Whilst Castleford's off-season recruitment did, on the whole, leave a lot to be desired, the capture of Joe Wardle from NRL club Newcastle Knights was regarded a coup. And, there was good reason for this; whilst at the Huddersfield Giants, Wardle had become one of their most consistent and top-level performers - whether playing at centre or second-row - and was rewarded with a deal in the highest tier of Australian Rugby League - a feat which very few Super League players can say they have achieved. So, what does Wardle's past tell Castleford fans what they can expect in the future?


Despite bursting onto the Super League scene as a Huddersfield player, Halifax-born Joe Wardle actually came through the Bradford Bulls Academy after being scouted whilst playing for amateur side Illingworth ARLFC as a youngster. Wardle was highly thought of at the West Yorkshire club, making three top-flight appearances for the Bulls as an 18-year-old before departing for Huddersfield on a three-year deal at the end of the 2010 season.

A giant of a player

It was 2011 when Wardle first showed his calibre as a Super League player. After making three appearances for Barrow whilst on loan, the Scottish international - whom earned his first Bravehearts' cap in 2010 - registered 15 appearances for the Giants in the 2011 season, scoring five tries in the process.

Though just out of teenage years, Wardle demonstrated a great maturity to cement a centre spot in the Huddersfield side and was rewarded for his exploits with a two-year extension midway through the 2011 season.

Wardle kicked on so much in the next few years that, in July 2013, he was given another contract extension - this time until the end of 2017 - after playing a vital role in Huddersfield's first-ever top-placed finish that year.

Going from strength to strength, the former Bradford man was named Huddersfield Giants' Player of the Year for 2014 as the West Yorkshire side finished third in the Super League table.

During the 2016 season - and after six memorable Super League campaigns with the Giants - Wardle signed with NRL side Newcastle Knights for the 2018 season.

However, he was actually able to gain a release from his Huddersfield contract and joined the Knights a year early, on a three-year deal starting in 2017. That an NRL club had chased him and even been willing to obtain him early was testament to Wardle's attitude and character on and off the field.

By the end of his Huddersfield career, Wardle had racked up an impressive 62 tries in 141 appearances. At 6ft1 and over 90kg, Wardle had certainly stamped his authority on the Giants' side and had made a name for himself as one of the toughest utility players in the Super League game.

Home is where the heart is

Very few Super League players have the opportunity to go Down Under and even less are able to make an impact.

Making his Newcastle debut in round four against Penrith, the 25-year-old Wardle quickly proved why he had been given a chance in Australia's top-tier; operating now at second-row and mixing it with the cream of the sport's crop, Wardle registered 17 appearances, dotting down over the whitewash four times. However, the former Giant and his family failed to settle, and, midway through 2017 after being plagued by homesickness, Wardle gained an early release from his contract to sign with Castleford on a three-year deal.

What can Castleford expect?

The fact that the Tigers have an NRL-quality star on their books - albeit one that stayed less than a year Down Under - speaks volumes. Wardle is an incredibly tough and powerful centre/second-rower, but with head coach Daryl Powell seemingly set on playing the Scottish international in the forwards, Castleford fans should see the best of him.

His line running is superb and he is not afraid to shirk his defensive duties or stick up for himself either - as his red card for punching Carl Ablett in 2013 proves quite explicitly. Wardle is also no stranger to the back-row, having played there for the best part of three years and so will slot into the Tigers' side effortlessly.

It is his character off-the-field though that makes his move to Castleford a perfect fit; the Tigers' players have a strong bond with each other and their families and with Wardle having a wife and young children, the Castleford players' loved ones will have done their utmost to ensure that the family is comfortable in their new surroundings. There is almost the home-away-from-home feel at Wheldon Road and, after having issues in this respect whilst in Australia, Wardle and his family are likely to be the happiest they have been in a few years. Surely then, settled in his new environment, Wardle can now concentrate on matters on the field itself and attempt to rekindle the type of form which had previously attracted NRL suitors.