Andy Last says that his Castleford Tigers side are fully aware of the implications relegation could cause, but has warned them that performances must improve if they are to be the ones to avoid the drop in 2023.
Last took temporary charge of the Tigers following Lee Radford’s departure in March, and by the following month had been appointed on a permanent basis. He had won two of his first five games at the helm.
Since then though, Cas have won just two of the next 12 after Saturday afternoon’s defeat at Hull FC. In the meantime, bottom club Wakefield Trinity have managed to put points on the board, and it’s now back to a two-point margin on the ladder.
Andy Last: “Names on paper don’t get you wins”
Speaking ahead of their trip to the MKM Stadium, former FC hooker Last demanded more from his team which he ultimately didn’t get.
He said: “The group at the beginning of the year weren’t considering being in a relegation scrap with the names on paper etc.
“You’ve got to deliver though, names on paper don’t get you wins, performances do. We need to make sure that our senior players perform to the best of their abilities and the group work hard and execute when it comes to game day.
“We haven’t quite been able to nail performance in the big moments. We need to make sure we’re right in the fight with the ability, temperament and skill to ice these big moments.”
Castleford in danger
The Tigers have been a fixture in Super League for the last 15 years, not plying their trade out of the top tier since 2007 when – for a second time in three years – they were promoted.
Five play-off campaigns have followed, winning the League Leaders’ Shield in 2017 en-route to the Grand Final. Leeds Rhinos ran out 24-6 winners at Old Trafford that year.
Cas have also reached two Challenge Cup finals in the same time, the most recent of which in 2021 when they lost out at Wembley to St Helens. With their top-flight status now under threat, boss Last insisted his players knew what it meant to everyone involved.
The 42-year-old told Love Rugby League: “They’re smart individuals, yes they’re rugby players but they’re fully aware of the situation that we find ourselves in. Relegation would be absolutely devastating for us.
“We obviously don’t want to be relegated, and we’re working hard on a daily basis to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“There’s a lot of points still available to us, and we need to be going out putting in our best performance week in, week out to give ourselves a chance of getting more wins than we do losses.”
Tigers using the week off to their advantage
As with most of the Super League clubs, Last’s side have a week off from the fixture schedule this time out. The Challenge Cup semi-finals take centre stage, and the Tigers were knocked out back in May, coincidentally by Hull FC.
FC’s rivals Hull KR are at the last-four stage, and it’s they who Castleford take on at Craven Park. In April, KR edged Cas out 12-7 at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, with Jacob Miller’s drop goal the solitary point posted by the hosts in the second half.
For the Tigers, it’s all eyes on the Robins’ semi-final clash with Wigan Warriors on Sunday, as the boss told Love Rugby League.
“We’ll be in training as normal, they’ll probably get Friday, Saturday and maybe Sunday to spend a little bit of recovery time.
“We’ll be watching that game on Sunday with interest because we play Hull KR next, so we’ll spend time previewing that with a view to going there the following week.”