Castleford coach Daryl Powell is looking forward to being abused by fans once more as rugby league clubs prepare for the gradual return of crowds.
Friday’s opening round six game between Leeds and Wakefield at Headingley will be the last behind closed doors as Super League clubs prepare to take advantage of the relaxation of coronavirus regulations.
The other five fixtures – at Castleford, Hull, Leigh, St Helens and Warrington – have all been pushed back to Monday, when sports clubs are permitted to fill a quarter of their ground capacity up to a maximum of 4,000 as part of the easing of the Government’s lockdown.
The Tigers are preparing for a 3,600 crowd at the 11,775 capacity Mend-a-Hose Jungle for the visit of Hull KR and Powell cannot wait.
“It’s hard to put into words how good that will be for everybody,” he said. “Obviously for the fans but also for the players and coaches.
“I’m fed up of hearing myself at games, I don’t want to hear myself any more. I miss the crowd and I can’t put into words how special it’s going to be.
“I speak to players and coaches about the situation and they’re so motivated by people being in the stadiums that it’s been tough for them, probably more so than anybody.
“It will be awesome for them and awesome for everybody that we get crowds back in. I don’t mind copping a bit of abuse to get crowds back in.”
Castleford were the last UK-based Super League club to host a crowd – against St Helens in March 2020 – and Powell says playing behind closed doors has illustrated just how physical and brutal the sport can be.
“It’s been incredibly tough,” he said. “The one thing it has done is highlight how tough the sport is because you can hear all the contacts.
“You generally can’t hear them as much because there’s crowd noise but you hear the contacts.
“The game is a brutal game, it really is, and I think there’s been more of a sense of that from people who have been in stadiums without crowds than ever before.
“The players have been enormous. I was really pleased that the RFL gave the players a bit of leeway over congratulating each other.
“Obviously we’re all aware of Covid but these boys across the whole of the competition have done special things and have sacrificed a helluva lot to do what they’ve done, some of it financial initially.
“They haven’t been able to do what they would normally do. The biggest sacrifices have come from the players, who have been immense all the way through.”