Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell is pleased with the way his players have knuckled down to the first phase of pre-season training which has been geared up to toughening them up .
Powell believes the team has to collectively improve its mentality if the Tigers are to step up on a 2015 campaign that saw the side finish in fifth place in the Super League.
Castleford only narrowly missed out on the end of season play-offs, but a poor reaction to adversity in a few games, particularly at Huddersfield when they had a player sin-binned for 10 minutes, proved crucial and the coaching staff are working hard to bring about an improvement in this area.
Powell explained: “We made no excuses last year about falling just a little bit short.
“We needed to step up a little bit in our toughness and our mentality so a lot of what we’ve been doing in pre-season has been focused on that.
“Ben Cooper’s an outstanding conditioner and we’ve got some great coaches here who work hard with the players.
“We’ve had it nailed on for what we wanted to achieve for the first three weeks and we’re moving onto the next phase this week and leading into Christmas where we’ll look to nail our game a little bit.
“If we get that right I’m confident looking towards next season.
“It hasn’t been as big a turnover as last year so that’s been pretty helpful.”
Castleford have brought in several additions, however, and new boys Joel Monaghan, Jy Hitchcox, Ben Crooks, Greg Minikin and Ryan Hampshire are all in full training now.
Powell said: “Jy Hitchcox and Joel Monaghan have just come in so I haven’t seen an awful lot of those guys, but I’m confident they’ll settle in to what’s a great group of blokes.
“People like Ben Crooks and Greg Minikin have been in a while and they’ve settled in really well.
“Greg’s looking exceptionally sharp and Crooksy’s doing well so it’s positive that the new players have settled in really quickly.”
“Overall I think we’re in a good spot. The boys have been outstanding so the signs are very positive that people want to be at the club.
“We’re looking forward to a really big season and all the signs on all fronts I’m absolutely delighted with.”
Powell is looking for his team to be right up there competing for a top four spot in 2016, but is under no illusions about how tough the task will be.
He added: “We’ve been within touching distance of winning something – obviously the Challenge Cup a couple of years ago then we’ve had a fourth and a fifth.
“The challenge for us is to take the next step. It will certainly be tough as everyone else is thinking the same thing.
“Hull have recruited massively from overseas so you would think they would improve from what they did last year.
“Salford have turned their team around a little bit, Hull KR have got a new look about them with Jamie Peacock going in there. Warrington, who also finished below us, will feel a bit more settled with some of the new players that have gone in there.
“Some of the teams below us will be fighting tooth and nail, not only to be in the top eight, but in the four as well.
“We want to be a big part of that so pre-season is absolutely crucial to get the work done .
“People are battling hard for spots. It’s an interesting time of the year.”