Michael Shenton: Castleford Tigers 'excited' for Super League return
Castleford Tigers are excited for the 2018 Super League season rather than burdened by 2017's Grand Final loss, says captain Michael Shenton.
The Tigers dominated the regular season, losing just three of 23 games but their title hopes were ended with defeat by Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford.
However, there is renewed optimism after the squad came back together for pre-season.
"We had a camp in Lanzarote, and we dealt with it," Shenton told BBC Sport.
"There was a meeting, all spoke about it and what it means for this year. It was good for us, hopefully it can kick-start us. It was all about moving on.
"We've had good preparation, the boys are keen, there's competition for places, and we're excited to hopefully have another cracking year."
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No talk of pressure among Tigers squad
Although Castleford will be unable to call on England full-back Zak Hardaker following his suspension for a positive recreational drugs test last autumn, much of the 2017 side remains intact.
New players such as Newcastle Knights back-rower Joe Wardle, Papua New Guinea winger Garry Lo and ex-Tigers half-back Jamie Ellis have come in to add further depth.
Some bookmakers have already put Castleford favourites to go one better in 2018 and pick up the first league championship in their history, while several pundits have also tipped the Tigers to pick where they left off last term.
"When you come to events like this you get a feel for the expectation outside the group," Shenton added. "We don't focus on that too much, it's not a massive deal, it more about look at this team.
"As a player, you've got to get a starting spot, you need play well and to reach the standard to stay in, and if we're doing that - we'll be a real challenging team to play, a challenging team to beat and difficult team to handle.
"If we focus on that, and bring the right attitude to each game we'll do well. That was how we did it last year and we will take a similar approach to this season."
A simple target
Although it was 2017 in which Castleford finally broke through in terms of results, the seeds for their achievements have been sown since the arrival of Daryl Powell as head coach in 2013.
The 52-year-old led the Tigers to the Challenge Cup final and a top-four finish in 2014 and then the League Leaders' Shield and Grand Final last season, and the message is a simple one going forward.
"The next step for us is winning competitions," Powell said.
"We've been in two finals in the past four years, and we want to do that consistently, and then when you're in the final you want to win it of course.
"So that's the big target for the players."