New boys Joe Wardle, Cory Aston, Mitch Clark and James Green are all set to make their Castleford Tigers’ debut in the Boxing Day game against local rivals Featherstone Rovers.
James Clare and Jamie Ellis, who have returned to Castleford in the off-season, are also down to play, but winger Garry Lo – who only arrived back in England last week after playing in the World Cup – sits the first pre-season game out.
Five players who featured in the 2017 Grand Final – Jesse Sene-Lefao, Oliver Holmes, Jy Hitchcox, Matt Cook and try scorer Alex Foster – are included in Tigers’ 21-man squad, along with Will Maher and Brandon Douglas, who will be going out on loan for the season with Halifax, and eight promising young players who are training with the Cas first team.
“It’s a good balance in there and it will be interesting to see how the young players go,” said head coach Daryl Powell.
“There’s going to be five or six players on Boxing Day who are vying to get a look at first team for the first game and they need to play well.
“For some players it’s a key game the Christmas game, for some others it’s not. It gives you a chance to say ‘my pre-season has been a good one and I’m ready to go and a real option for the start of the season’.
“It’s always good for the young lads to get a look at the standard of the players that they are training alongside. Sometimes it’s a bit of an eye opener and again it’s a good opportunity for people to show what they’re made of.
“We’ve got something like a 36-man squad with the young players and 21 of them are getting first opportunity.”
Tigers’ squad: Cory Aston, Mitch Clark, James Clare, Matt Cook, Brandon Douglas, Tuoyo Egodo, Jamie Ellis, Alex Foster, Jy Hitchcox, Oliver Holmes, James Green, Will Maher, Jacques O’Neill, Jack Render, Jack Ray, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Robbie Storey, Jake Sweeting, Jake Trueman, Calum Turner, Joe Wardle.