Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell has praised hooker Adam Milner after he came through a tough return to action in great style at Warrington.
Milner had not played a game since the end of last season after undergoing knee surgery that meant he was late to come into pre-season training and missed all the warm-up games as well as the opening Betfred Super League match against Leigh.
But with fellow hooker Paul McShane suspended for the trip to the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Milner was brought back in and played almost the entire game in a display of toughness that earned him high praise from his head coach.
Powell told the Express: “Adam Milner was fantastic. For him to do 76 minutes when he hasn’t played a game in pre-season was a great effort.
“He’s had a couple of weeks of training and missed a lot with his knee so to come up with a performance full of energy, toughness and durability was superb.
“He looks like he’s developing all the time.
“If he gets a run of games under his belt now we will see the combination of him and Paul McShane doing really well for us.
“I think he’s a little bit sore, which you expect after your first game, but he came through it okay. He’ll shrug that off and be ready to go again.”
Milner was not the only star performer at Warrington with Zak Hardaker taking most people’s man of the match after an all-action display from full-back.
Powell said: “I thought Zak Hardaker was outstanding – his ability with the ball, his defensive work, he was rock solid under the high ball, he showed he’s a tough player. And he’s getting to know the way we play.
“It’s been a bit of a change for him. Leeds play differently to the way we play and it takes a player in a pivotal position like Zak is a little bit of time to get used to the way we want him to play. But you can start to see some of that coming now and that’s pleasing.
“I thought he looked electric at the weekend, whether it’s working out of tight spaces or whether we got him into the clear I thought he looked exceptionally quick.
“He’s been with England this week and I think if he continues to do what he’s doing now then he’ll be a shoe in there, which is obviously one of his targets.”
Powell had more words of praise for the rest of his team for their display at Warrington.
He added: “I thought it was a really good team performance sprinkled with outstanding individual things.
“Greg Eden’s doing some outstanding things, Greg Minikin was outstanding with that finish. Luke Gale was controlling as he is always is and our outside backs are looking great.
“Our pack is just so hard to handle. There’s a real mix there.
“Our bench was superb. I thought Nathan Massey’s second stint was outstanding. I could talk about all the players, it was great across the board. Mike McMeeken looks an outstanding back row and Jesse scored a great try.
“The boys are playing well, they are in a bit of a groove and you could talk about all of them and say they are on the button at the minute and going really well.
“The key is that you stay motivated.”