I find it interesting that one of the main beneficiaries of this new licensing system that is aiming to fast track expansion is one of the most storied, grandest, traditionalist clubs of all. Cas have already seen gains come out of the licensing system, through not getting relegated at the end of a disappointing return campaign in Super League last year where they finished six points adrift at the bottom. But as well as that, it’s enabled them to keep hold of some of the most promising talents in the game.
Castleford had an odd season last year. For the first month it genuinely crossed people’s minds that they might now be able to win a game, such was the woeful nature of their play. Then they scored probably the upset of the year with a more-than-convincing 38-20 victory over the newly crowned World Club Champions, Leeds Rhinos. In fact, amongst their seven league victories were games against the Rhinos, St Helens and Warrington, which seemed to imply their downfall was a lack of consistency more than anything else. After all, this is a side that conceded 68 points against St Helens one week, only to score 66 against Harlequins the next.
Castlefords points tally for wasn’t all that bad, although it could do with some improvement. There’s fairly good reason to assume that will happen, as their back-line is full of young players who should be much better for a season’s worth of experience under their belts (given the paucity of options for England in the threequarters, look for Michael Shenton to be challenging for international honours this year). What they really need to work on this season is their defence. Castleford last season felt like a team that once you finally broke them down, the floodgates would open. Castleford need to find out how to either a) not get broken down or (more realistically) b) learn how to rally back from adversity.
Realistically, you would have to assume Castleford would be hoping to scrape into the playoffs if things fall into place for them during the season. They probably need to establish momentum early, as the impact of their terrible start ended up dragging down their whole season last year. As long as they’re putting up a fight this season, and if their young talents are performing at a high level, they should be entertaining to watch. (more…)