Long serving winger Kirk Dixon is planning to put past semi-final heartbreak to good use when he runs out onto the Leigh pitch in Sunday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup tie against Widnes Vikings.
Dixon is one of only two current first teamers who featured in Castleford’s last cup semi in 2011 when they were so unlucky to lose out in sudden death extra-time to Leeds Rhinos and he remembers the empty feeling of that day.
It did not mean much that the Tigers had played their part in adding to the rich history of the competition with one of its most memorable semi-finals. Cas did not get to step out onto the Wembley turf and the feeling of hurt will drive Dixon on against Widnes as he aims to go one better this time.
He said: “Possibly we can use that semi against Leeds as extra motivation.
“Once that game was done the feeling was would that chance ever come again?
“There’s only two teams that can get there and we got so close, but this is another chance for us.
“Some of us are getting on a little bit now and in the twilight of our career now, if you like, so not many more opportunities may come up. So it’s a chance we are determined to make the most of.
“But Widnes will have blokes in the same situation who are saying the same thing so it all points to be a great game.
“Hopefully it won’t come down to sudden death this time, but we do like to keep fans on the edge of their seats don’t we?
“If it comes down to that we’re prepared for it, we’ve got players in the side who are used to playing in that sudden death environment and if it comes down to that hopefully we can still do a job.
“But hopefully we will not leave it until that last minute and see if we can get the job done in 80 minutes.”
Dixon has played in some huge games in his seven years with Castleford, but believes Sunday’s match is the biggest.
He said: “I was fortunate to play in the last semi-final when we got beat by Leeds in sudden death and that was a massive game.
“The promotion to Super League was a big game for the club as well, but this game against Widnes feels like the biggest in my time at Castleford.
“We’ve got a fantastic group of players and we all want to do it for each other. We’re as close off the field as on it so we don’t want to let each other down. “We want to make sure we do everything right and there will be no stone unturned with Daryl (Powell), who’s fantastic at what he does and will make sure our preparation is perfect.
“We’ve got some really mature, professional heads in our side that realise we can’t get carried away with the occasion. We need to go there and play the game, not the occasion.
“It’s huge and there’s a big prize at the end of it. Everyone’s excited, but we are under no illusions that we need to put in a good week’s training as we are up against a fantastic side.”
Dixon added: “I’ve been a spectator at Wembley watching the Challenge Cup final a few times, but never played at Wembley so it would be nice to get there.
“But we’ve been big believers all year in that you concentrate on your next game and that is the semi-final. If you start looking beyond that you can trip up.
“Daryl has put all the focus into this game now. We got a job done last weekend and all the thoughts are on playing Widnes and what task we have ahead of us.
“We are doing everything we can preparation wise to make sure that come Sunday we are ready to go.
“It’s going to be a massive 80 minutes because obviously Widnes have got their eye on Wembley as well. They have quality, they’ve got big men and they’ve got speed so they’ve got everything you need to win big games.
“But we’ll be going there confidently and if we perform like we know we can hopefully we can get the job done.”