Castleford Tigers boss Lee Radford itching to see new side in action against York City Knights

Five or six places are up for grabs in Castleford Tigers’ side to face Salford Red Devils in Betfred Super League round one, boss Lee Radford says.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 15th January 2022, 6:00 am

Tigers have two warm-up matches – away to York City Knights on Sunday and Doncaster seven days later – to prepare for their competitive opener at the Jungle on Friday, February 11.

Radford plans to give most of his senior players some game time over the next two weekends and – with healthy competition for places in a big squad – insisted how they perform then and in the remaining weeks of pre-season training will determine his lineup to take on Salford.

“I think there’s literally five or six that you could go one way or the other and it wouldn’t be too detrimental to the team,” Radford said.

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Mahe Fonua (left), Kenny Edwards (middle) and Bureta Faraimo (right) could all make their first Tigers appearance on Sunday. Picture by Castleford Tigers/Elite Pro Sports.

“For every player to put their best foot forward not only this week, but next and also in the three weeks following in training is incredibly important.”

Sunday will be the first time Radford has coached a team in a game since his final match in charge of Hull, on March 12, 2020.

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He spent the rest of that season out of the sport and – after a move to rugby union in America fell through because of the pandemic – signed on for Tigers in April last year.

Trialist Junior Vasuitoga is included in Tigers' squad to face York. Picture by Melanie Allatt Photography/Castleford Tigers.

He then had to wait until the end of the campaign to take up his new role, so this weekend has been a long time coming and Radford is itching to get back down to matchday business.

“I am very much looking forward to it,” he said.

“It has been a while – two years – since I have taken a team.

“Pre-season, although we are probably only seven or eight weeks in, feels like it has been a long one, so the players are ready to play as well.”

Jake Trueman is ready to play for the first time since the Challenge Cup final last July. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Radford - who scrapped plans to meet Salford in a third pre-season match after the Super League fixtures were published - added: “You can only have pre-season for so long – as soon as you get over the Christmas period they are chomping at the bit to put a shirt on.

“Personally I am very much looking forward to it and also as a team.”

Radford expects big-spending Championship outfit York to give Tigers a stern test in their first visit to the LNER Community Stadium.

The coach – who visited York’s new ground earlier this week and admitted he is envious of the facilities there – stressed getting through with “no injuries” is his first priority.

He has named a 24-man squad and revealed: “We’re almost going with two 13s, one in the first half and one in the second.

“We’ll give everyone a minimum of 40 minutes.”

Six out of Tigers’ eight new signings will be on duty, with only knee injury victim Callum McLelland and George Lawler, who is suspended, missing out.

Trialist Junior Vasuitoga, a serving soldier who has been training with Tigers since November, will get a first chance to show what he can do in match action.

Stand-off Jake Trueman has recovered from a back injury and is set to play for the first time since Tigers’ Challenge Cup final defeat by St Helens last July.

Castleford Tigers: from Milner, Sutcliffe, Martin, Faraimo, Robb, Blair, Smith, Richardson, Olpherts, O’Brien, Griffin, Mamo, Trueman, Clare, Qareqare, Westerman, Vasuitoga, Edwards, Fonua, Massey, Evalds, Hall, Matagi, Hepi.

Referee: Andy Sweet (Castleford).

Kick-off: Sunday, 3pm.

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