Country boy Carney looking to do Castleford fans proud

Castleford winger Justin Carney might originate a long way from the West Riding of Yorkshire, but he can understand the pride the club’s fans feel about reaching Wembley.

The 26-year-old admits that the feeling around the club just a year ago was very different to now, as the team prepare to take on Leeds Rhinos in Saturday’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

“Obviously, I’m not from Cas, so I can’t really comprehend that feeling of what it means to local people,” he told Love Rugby League.

“But I drove around Cas and Pontefract last Sunday, and the place was just going mad. You’ve got people singing out of cars, and flags everywhere.

“This time last year we were in a really big hole, and we didn’t know whether we were going to get relegated this year.

“To turn that around is amazing, and it’s come down to Daryl and his staff at the club, and us boys.

“It’s a big achievement just to get to Wembley. We’ll be proud, but we’re focused on doing our job on Saturday.”

Carney, who played once for the Australian Indigenous Dreamtime Team in 2008, has a very rural background, growing up doing agricultural work in a remote part of the country.

That background, with its heavy focus on manual work, has made him the player he is today, he feels.

“You’d probably call it a stockman over here, I used to muck around with horses, work on the farm, all that kind of stuff,” he said.

“Being an idiot, probably best describes it, because you look back at the kind of things I used to do, and you wouldn’t want to genuinely do it.

“But I did what I thought was fun at the time. It’s part of my childhood that I hold really close to my heart, and I wouldn’t take it back.”

The winger is known for his great strength and power, something helped not only by agricultural work but also by his family history.

“You’ve got to be pretty strong to handle a horse, but I think it’s to do with genetics, too,” he said.

“Especially on my dad’s side of the family, they’re pretty big men.

“I’ve done my fair share of manual work, there weren’t many machines for our family, we didn’t have much money.

“We did the best with what we had, and if that meant taking eight hours to do something then it would be done, whether we had to do it manually or not.

“We didn’t have many tractors or anything like that, so we had to do it.

“It’s brought me here, and I can probably thank my dad for that, for being so hard on me when I was a kid.”

Mainly due to that rural upbringing, Carney had not paid much attention to the Challenge Cup as a youngster. Since arriving in the North of England, however, he now knows just how important the competition is to fans.

“To tell you the truth, I think of myself as pretty arrogant for not acknowledging it,” he said.

“I really didn’t know what it was. But I lived out in the sticks, I’m from the middle of nowhere, so the NRL was everything.

“But I soon realised that this [the Challenge Cup] is bigger than anything else, it’s bigger than Super League, in terms of what it means to Cas.

“It’s a great achievement for the club and the town this year, and hopefully we can perform out there on Saturday and come out with the win.”

Leeds will be formidable opponents for the Tigers, and Carny knows how important focus and preparation is to his team’s chances of lifting the trophy.

“Just saying ‘Leeds’ is enough to tweak your mind,” he said.

“You’ve got to be focused when you come up against them, they’re a great side.

“Pretty much the whole lot of them are current international players, or have the potential to be internationals.

“They’ve got a great side, they’re really professional, disciplined and strong. So we know we’ve got to challenge them, and we’re pretty focused on that.

“I’m pretty much raring to go, without getting over-excited. I’m trying to stay calm and treat it like another game, because it is, really, it’s just on a bigger stage.”

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