Castleford Tigers spine consistency revealed as attacking problems deepen

Aaron Bower

It has been a disastrous start to 2024 for Craig Lingard and Castleford Tigers.

As Love Rugby League revealed in more detail last week, this is only the third time in Super League history that the Tigers have begun a league campaign with six consecutive defeats, following their loss to Leeds Rhinos last Thursday.

Their hopes of making the play-offs already look challenging to say the least, and they have a daunting Challenge Cup quarter-final against the reigning Super League and world champions, Wigan Warriors, on the horizon too – making the prospect of a trip to Wembley extremely tough.

And the early league table makes for even tougher reading when you look at the points for column: with their total of 62 in six games the second-lowest in Super League – with London Broncos‘ tally of 60 the only attacking return smaller than Castleford’s.

But there is, perhaps, some mitigation when you consider the rotation Lingard has had to endure in his spine positions throughout this season.

RELATED: Castleford Tigers’ 7 worst Super League starts analysed as class of 2024 make unwanted history

Some clubs have enjoyed consistency aplenty in the fullback, stand-off, scrum-half and hooking roles in 2024 thus far: take last week’s opponents Leeds, for example, who have regularly been able to field first-choice quartet Lachie Miller, Brodie Croft, Matt Frawley and Andy Ackers.

Castleford, however, have not had the same luxury. In seven games so far this season, Lingard has named five different combinations in his spine – and he has never fielded the same quartet for more than two consecutive games.

Their most recent combination of Jack Broadbent at fullback, a half-back pairing of Danny Richardson and Jacob Miller plus Paul McShane at hooker – potentially their strongest of all – were only fielded together for the first time last week. It was the third consecutive week that Lingard has named a different quartet in the spine.

Form has played a role in that to an extent, with Broadbent eventually brought in at fullback for Luke Hooley, who has since suffered a shoulder injury. But injuries have hit Castleford had too, with Paul McShane missing in the early weeks of the season and Danny Richardson sidelined following a concussion for a number of games.

NOW READ: Marc Sneyd’s extraordinary goal-kicking record as Salford Red Devils man chases history

Castleford had a half-back pairing of Richardson and Jacob Miller for the first two rounds, before Rowan Milnes was then drafted in alongside Miller, prompting a first change in the spine.

Two games later, Broadbent was brought in at fullback and for the Challenge Cup, Liam Horne made way for McShane. Then last week, an injury to Milnes against Batley – as well as Hooley’s withdrawal in that game too – prompted the return of Richardson and with so many changes, it is perhaps unsurprising Castleford’s attack hasn’t quite fired just yet.

There is no doubting that Castleford have to improve in all aspects of their game. But there is a fraction of mitigation that you could argue needs to be factored into their performances thus far, given the lack of consistency in key positions.

Castleford’s spine selections in 2024

Round 1: Hooley, Richardson, Miller, Horne
Round 2: Hooley, Richardson, Miller, Horne
Round 3: Hooley, Milnes, Miller, Horne
Round 4: Hooley, Milnes, Miller, Horne
Round 5: Broadbent, Milnes, Miller, Horne
Challenge Cup: Broadbent, Milnes, Miller, Mcshane
Round 6: Broadbent, Richardson, Miller, McShane

NOW READ: First Muslim to play for England joins calls for RFL to introduce Ramadan fast breaks