Written by Callum Walker
All hail Daryl Powell is the message you will get when you ask a Castleford fan what they think of their boss. For the most part, that is entirely validated. Turning the club around from perennial strugglers to silverware-hunters, Powell has become, arguably, one of the most influential coaches in the game.
But, aside from the transformation he has heralded at the West Yorkshire club, there is one facet of his coaching tenure which should worry Castleford fans. That is, the lack of youth coming through to the first-team.
In recent seasons, that almost endless conveyor belt of youth has somewhat ground to a halt. In fact, the most recent success one could argue is that of Daryl Clark who left the club at the end of the 2014 season to join Warrington after debuting in 2011.
There have been some glimpses of potential stars in the making with the likes of Calum Turner, Jacques O’Neill and Sam Hall all finding their way into the first-team in 2020, but none of them are first-choice 17 players.
Even England 9s halfback Jake Trueman cannot be classed as a Castleford product, having come through the ranks at Bradford and signing a professional contract in January 2016.
That’s not to say that young players are not threatening to break through into the Tigers side either though. Robbie Storey, Lewis Peachey and Lewis Carr have been on the fringes of the Castleford squad for a good few years now, whilst teenage sensation Bailey Hodgson is expected to have a huge career ahead of him.
With Castleford’s problems at fullback being well documented since Jordan Rankin’s departure for Australia during the pandemic, it was surprising to see Powell opt for Greg Eden at number one for their first game back against Catalans.
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A tremendous winger on his day, Eden has been coaxed into playing fullback before and it hasn’t worked out, so why did Powell not put a specialist number one there in the shape of Hodgson? The saying is, if you are good enough, you are old enough.
It almost appears as though the ex-Leeds and Featherstone boss doesn’t trust his younger players to do a job, even though the supposedly more professional and experienced stars continue to falter.
Gareth O’Brien has been brought in which certainly helps Powell in his fullback dilemma. But, with O’Brien on loan until the end of the season, and, with Niall Evalds apparently joining from Salford on a long-term deal ahead of 2021, the chances of young Hodgson getting an opportunity to stake his claim seems really thin.
And, with him being touted for great things, it wouldn’t be surprising if the youngster began looking elsewhere for someone that will take punt on him – just like Leeds did with Jack Walker at the same age.
Are these kids simply not good enough, or does Powell really have a problem with dropping his ‘favourites’ in place of a hungry youngster? Whatever the answer, either is worrying.