Radford's new Cas era
Lee Radford is back in Betfred Super League in 2022. The former Hull FC head coach has made the short trip from East Yorkshire to take the reins at Castleford Tigers following Daryl Powell’s departure at the end of 2021.
Radford spent six years with the Black & Whites, winning back-to-back Challenge Cup Finals in 2016 & 2017 and ending Hull FC’s long wait for an elusive win at Wembley Stadium. Tigers fans will be desperate for Radford to emulate that success at a club that has been on the cusp of major honours after winning the League Leaders’ Shield during Daryl Powell’s tenure in 2017.
After being relieved of his duties somewhat unceremoniously at Hull FC back in 2020, Radford has spent some well earned time away from the unrelenting environment of professional rugby league. His return to the topflight will undoubtedly be met with excitement and a drive to succeed at a club that has firmly established itself as a competitive force in Super League.
He inherits a Tigers squad that is littered with talent and a collective skillset that can match any side in Super League – Daryl Powell’s legacy is visible for all to see at Castleford.
Nevertheless, Radford wants to make this squad his own. And whilst he admits that there are solid foundations in place, like any new head coach he has his own ideas to implement ahead of an important year for the Tigers.
He explained: “I’m trying to make the place flow a little bit better. It will make their daily schedule flow a little bit better and that will tie in with the programme that we will set for them.
“There are some changes that I would like to make but I don’t think it is a case of starting from scratch, the Club has done some really good stuff on the field over the last couple of seasons. We might tweak a few things rather than rip the playbook up and start again.”
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— Castleford Tigers (@CTRLFC) November 28, 2021
Central to the Tigers squad is 2020 Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel Paul McShane – the experienced hooker has been the key figure for Cas in recent years and is at the epicentre of everything the side do well.
He holds a similar presence to Radford’s number 9 at Hull FC, Danny Houghton – Houghton himself won the coveted Man of Steel award during Radford’s tenure in 2016. McShane will continue to be an important asset for Castleford and forms part of an exciting spine ahead of the new season.
Radford certainly won’t be short of options in the playmaking roles next year. Castleford are fortunate to have a wealth of depth in their spine – particularly in the halves – and is something the new Tigers head coach is excited to see develop throughout pre-season.
“To have four young English halves is a plus for the club and we had a meeting with the spine of the team last week to pick their brains a bit,” He explained.
“When I spoke to the spine, I thought Danny Richardson spoke and came across really well, and to have those halfbacks all fighting for a spot I am looking forward to working with them all and seeing what they bring to the table.”
There’s also a cohort of Tigers players that Radford is very familiar with - Liam Watts played under the new head coach whilst at Hull FC, along with newcomers Joe Westerman, Mahe Fonua & Bureta Faraimo – giving Radford’s new look side a sense of familiarity as they tackle pre-season.
Despite that, the start of pre-season is a blank canvas for the Tigers squad, with the next couple of months important in determining who will pull on the Cas shirt when they host Salford Red Devils in the opening round of the new season.
Radford stated: “That for me highlights the importance of pre-season. They allow you to showcase your skills and this period is what you base your selection on for round one.”
Ultimately, he has assembled a squad more than capable of challenging for a Play-off spot. The challenge will now be to piece his squad together over the next two months, as Castleford aim to get back in the top six for the first time in three seasons in a year that has been dubbed a ‘New Cas Era’ at the Tigers club.