Daryl Powell looks back in bid to move forward and land cup for Castleford
Castleford coach Daryl Powell will draw on his club’s history in the Challenge Cup and the magic of Wembley to get his his side in the right mood for this weekend’s showdown with St Helens.
It is 35 years since Castleford enjoyed the last of their four Cup final triumphs and Powell, who will join Super League rivals Warrington at the end of the season, says victory on Saturday would provide a fairytale finish to his eight-time reign at his hometown club.
Powell was a player with Sheffield Eagles in 1986 but he went down to Wembley as a Castleford supporter to watch them beat Hull KR 15-14 and he has invited two survivors from that team to address his players before they set off for London on Thursday.
“If I could have said right at the start of the year what could be the most special thing that could happen this year it would be winning the Challenge Cup,” Powell told a press conference.
“It’s an iconic competition, it’s iconic in Castleford’s history. We look back at 35, 69, 70 and 86 and we want to leave our own legacy. For me it would be super special, I can’t put into words quite how much that would mean.
“We want to be able to help our supporters remember it forever and you remember it forever if you win it.
“Wembley is embedded in the sporting psyche and history of the club. You look at last night and the England game, Wembley means something completely different to people.
“It’s such a special time for fans, walking down Wembley, it’s a feeling like nothing else. It’s just unbelievable as a sporting showpiece.”
Powell, a Cup winner with Leeds in 1999, guided Castleford to the 2014 in his first full season after taking over as head coach, and says he has learned the lessons from that 23-10 defeat by the Rhinos.
“I think I tried to play it down and keep a lid on it,” he said. “In hindsight that was a bit of a mistake.
“We want to enjoy the experience and be excited by the challenge. That’s one of the biggest messages I’ve given to the players this time. We’re going to enjoy the week and everything that it stands for.”
Powell rested 14 players of his likely Wembley team for Sunday’s league game against Salford, which they lost 70-18, and hopes to be at full strength against Saints.
Powell says prop Grant Millington came through his first outing for two months against Salford with no ill-effects and had a light run-out with the squad on Monday,
The one serious injury doubt is stand-off Jake Trueman, whose only appearance in the last two months was in the semi-final win over Warrington after being plagued by back trouble.
“He had a run today and looked better,” Powell said. “We’ll see how he goes through the week. He’s 70-30 I would say.”
Powell says his players passed their latest Covid-19 tests which will be a relief to the Rugby Football League, who put contingencies in place in case of further disruption.
Castleford captain Michael Shenton took his three children out of school as a precaution but insists it was not a decision he took lightly.
“It’s not something I’d condone, my wife’s a teacher, so we know how important school is to kids,” Shenton told the press conference.
“They’ll come out of school for a couple of days until we set off to Wembley. It is just everywhere around here, to be fair.
“With it being such a special game, it’s the only reason we’d ever do it.
“It wasn’t a decision we took lightly but something my partner was comfortable with.
“There’s other boys making sacrifices. I’d be gutted for my kids if they got track and trace and wouldn’t be able to come down and watch this game.
“My son Seb is absolutely loving it. He came to the semi-final and, along with the football that’s been on, it’s taken his interest in sport to a new level.
“For him to see me at Wembley and experience it will be a special moment for me. To experience that is worth taking a couple of days off school.”