”
The Tigers are historically a team that enjoys playing a creative, off-the-cuff brand of rugby and Fords supporters will be excited to hear that Last aims to replicate that style with players who look to carve the opposition open.
“I want us to be more creative and I want us to be playing with more shape. We want to really encourage the players to support the ball carrier and I want us to be moving the ball quickly east to west with strike plays on the edges.
“We have got some creative players at the moment, but we just need to implement a couple of tweaks and adjustments to get us playing the way we want to play. We want to make sure we entertain and be brave enough to find that pass or offload. I think defensively over the last three or four weeks we have been showing a better desire to stop the opposition from scoring.
“What we need to do is try and find that energy and enthusiasm when we’ve got the ball and to make a little more of it when we are attacking.”
The Tigers’ new Head Coach put forward what he will be looking for in terms of retention and recruitment for 2024 and beyond.
“The main factor when we make recruitment or retention decisions is whether they will improve Castleford Tigers, will they help us to be competitive and win more games. I’ve made no secret that there are big decisions to be made going forward but I think a big thing for us is looking at the profile of the squad and making sure we recruit the best fit in terms of outside backs who are going to be creative from an attacking point of view, and a forward pack that is dynamic with leg speed.
“It’s about that blend of having experienced heads alongside players who have their best years ahead of them and it’s important that supporters know that the decisions made will be in the best interests of the club not only in the short term but in the long term too.”
In closing, Last provided a message to the Fords faithful and explained how much a packed-out Jungle will be a benefit to the players and staff, starting with Friday night’s clash with the Robins.
“The fans are very passionate and expect a certain style of play and we know there have been frustrations at times, but they keep supporting the team. The players are working hard on a day-to-day basis and I’m sure if we all continue working hard and being united then we will start to win more games than we lose. We will then start to get that atmosphere that is second to none at The Jungle and what we love playing in front of.
“There’s nothing better than that and we look forward to playing in front of it again on Friday night against Hull KR.”