Written by Callum Walker
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how the lack of an experienced fullback would come back to haunt the Castleford Tigers. That sparked the usual tirade of abuse when one speaks the hard truths about clubs whose supporters are almost fanatical.
Following Castleford’s appalling, dismal and whatever other negative adjective can be used to describe their performance in the 40-14 defeat to Catalans last weekend, the Tigers have brought in Toronto star Gareth O’Brien.
Having already played for the club twice on-loan in 2013, the 28-year-old joins on-loan for the rest of the season after the Wolfpack exited the Super League competition.
It’s a good fit for both parties; O’Brien – formerly of St Helens, Warrington and Salford – was linked with Castleford before he moved to the Canadian club, but opted for the latter in a decision he may have come to rue.
For the Tigers, Jordan Rankin’s departure during the height of the coronavirus pandemic left the West Yorkshire side high and dry. With Salford’s Niall Evalds heading to the Mend-a-Hose Jungle for 2021, a too-significant fee paid for the fullback before then would have been financial ludicrousness, particularly in such an unstable climate as this.
Despite the financial implications of a potential move, Castleford had to act. Saturday’s showing against the Dragons demonstrated just why the “square peg in a round hole” mantra just does not work.
Greg Eden is a superb winger on his day, but time and time again he has proved he is not a fullback. Head coach Daryl Powell has experimented with the Castleford youth graduate before and it failed, so why would Saturday have been any different?
🐯 This weekend’s @SuperLeague programme has been rearranged with the Tigers now due to face Saints on Sunday afternoon, 4.15pm.
— Castleford Tigers (@CTRLFC) August 12, 2020
Powell also has Calum Turner and youngster Bailey Hodgson at his disposal but the former isn’t good enough for the rigours of top-flight rugby league and the latter is just 17. To go into Saturday’s fixture with no recognised number one was both stubborn and foolhardy.
That being said, there were 16 other players that under-performed for the Tigers just as there were 17 Catalans players that were at the top of their game. Yes, Eden made a mistake or two, but he certainly was not alone. In fact, he didn’t even perform badly, but it was just obvious that he was like a duck out of water at the back.
That’s where O’Brien can certainly slot in and help. The wiry playmaker transformed from a halfback to a fullback a few years ago, finding his niche in the process. Since then, he has established himself as an all-round impressive number one, bringing a quality attacking outlet going forward as well as a safe defensive wall at the back.
At least for Castleford, it’s finally a round peg in a round hole.