Castleford coach Daryl Powell bracing himself for emotional night

Castleford coach Daryl Powell had a premonition that his club’s Super League play-off hopes would come down to the last game of the regular season – and a clash with his future club Warrington.

Powell announced at the start of 2021 that he would be ending his eight-year stay at the Tigers to join the Wolves and says he anticipated a season-long rivalry between his current and future employers that will culminate in a win-or-bust clash at the Jungle on Thursday night.Victory will secure a play-off spot – and ironically a trip to Warrington next Friday – but defeat will signal the end of the season and Powell’s time with his hometown club, as well as gifting both Hull KR and Leeds places in the top six ahead of Friday’s meeting at Headingley.

Powell, who is joining Warrington on a three-year contract, has already engineered victories in two of the three meetings with his next club this season, including a memorable 35-20 success that took them to Wembley, and is hoping to complete the hat-trick.

“I knew it would come to this to be honest,” he said. “I was pretty certain we’d get drawn against Warrington in the semi-final (of the Challenge Cup) and I always felt the play-offs would come down to this game.

“I thought we had to win six of our last eight games and we’ve won five.

“It’s just a good opportunity for us. We had to win last week or this week to be in the six and it comes down to this. It’s a great opportunity to put it all on the line and play well.”

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Win or lose, Powell knows the next time he coaches at Wheldon Road it will be with the away team and he is bracing himself for an emotional evening.

“I’ve just taken a walk around the stadium on my own because, at some point, it hits you that this is it,” he said.

“I’m not going to be coaching another game here. I just want to make sure it doesn’t end here, that’s the most important thing.

“Emotion is important in team sport, it’s getting the needle just right so you don’t tip it into over-excitement, but I think we’ve got the right balance. It should be a great game.”

In addition to their coach, Castleford fans will bid fond farewells to captain Michael Shenton and prop Grant Millington, who are retiring, and Peter Mata’utia and Oliver Holmes, who are following Powell to his new club.

Castleford are boosted by the return of prop Liam Watts, who has served a two-match ban and recovered from a fractured bone in his calf, and hope to have hooker Paul McShane back after missing last Saturday’s defeat at Hull KR with an ankle injury.

Warrington are strengthened by the return of all four specialist props, but Price must find a hooker in the continuing absence of Daryl Clark and Danny Walker, while Matt Davis, who deputised as hooker for the win over Salford, is out with a torn bicep.

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