Head coach Daryl Powell believes that players of the calibre of Michael Shenton and Denny Solomona wanting to commit themselves to new long term deals with Castleford Tigers shows how much the club has come on in the last two years.
Shenton and Solomona both recently signed three-year contract extensions with the Tigers while Nathan Massey, Matt Cook, Mike McMeeken and Jake Webster have also agreed new deals in the off-season.
Talks are ongoing with more of Castleford’s first team squad in a bid to tie up the club’s outstanding talent and it all points to a settled squad ready to give it a big go in 2016.
Tigers boss Powell is delighted with contract developments in recent weeks.
He said: “You want to retain your best players and to be able to do that at this stage is really important for us.
“We’re right in the middle of retaining the players we’ve got on board. There’s a few more to come and a couple of guys who need to play some consistent football this year before we start talking to them.
“It’s great news that Michael Shenton’s signed a new deal. He’s been a massively important player for us in the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been at the club.
“Not just his game and the quality you see on the field, but the leadership off of it. His influence in the group is a hugely positive one so it’s great news when someone who’s got that high a standing within the club wants to stay on a long term deal.”
Powell believes there is quality in his squad with almost all the key players from 2015 still around and some quality additions brought in during the off-season.
He said: “I am really happy with the squad.
“Liam Finn left us at half-back, but Ryan Hampshire has come in wanting to play half and he will be given the opportunity to really press Ben Roberts and Luke Gale.
“The outside-backs have had a bit of a change-round with Ben Crooks and Joel Monaghan coming in and we’ve lost a couple of guys we’ve had here for a couple of years.
“It is a slight switch, but I think we’ve got some real quality there.
“If we can get these guys hitting their straps it can be an outstanding backline, to go along with the outstanding pack we’ve had for the last couple of years.”
Powell is looking for his side to make a better start to the new season than in 2015 when they narrowly lost their first three.
He added: “Losing our first three ended up being what cost us a place in the top four. That was disappointing and there’s some lessons to be learned there.
“I think we have learned some lessons about integrating new players and I am confident we are in a good place.
“There is a lot of work to do, but it is about being a bit more durable as a team and having an edge about us defensively.”
“We are there or thereabouts in terms of league position and we need to take the next step and give ourselves the chance of getting over a team in a final, which would be outstanding.”