Castleford Tigers: An overhauled squad will look to do better than 13th position
Rangi Chase is still around but the rest of Castleford's squad has a new look to it for the 2013 campaign.
Last Updated: 01/02/13 2:22pm
After narrowly missing out on the play-offs the previous season, Castleford never came close to threatening the top eight in 2012. In fact, had it not been for their better points difference, they and not Widnes would have finished the campaign with the wooden spoon.
It was hardly the way Ian Millward wanted his first year in charge to end. The Tigers won just six league games in total and also suffered an early Challenge Cup exit at the hands of near-neighbours Featherstone Rovers.
Everything seemed to start off nicely with an away win at a very cold Salford in the first week in February - instead, however, Castleford wouldn't win another league game until the end of March.
There were some rare highlights - a win over derby rivals Wakefield and a thumping of Huddersfield at home amongst them - but the team didn't manage back-to-back victories throughout the year.
Too much hinged on Rangi Chase, and the half-back failed to hit the heights he had displayed the previous year in being crowned Man of Steel. He served a suspension on the field and also off of it, the club taking strong action after a breach of discipline.
The England international was also linked with a move away, including joining former team-mate Ryan McGoldrick at Hull, but will now remain at the PROBIZ Coliseum. The fact that there were several comings and goings during the year shows just how tough it was for the Tigers.
Ins and Outs
Millward has not held back in making changes. They started long before the off-season, including allowing McGoldrick and Brett Ferres to join Super League rivals midway through last year.
Joe Arundel - one of many young Tigers to have come through the youth set-up - has headed for Hull, Josh Griffin has switched codes and Richard Mathers has signed permanently with Wakefield after playing on loan for the Wildcats in 2012.
Ryan Hudson, Danny Orr and Nick Youngquest have all retired, but Millward has gone for quality over quantity in terms of bolstering his playing squad for 2013.
Michael Shenton is back with his former club after a stint with St Helens was cut short. He had another 12 months to run on his previous contract but was allowed to move on a four-year deal. The England international has also been named as the Tigers' new captain.
Jake Webster has also been signed, giving Cas now have a potent pair of centres to put out onto the field. It should mean fellow new boy Justin Carney gets the chance to show off his finishing skills after arriving from Sydney City Roosters on a one-year deal.
Lee Gilmour and Keith Mason have made the short journey from Huddersfield and Weller Hauraki is another Super League-experienced player to have been snapped up. The trio will bolster the pack and should help Chase and fellow half-back Jamie Ellis (a mid-season arrival from Hull) make sure they are playing on the front foot.
Tony Harber is part of the Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group sports department covering sport stories across West Yorkshire but mainly in the Pontefract and Castleford area. He has been reporting on Castleford Tigers for the last three years and for various titles has covered Leeds United for more than 20 years.
Here are his thoughts on the season ahead...
"Castleford Tigers go into the 2013 Super League season with a reshaped side after seeing 12 players from last year's first team squad leave the club and eight new boys come in.
While the likes of Danny Orr - now assistant coach to Ian Millward with the Tigers - Ryan Hudson, Brett Ferres, Joe Arundel and Nick Youngquest will be missed there are high hopes that the new signings can make an impact.
The back division certainly has an exciting look about it with new centres Michael Shenton and Jake Webster aiming to strengthen a department that was seen as weak last year.
Webster has already shown fans glimpses of his powerful potential with tries in the two pre-season games while Shenton's return to the club is a real boost and he will skipper the side in a big season for him personally as he looks to find the form that can win him a place in England's squad for the World Cup.
On the wing, Australian Justin Carney will be looking to give Cas additional pace and power and a man of the match display in the Featherstone warm-up match bodes well for the campaign ahead.
Perhaps the Tigers' most important pre-season development was confirming that former Man of Steel Rangi Chase was staying and he will form a new half-back partnership with Jamie Ellis, who will be determined to prove he is Super League class.
In the forwards, Keith Mason will beef up the front row, Weller Hauraki is determined to have a big season after a disappointing time with Leeds Rhinos last year and Lee Gilmour will add vital experience and know how to the club.
Jordan Tansey completes the list of off season signings and is likely to be used as a utility player as he is capable of playing anywhere across the back division.
Castleford head coach Ian Millward has been happy with preparations and expects an improvement on last year when the Tigers only just avoided finishing bottom of Super League, but much could depend on luck with injuries as they appear to have one of the thinnest squads in the competition.
They can now field a side certainly capable of finishing in the top eight with a nice mix of emerging youngsters and wise old heads, but the small squad could be exposed if injuries strike and on the eve of the new season they have already lost the services of one key player with goal kicking winger Kirk Dixon ruled out for six weeks after picking up a calf injury."