James Clare is keen to prove his worth to Castleford Tigers if as expected he is given the chance to resume his Super League career in tonight’s game against Hull KR.
After being named in the 19-man squad ahead of Jy Hitchcox and with Greg Eden injured on the sidelines the hometown winger and boyhood Tigers fan looks set to make his second time around competitive debut for Cas at KCOM Craven Park.
The 26-year-old last played Super League for Castleford Tigers in May 2015 so he has had a fair wait to represent the club he has always had an affinity for.
And Clare knows he needs to make the most of the opportunity with competition stiff at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, just as it was when he made the tough decision to leave three years ago and join Bradford Bulls.
“It was one of the most difficult things ever as, as a young professional growing up you just want to play for your hometown club,” said Clare.
“Coming through that’s all I wanted to do – play for Cas. Making the decision to move, and the chat with Daryl Powell, was really difficult but at the same time it was one of the best things I’ve ever done as it gave me an opportunity to go grow as a person and as a player.
“This time coming around for my second stint at Cas I feel much better, stronger, smarter and ready to give it a real go.
“It’s unfortunate for Greg getting injured, but it gives me a really good chance to get a game and hopefully keep that spot for four, five, six weeks or however long he’s out. Then, potentially, keep it again when he’s back and fight for that spot.”
Clare scored 21 tries in 30 games for Bradford in the Championship before they suffered liquidation last January, prompting his move to newly-promoted Leigh Centurions.
However, he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in a pre-season game and did not feature again until September, admittedly scoring six tries in five Qualifiers games, but unable to prevent their relegation in the Million Pound Game.
Clare recalled: “I went with a view to get as much game time as possible at Bulls and ended up starting every single game in the regular season, which was perfect for what I needed at the time.
“Obviously a bit of trouble there led me to leaving for Leigh, but you go through the adversity of an ACL reconstruction and that helps you grow as a person off the field as well.
“I feel I learned a lot more just watching so many games. Having a year out and doing a bit of stuff with the coaching staff over there allowed me to learn even more.”
Clare - who scored 24 tries in 38 games in his first Cas stint – stayed in touch with Tigers players so it has been easy for his him to settle back in.
He added: “Obviously I’m still a Cas fan and it was incredible last year. I felt I was part of the side as I was still very good friends with some of the team and I was catching up with them for coffee during the week.
“Unfortunately we fell at the last hurdle, but I feel the team is better this year than it was before and hopefully we can go one better this year. And I can be involved in those big games.”