As the Super League season kick-off draws closer, we look at how Castleford Tigers will go in 2018.
Off the back of a painful Super League Grand Final defeat last October, Cas’ will look to go one step further than their 2017 League Leaders Shield and win the 2018 Grand Final.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Cory Aston (Leeds Rhinos), James Clare (Leigh Centurions), Mitch Clark (Hull Kingston Rovers), Jamie Ellis (Huddersfield Giants), James Green (Leigh Centurions), Garry Lo (Sheffield Eagles), Joe Wardle (Newcastle Knights)
Tom Holmes (Featherstone Rovers), Kevin Larroyer (Leigh Centurions), Andy Lynch (Retiring), Luke Million (Released), Joel Monaghan (Released)
St Helens (A), Widnes Vikings (H), Hull FC (H), Hull KR (A), Salford Red Devils (A)
WHAT TO EXPECT
More of the same from last year. Off the back of a sensational season, you often expect to see at least one, if not more players being poached prior to the start of next season. Caslteford, however, have only strengthened their quad prior to the opening of the 2018 season. With the additions of Jamie Ellis, Garry Lo, and Joe Wardle on top of one of the best squads in Super League last season they look ominous contenders for the title once again. After a big loss in the Grand Final, Castleford will be looking to right the wrongs of last year and we will no doubt see their classy attacking rugby once again this season.
Mike McMeeken was particularly influential for Castleford last season and inked a new deal last July which keeps him at the club until 2020. Subsequently, he was selected in the England squad for the Rugby League World Cup and is undoubtedly going from strength to strength. He will be a pivotal member of the side this year and will need to get the Tigers good go-forward for their backs, who form one of the most potent back divisions in the competition, to play off of. Still only 23, the London-born back rower still has a lot to offer and will most likely make it into the Super League Dream Team for the second year running come the end of the 2018 season.
The suspension of Zak Hardaker is going to hurt Castleford, however, they already have an apt replacement in the form of Ben Roberts, who comes into 2018 off the back of a number of classy performances in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Furthermore, the addition of Jamie Ellis to an already hot playmaking pair of Luke Gale and Ben Roberts will only add fuel to the fire. Garry Lo was also one of the more exciting players at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and he will bring additional power on the edges outside Joe Wardle, who comes in off the back of a personally successful stint in the NRL with the wooden spoon holders, Newcastle Knights.
Their first five games will test whether they are up to winning the grand final this year, with strong title contenders St Helens (Away) as their opener, followed by Widnes (Home) and then Hull FC (Home), who should also be in contention for the title. With Hull KR and Salford Red Devils as the last two of their opening five, they should really be taking five from five if they are to have aspirations of being crowned Super League Champions.
Top Tryscorer – The left winger (Most likely Greg Eden)
Top Pointscorer – Luke Gale
Club Player of the Year – Mike McMeeken
WHERE WILL CASTLEFORD FINISH?
Castleford will no doubt be feeling the effects of their Grand Final loss last year, however, they have all they need to bounce back and win it again. They have plenty of quality and depth in the squad but it’s whether they have the mentality to get over last years loss that will determine their fate in 2018.
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