Castleford Tigers have announced the appointment of Craig Lingard as the Fords’ new Assistant Coach on a two-and-a-half-year contract.
The 45-year-old has been incredibly successful during his time at Batley Bulldogs, guiding them to the Million Pound Game against Leigh last year after seeing off Featherstone in a thrilling semi-final.
As a player, Lingard played 205 times for Batley, becoming their all-time leading try scorer with 142, and has had a stand named after him at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
Lingard will assume the role of Assistant Coach at Cas with immediate effect, whilst also remaining Head Coach of Batley until the end of the 2023 campaign, after which he will be solely at Wheldon Road.
Talking to castlefordtigers.com about his appointment, Lingard began by putting forward his excitement about linking up with the Tigers.
“I am really pleased! It’s been good to get down and get my first day out of the way. It’s been a really good day because everyone has been really welcoming and it’s been good to get out on that field for that first session.
“It’s been good to get straight out there on the field and get some drills done and watch the boys in action. It’s an exciting time for me and an exciting time for the club over the next few years.”
As mentioned earlier, Lingard will continue his duties at Batley alongside his role with the Fords until the end of the current season and when asked about the split between both jobs, the 45-year-old claimed that balancing the two won’t cause any difficulties.
“It will be pretty simple because Batley train on the night because with part-time rugby you train in the evening. With full-time rugby, you train during the day so I will be able to balance the two pretty easily. I made a commitment to the players at Batley that we were going to see the season out together and I’m really thankful that Castleford have given me the chance to do that.
“I’ll have very fond memories there because it’s a club that’s played a massive part in my life. I signed there in 1998 and spent ten years as a player then came back as assistant coach and then as head coach. Over the last couple of seasons, we’ve been successful with a semi-final and a grand final appearance.”
After coaching at lower league level with the likes of Bramley and Keighley Cougars as well as Batley, it’s clear that Lingard has certainly served his apprenticeship as he begins his first coaching position in the top tier.
Touching on this, he affirmed why now was the right time for him to make that step up and become a Super League coach.
“I think it’s the right time for me personally and I think it’s the right time for Batley and someone else to have an opportunity. My ambition has always been to try and coach in Super League and move from that part-time environment so thankfully I’ve been able to do that at Castleford.”
Lingard will join the Tigers’ coaching staff under Andy Last who was appointed Castleford’s Head Coach last month and he mentioned how he is relishing the opportunity to learn under someone with a vast coaching knowledge.
“If you think that you’ve learned everything then you stagnate, and you will stay where you are. It’s important for me that I look to learn from other people and hopefully I can benefit Andy with the experience I have had over the last five or six years as a head coach.
“Andy has worked with some first-class coaches throughout his career and although it is his first full-time gig as a head coach, he has worked under some world-class coaches so his knowledge will be up there.”
Batley are a team that have punched above their weight over the past couple of seasons with Lingard at the helm and he stated what aspects he’ll look to implement with the Fords.
“I like to have that trust with the players because I’m not a massive fan of the robotic style. I like players to see what’s in front of them, count numbers and play at numbers as well. I will be guided by Lasty as it’s his team but I’m sure I’ll get that opportunity to put my stamp on things which will come the more time I spend down here.
“It’s a project and it’s something that we are confident we can put into place and have many successful seasons.”
Lingard’s first match with his new club will be a big clash under the lights against Catalans Dragons, an occasion which he is very much looking forward to.
“It’ll be great to be here on Friday. It’s always a great occasion down here and I’ve been down a few times commentating on Radio Leeds so I know what the atmosphere is like down here and I know if we get the performance right, I’m sure the place will be bouncing.”
Head Coach Last spoke of how pleased he is to have such a knowledgeable assistant on board alongside him at the Tigers.
“I’m really pleased that Craig has decided to join us. I had a couple of good chats with him face-to-face and got a really good feel for the type of person that he is and the type of coach that he is. He’s got great experience. He understands what it takes to win. His teams are difficult to play against and they’re creative. He’s done a really good job at Batley, so I’m pleased to have him on board.
“His experience is something that I’ll be able to lean on heavily. I think the fact that he’s a former full-back, he can take a bit more of a lead on the attacking side of things. He’s knowledgeable and he has a good eye for the game, and I just feel he’ll be a really good fit for us.”