Departing Castleford and Warrington coaches target Challenge Cup final
The only certainty about Saturday’s second Betfred Challenge Cup semi-final is that one coach will get his wish to lead his side out at Wembley in his farewell season.
Castleford’s Daryl Powell and Warrington boss Steve Price both announced at the start of the season they would be moving on at the end of the year, the former ironically to Warrington and the latter back to Australia.
That has added an extra incentive to each team’s desire to win one of the two major trophies on offer and victory at Leigh Sports Village will take one of the coaches a step closer to a fairytale finale.
Of course, there is still the tantalising prospect of a maiden Grand Final triumph for both clubs, but that looks an unlikely prize for Castleford given their recent disastrous run in Super League.
Powell is also taking his assistant Ryan Sheridan and support staff Danny Evans and Steve Mills with him to Warrington in 2022 and says players will also be leaving the Jungle at the end of the season, which adds to the burning desire to leave a legacy.
“From an emotional perspective, there will be players leaving at the end of the year and those boys want to bow out with doing something special,” he said.
“I’ve been here eight years and, although we’ve been to a Wembley final, we haven’t won a major trophy yet and it’s something we’d dearly like to change in these next eight weeks.
“First we have to get there and that would mean a massive amount to everybody concerned, even more so the players and coaching staff who are not going to be here next year.”
Since taking over from Tony Smith at the Halliwell Jones in 2017, Price has guided the Wolves to the last four of the Challenge Cup in each of his four seasons in charge and oversaw their Wembley triumph in 2019.
“We enjoy knockout footie as a club and we enjoy the Challenge Cup,” Price said. “There’s a lot of great history involved in it so we’re really excited for Saturday.
“I’m just focused on the 80-minute performance on Saturday and preparing the boys the best we can.
“We’re not looking too far ahead, it’s just about our captain’s run now and preparing the best we can for a really solid performance because we’ve got to keep growing and staying ahead of the game to build on the really solid rhythm and momentum the boys have been building.”
Warrington are the clear favourites after their 38-14 victory over the Tigers only a fortnight ago and last week’s highly impressive 62-18 rout of Salford.
Castleford, on the other hand, are coming off a 60-6 mauling by Leeds but can draw comfort from a 21-12 opening-round win over the Wolves and Powell is confident the return of up to seven players will help turn around their flagging fortunes.
“We know what we can do as a team,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of real good sessions this week and a couple of high-quality meetings set the scene for us.
“I am confident with everything I’ve seen from the players. The boys have been great.”
Although his side go into the semi-final in sparkling form, Price insists they remain wary of Powell’s men.
“They’re a quality football team,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of really talented individuals and we still haven’t forgotten about round one either. We won’t under-estimate them, we’ll have to be at our best on Saturday.”