Are Castleford Tigers a one man team? No, of course they aren’t, they have a full squad, one which they deem good enough to not need to strengthen, certainly in any great amount, for this year!
The news that 2017 Steve Prescott Man of Steel Luke Gale had been potentially ruled out for the full season, due to a training ground injury, brought a collective groan from the Tigers faithful, rightly so. But it also brought a response from the powers that be at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, which it’s fair to say, had us journalists reaching for the rule books, looking for similar cases, as they announced the possibility of them asking for special dispensation, to go over the salary cap, to replace their talismanic scrum half for the season!
It’s also fair to say, that the 2017 League Leaders Shield winners, have been somewhat derided for this stance, and personally I totally agree with the response they have received.
My main reason for agreeing with the majority, is what I firmly believe should be the way they tackle this problem, and that is from within their own squad.
Let’s be honest here, Castleford have no shortage of potential replacements for Gale in the halves. Ben Roberts, Jake Trueman, Jamie Ellis and Cory Aston are all very capable players who, with a full pre-season behind them, will all know exactly what Daryl Powell expects from them. They are professional, full-time players and, in the cases of Roberts and Trueman certainly, have plenty of experience of guiding the Tigers around the pitch, especially during Gale’s injury absence last year.
Another option in the halves for Powell, is to move hooker Paul McShane there, something he certainly did last season, with maybe Adam Milner to move back into his old hooking position, or indeed put Aston or Trueman in the number 9 position, there is no shortage of options for the coach.
But never mind me, trying to detail all these options that Daryl Powell has available, the fact is that this should be a golden opportunity for a young player to make his breakthrough, not an opportunity for the Tigers to flex their wealth muscle, to give them an advantage that maybe other teams don’t have, by making a panic signing, most likely from overseas.
Another reason I don’t believe they should be allowed to break their salary cap is that it would set a very dangerous precedent, how long would it take for other clubs to exploit it, how many teams could have exploited it last year? We know that certainly Hull FC, Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos, as well as the Tigers themselves all had horrendous amounts of injuries last year, does that mean they should all have been able to go out and sign several temporary players? No, of course it shouldn’t, what all those teams did last season, was cope manfully with the amount of absentees they had, and get on with it, that’s just the nature of the competition.
One case that people draw attention to, is from some years ago, when Hull KR apparently did something similar, when Michael Dobson was out injured for them, in his place they made the ill-fated decision to sign Willie Mason, but that was a very different situation. That was about de-registering one overseas player, to have a quota place available to sign another, while Mason was trying to sort out his Tongan heritage, so he wouldn’t count on the overseas quota, lo and behold that never happened and, on Dobson’s recovery, Mason was de-registered, so Dobson could be re-registered to play again.
So it now seems Castleford will be granted special dispensation to break their salary cap to sign a temporary replacement for a player who they already have replacements for. It is absolutely wrong on several different levels, for very many reasons.
The other thing to consider as well is the future of any player who the Tigers are allowed to bring in, what happens to him at the end of the season, indeed if Gale was actually to recover in time to play some part at the end of this season, for instance if Castleford make the play-offs, then what happens with the temporary replacement?
Let’s also remember a few years ago, when Castleford started the season with a trip to play Hull KR. In that first game their skipper Michael Shenton suffered a horrendous injury, which effectively ruled him out for the whole season. Why were the Tigers not asking then to break their salary cap to sign a replacement for what is their most influential player?
Therein lie the reasons why Castleford SHOULD NOT be allowed to break their salary cap, it’s up to you whether you agree or disagree!