A top four of: Castleford, Salford, Leeds and Wakefield, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would have predicted that at the start of the season. Many would have predicted the usual suspects, Wigan, Saints, Wire possibly even Hull after their performance last year. But to have two teams that were in last year’s middle 8’s in the top four at this stage of the season was unforeseen. People may say, Leeds in the top four is not so unpredictable but after the season they had last year and their loss of a huge player in Hardaker and only Matt Parcell coming in the Rhinos may well have just been looking to consolidate this season. The Super League is wide open this season, more so than ever, could we see a new name on the trophy? Are classy Cas truly back? Is the Devilution really happening? Are shakey Wakey going to cause an upset? Will the Rhinos create a new Golden Generation? Or will one of the usual candidates come from behind to spoil the party?
Castleford Tigers – WOW that is the only word I have to describe Cas at this present moment. They are dominating all over the field, superb attack backed up by immense defence, personally I believe that has to go down to Daryl Powell. He has taken players who were pottering along such as: Luke Gale, Paul McShane and Greg Eden and made them into brilliant players. Luke Gale previously at Bradford Bulls always had talent but he struggled to set the Super League alight, now on the other hand he is possibly the best kicking half back in the league. He dominates the final play, organises his team well, he can pass, kick and run the ball. There is no doubt that Powell has inspired something in Gale and given him the tools and confidence to be not only dominant for Cas but in the England set up too. My only worry is, can Gale dominate even when Cas aren’t playing well? Can he drag Cas through a scrap and provide a moment of magic that can turn the tide? He is very much a front foot player but time shall tell.
McShane and Eden are revelations this season, McShane the eternal under appreciated hooker, this season he is getting all the plaudits he deserves and alongside Gale has Cas attacking with such flare. Not only that but McShane is the first defender in a tackle, he leads from the front and lays the platform for his forwards, he is tenacious and creative and never takes a backwards step. For me I’m so pleased McShane has found a home in Cas, I loved him when he was at Leeds and always thought he should have had more of a chance, the sport needs players like McShane who run their blood to water and play as if they’re one of the fans on the pitch, he takes it so personally and makes sure his team mates do too. For me only Leeds’ Matt Parcell is playing better at hooker than McShane this season.
The forwards – Cas have a sinciliating attack this season but their forwards and defence is the major area of improvement for me. Cas have always been able to score 30+ but they have also always been able to concede 40+ this season that seems to have changed. The Tigers pack have laid a platform in attack and defence in Super League this season, Millington, Jese Sene Lefao, Lynch, McMeeken, Milner and then the likes of Junior Moors and Cook off the bench. The Cas forward line is formidable, not only are they big meter makers but they have proper rugby brains too, they can pass and offload which makes the Cas attack more than capable of hitting any team from anywhere. It is hard to see a weakness in his Tigers outfit. For me McMeeken and Sene Lefao have been two of the best forwards in the league, their running and offload game allows the likes of Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Roberts and co to get on the front foot so their edge players can hurt the opposition with their pace!
The centres must get a mention – Webster and Shenton make it easy for their wingers to score bagfuls of tries, in my opinion without Shenton in the middle Eden would be a good but not spectacular winger, that’s not to take credit away from his spectacular finishes BUT Shenton often gives the perfect pass or that extra yard of space for Eden to take the headlines, the same with Webster and Minikin on the other side! Castleford’s edge players are frightening, workman like, ferocious but also brilliantly intelligent rugby league players.
Who can stop Classy Cas? Will they go all the way?
Prediction – 1st in the league – losing grand finalists
MOS contenders – Luke Gale, Shenton