Castleford’s Daryl Powell: favourites tag means nothing in Grand Final

Castleford came top of the Super League but coach Daryl Powell says that is irrelevant for Saturday’s Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos.
 Castleford came top of the Super League but their coach, Daryl Powell, says that is irrelevant for Saturday’s Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos. Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA

Castleford have been the form team all season but their coach denies favouritism will make any difference in the club’s first Super League Grand Final.

It is first versus second on Saturday evening as Castleford face Leeds but Daryl Powell said the Tigers’ priority was “turning up and playing” at Old Trafford, regardless of which side was favourite.

Castleford finished 10 points clear of Leeds in the regular season and Danny McGuire, the Rhinos captain, said on Monday he felt the Tigers were favourites. But Powell took a different approach.

“I’m not really bothered who are favourites,” said the Tigers’ coach, whose only previous Grand Final experience was as a player for Leeds in the inaugural Grand Final in 1998. “I don’t think it matters one way or the other.

“It’s just toilet roll, really. It’ll get flushed away and mean nothing. It’s all about turning up and playing, whether we’re favourites or not won’t change it. It’s how we handle Old Trafford.”

Castleford face a Rhinos side aiming for their eighth Grand Final win in 13 years, and the Rugby Football League has revealed the event is likely to sell out for only the second time in the 20-year history of Super League – the first being two years ago when Leeds beat Wigan.

Roger Draper, the Super League executive director, confirmed on Monday that ticket sales had exceeded 60,000, with the RFL hopeful of announcing a sellout as early as Thursday.

Both coaches reported they are close to finalising their sides for the game but Leeds have been dealt a blow with news that their England forward Stevie Ward will miss out with a shoulder injury. Castleford’s only selection matter is whether to bring back the forward Oliver Holmes.

In an attempt to ensure the Tigers are ready for their first appearance at Old Trafford, Powell took his entire squad to Manchester on Monday for an overnight stay to help settle their nerves. “It felt smart to do it. We’ll stay overnight, have a meal together and get a feel for it all before coming over properly for the day of the game on Saturday.”

Warrington, meanwhile, are understood to be on the verge of signing the Salford forward Ben Murdoch-Masila for a six-figure fee. Murdoch-Masila, who was named last week in the 2017 Super League Dream Team, will become the latest part of the rebuilding process at Warrington, who are expected to confirm the Australian Steve Price as their new coach for 2018.

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