Castleford Tigers: Are they serious contenders?

Castleford Tigers 54-4 Wigan Warriors

Welcome back to From The Terraces, the weekly column where I choose a hot topic within the rugby league community, and discuss my opinions. This week I look at Castleford Tigers, and discuss whether they are finally serious contenders in Super League.

As we head into round eight, Castleford Tigers sit top of Super League having won six of their seven gamers so far, only falling to a spirited Salford at the AJ Bell Stadium. They face a tough test away at Wigan this week, and if they come out of that with a win, and head into the Easter period on top, it’ll be great signs for the Tigers.

It’s been an eye-catching start from the Tigers, as they’ve played some unbelievable rugby league in their matches, scoring tries for fun, and they’re enjoying every minute of it. So far, they’ve scored 281 points, which includes 50 tries, in just seven league games. They’re averaging 40+ points a game in 2017, some crazy statistics.

It must be great to be a winger or centre at Castleford this season. They just seem to be out there waiting for the ball to reach them, and they’re in for another try. Greg Eden and Greg Minikin have scored 19 tries between them so far. Again, crazy stats. The other week, Minikin got injured and they brought Joel Monaghan in, and he’s scored four in the last two games.

On average, the Tigers have scored a try about every 10 minutes of play in 2017, but more than that, it’s the style, creativity, skill and speed of their tries that have excited not just rugby league fans, but the general sports viewer who follows several team sports.

(Phil Clarke on Sky Sports after Round 3)

I know we’re only seven games in, and this time last season Widnes sat top of Super League, unbeaten. However, this is a different story. Tigers are a much better side than Widnes, and they have more class and quality in their ranks. They also have a superb coach in Daryl Powell. There’s just more belief in the Tigers side.

I don’t think they’re a one trip pony either. They have quality all over the pitch. Whether it’s the likes of Zak Hardaker, Luke Gale, Greg Minikin, Greg Eden, Rangi Chase and Jake Webster in the backs. Or, Gadwin Springer, Junior Moors, Adam Milner, Paul McShane, Mike McMeeken and Oliver Holmes in the forward pack. Class comes from all areas.

In an era when some teams just aim to complete their set, gain some ground and then kick and hope to score, the Tigers are a serious revelation. They’ve given the Super League a boost to start the season and I’d like the rest to try and copy them, as successful sides are usually imitated.

One thing that other fans will note, is their capability of competing at this level, for a full season. Which is a great point, as its been clear to see in previous campaigns, that the Tigers can look a fantastic side, but then go on to lose so many stupid games.

You look at last season. Castleford found it difficult to get up for the games against teams who haven’t won trophies or finished inside the top four in recent years. They lost to Widnes, Catalan, Hull KR and Salford twice and even dropped a point with a draw at Hull KR.

It’s results like that, which have kept them out for the top four, and a chance at the play-offs for so long. It takes a different mindset to continually win while on top, which is something that they need to learn this year.

However, this season seems different, they seem different. There’s a good sense of belief down at the Tigers, and while they’re enjoying their start to the season, they know that there will come a time when they’ll be really tested, against a strong side, and I think they’re ready for that test.

Also, one of Daryl Powell’s biggest aims this season was to make themselves harder to score against. After seven games this season, I’d say that there has been a significant improvement.

However, at the same time, they haven’t really had to defend for a full 80-minutes yet, and have just conceded sloppy tries when the games been won. So, you could say that there’s been no real test in that area.

I think it’s a given that they’ll finish in the play-offs this season, I really do. They will go on to lose a couple of games, maybe one or two more, but they’ll still win plenty, and maintain their great form throughout the season.

They will pose a real threat come the Super 8s, and have teams panicking. The only thing that could cost them this season is injuries. If they were to lose a couple of players from their backs, then I’d start to worry for them.

You’d have to be 30-years old to remember the last cup that Castleford won. It was on Saturday, January 22, 1994. Castleford would beat Wigan 33-2 in the Regal Trophy final.

Well, after the way they’ve started this season, there might be a new generation of fans who get to see the Tigers finally lift some silverware.

This concludes the eleventh edition of From The Terraces. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts on Castleford, and whether you think they will challenge this season, in the comments below.

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