Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell is happy with the fixture list handed out to his team for the 2014 Super League season.
The fixtures published this week see the Tigers start away from home for the fifth consecutive year when they travel to the Provident Stadium to play Bradford Bulls on Sunday, February 16.
Castleford’s opening home game follows a week later when they host Catalan Dragons at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle on Sunday, February 23.
They then face three top eight sides from last year Hull KR, Wigan and Hull before a trip to the new look and newly named Salford Red Devils completes a first six fixtures that will reveal plenty about the Tigers’ prospects for next season.
Tigers head coach Powell believes the opening matches give his team a chance to put a marker down.
He told the Express: “There’s lots of tough challenges in there obviously, but I think it’s a good start for us at Bradford then at home to Catalan. We’ve got to make sure we start on the front foot.
“Easter looks okay. There’s a few other quick turn rounds in there, which are not ideal – we play Huddersfield on a Sunday and Leeds the following Thursday twice, which is short turn rounds against good teams. But with the Sky format this year there’s not a lot you can do about that.”
Castleford will now be playing Bradford back to back at the Provident Stadium as the Bulls are also their final pre-season opponents, but Powell sees no problems with this.
He said: “It’s a bit ironic that we play Bradford in a friendly a couple of weeks before we play them in the league.
“We’ll both get a good look at each other and it will be about the team that learns more about the other in the friendly, but I don’t think it will be a problem.
“The fixtures weren’t out when we planned our pre-season games so there’s not a lot we can do about that.”
Powell is pleased to be taking on the Catalan Dragons so early in the season with the French team being known as occasionally slow starters before the warmer weather kicks in.
He added: “The first home game against Catalan can be good for us. It’s still pretty cool around that time and the French don’t like playing in the cold so it will be a good opportunity for us to get stuck into them.
“We want to get off to a strong start and the opening games give us an opportunity to do that.
“We’ve got to believe we can win games consistently this year. That’s got to be our focus. It’s a big challenge, but if we are going to be successful it’s something we’ve got to achieve.”