Castleford Tigers players reported back for training this week with head coach Daryl Powell promising plenty of hard work ahead as he aims to make sure the team hits the ground running for the start of the 2015 Super League season.
Coach of the year Powell is keen to build on the success of 2014 and together with his staff is mapping out a path that will aim to ensure the players will be ready for what he sees as a tough challenge in the new streamlined Super League of 12 teams.
He told the Express: “Eighteen of the players are back in training this week and then the rest are back in on November 17 apart from Michael Shenton, Junior Moors and Ben Roberts, who will be in soonish after that.
“The hard work is starting now. We’re piecing it all together again and we’re changing one or two little pieces in the way we play.
“We’re particularly looking for us to step up again defensively. There was a big improvement last year, but there’s still some areas that we’ve highlighted to improve defensively.
“We’ll keeping working hard on every aspect that we do and look to go to another level next season.
“Last season was a big improvement and I was delighted for the whole club to be involved at the Man of Steel Awards and see it as a big recognition of what everybody has done at the club this year. We had Daryl Clark getting Man of Steel and we must have come pretty close to being club of the year.
“The whole thing is fair recognition of how hard everybody’s worked at the club, but whilst it was great for the club to be recognised for how hard everybody’s worked this year, it’s pretty important to put that behind you quickly and move on because you know that the challenges that are going to be coming up in the next year are going to be pretty formidable for us.”
Powell explained that the first few weeks of pre-season training was mainly about conditioning work.
He said: “There’s a lot of physical work for the players to do first. We’re getting them back in the gym and working exceptionally hard from a strength perspective.
“It’s about getting the players to a level in the first couple of weeks and getting their bodies used to the rigorous training schedule again, which takes a little bit of adapting back to.
“Then we will focus on skill and contact work and it’s just getting the players ready to perform, getting their skill sets touched up again and physically getting back into contact again.
“When you’ve been out of it for six or seven weeks it takes a little bit of time to adapt. The first two weeks to a month will be important in that perspective.”