Castleford Tigers director of rugby explains recruitment plans for 2025 and admits IMG challenge

Aaron Bower

Castleford Tigers director of rugby Danny Wilson concedes that the uncertainty over whether or not the club will be in Super League next season is potentially impacting their recruitment – but he insists it is clear the club are ‘on an upward trajectory’.

After a difficult start to 2024, the Tigers have picked up their form in recent weeks, with three wins and a draw from their last six games. They have also tied down a string of key players including the Senior brothers, plus talented youngsters including Sam Hall, Jason Qareqare and Cain Robb.

Castleford, however, are one of a number of clubs including local rivals Wakefield Trinity whose seat at the top table in 2025 is not guaranteed. 

They insist they will score the required number of IMG points to make the cut at the end of this season – though Wilson, speaking exclusively with Love Rugby League, concedes it has made recruitment challenging as they look to build a squad to compete next year. 

“It’s the first question they ask,” Wilson said when asked about their IMG situation. “There’s some things with IMG that are right for the game and it forces clubs to improve their standards. Without that we wouldn’t be making changes to the stadium we are currently and that’s the benefit of IMG. 

“I’m in favour of IMG for that, but what makes it difficult is the state it leaves us in with people assuming where we are. We’re entirely confident we’ll be a Super League club, I will say that.

“But we need to relay that message about our confidence and spin the narrative our way: a lot of clubs are really good at that. We’ve started to do some more of that and we’ll continue to beat the drum so people know where we are.

“We will be up in that high bracket of points and if we’re not in Super League, there will be some clubs in the competition with us now who also won’t be, let’s just say that. 

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“Of course until October nobody knows for sure, and that does make it difficult – but there is a long-term plan in place here and we’re totally confident of the points we’ll get and what it’ll achieve.”

Wilson insists Castleford are currently in year one of a three-year plan to get back to the top end of Super League, and insists he has been delighted with the calibre of retentions the club have been able to achieve thus far.

“When we set out on this plan, we spoke a lot about building from the bottom up,” Wilson said.

“I said in pre-season that we’ve got to prove ourselves as a Super League club, and that starts with an identity of what you want to be. Our DNA starts with the young kids we’ve got, retaining our best talent and what’s coming through our system.

“We’ve just signed up 10 academy kids to contracts earlier this year – I can’t remember many times Castleford would have done that.

“A big part of the plan this year was signing kids with points to prove, who had talent and just needed to show it. Sam Wood, Liam Horne, Innes Senior.. they have categorically shown they can play at this level – then it’s about retaining them.

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“We’ve done that with players like Innes and Louis, Jason Qareqare – he’s played internationally already – and Sam Hall. It sends a statement of intent that despite what people think on the outside, we’re a Super League club. I’m delighted they want to stay with us and be part of the project.”

Wilson confirmed the club were hopeful of retaining Horne, who has an option in his contract for 2024 that is set to be activated, long-term too.

“Liam is another big name people talk about. Liam will only get better and that value of his goes up with interest. We need to tie players like him down longer term so we’ve got a nucleus of a team to build around.”

Preparation for year two of the three-year plan will now turn to retention. Wilson confirmed to Love Rugby League earlier this week that they are keen to retain Tex Hoy – but he insists that as well as the influx of new players arriving, there will also be a material benefit for Castleford in the experience their young squad have had in 2024.

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“You’re bringing those kids in and basically ensuring they’ll be 25 Super League games better off, in terms of experience,” Wilson admitted.

“They’ll have had a full season under their belt and with the coaching they’re getting it will improve them massively. Do we need to add some quality to it? Yes, and the business we’ve done mid-season has shown we’re prepared to do that.

“Then it’s about that sprinkling of quality being added for next year, and the year after that, by which point your young players are fully-fledged Super League players, lots of whom you’ve developed yourself.”

“I’m not embarrassed to say where we were as a club – but I believe we’re on an upward trajectory.

“Although the plans are there and we have seen some shoots of encouragement in recent weeks we’ve still got a lot of work to do. I hope that comes through to the supporters. I can understand when you’re spending your hard-earned money, and you want to see players show some grit and steel – in patches, we’re starting to do that. 

“But we have a bold long-term plan we’re fully committed to delivering.”

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