It’s been a slippery slope for the Tigers since the highs of the 2017 season, with an eighth-place finish in 2020 their lowest since Daryl Powell took over.
There’s been a bit of manoeuvring in and out of the club in the off-season, with four coming in alongside the permanent signing of Gareth O’Brien and six exiting.
Fullback – Niall Evalds
He was signed from Salford for two things: to improve Castleford’s attacking prowess and shore up a leaky defence. Having been at Salford all his career, 27-year-old Niall Evalds is aiming for a new start at a club that will almost certainly play to his strengths.
Wingers – Sosaia Feki and Greg Eden
Much was made of the arrival of Sosaia Feki ahead of the 2019 season, but he suffered with injury throughout the whole year, playing just half an hour of a cup game before limping off. If he can get fit, Feki will be a great asset. On the other wing is Greg Eden who ended the 2020 season like a house on fire, and, being out of contract in 2021, the winger will be out to impress even more.
Centres – Michael Shenton and Peter Mata’utia
34-year-old Michael Shenton is in the twilight of his career, but still captains the Tigers and will continue to do so in 2021. Though nowhere near as quick as he used to be, Shenton still offers vital experience. Meanwhile, Peter Mata’utia enjoyed a great start to 2020 before COVID, injury and suspension ended that momentum. With Jordan Turner lurking in the wings though, both will need to be on their game to cement a starting spot.
Halves – Jake Trueman and Danny Richardson
With Gareth O’Brien hot on their heels, Trueman and Richardson need to be on their game after a less-than impressive 2020. The partnership failed to flourish last season, but the pressure of ex-Toronto man O’Brien could be enough for the duo to turn their form around.
Props – Liam Watts and Grant Millington
Liam Watts will be hoping for an England spot for the World Cup at the end of the year, so his form for Castleford will be integral after being one of the most important players for the Tigers in recent seasons. Filling the front-row is Aussie Grant Millington who is in his tenth season with the West Yorkshire club. The 34-year-old stepped up a gear in 2020 after an injury-ravaged 2019 and will be just as important in 2021.
Hooker – Paul McShane
He doesn’t need an introduction with reigning Man of Steel Paul McShane the one to lead the Tigers team around the field. An incredibly sharp eye out of dummy-half with now an added kicking game, the number nine is Castleford’s most dangerous player.
Second-rowers – Oliver Holmes and Cheyse Blair
Oliver Holmes endured another miserable campaign in 2020 with injury once more plaguing him, yet, with a full pre-season under his belt, the Castleford man should be fit and raring to go. With the departure of Mike McMeeken, it appears as though Cheyse Blair will be the man to replace the rangy Londoner. After impressing in the back-row at the beginning of 2020, Blair was forced into the centres due to injuries and suspensions.
Loose-forward – Nathan Massey
Head coach Daryl Powell has said before that Nathan Massey is one of the first names on his teamsheet. And, after a few operations for niggling injuries, the 31-year-old should be able to repay the faith shown in him by his boss.
Subs – George Griffin, Adam Milner, Suaia Matagi, Jacques O’Neill