Five years ago Castleford Tigers were in chaos, both on and off the field. Chief executive Steve Ferres had resigned just three games into the 2013 season, citing an inability to push through initiatives as the reason for his departure. Long-serving chairman Jack Fulton had promoted Head of Youth Steve Gill to the position vacated by Ferres for what was supposed to be an interim period, enraging the Castleford faithful whom declared the decision as the "cheap way out".

To make matters worse, by April 2013, after one win from 11 games head coach Ian Millward had been sacked, with an attendance of just over 3,200 in his final home game as boss.

With the club in turmoil on and off the field, it seemed like only a miracle could save the Tigers. Step forward Steve Gill.

Thrown into the fire

A Castleford fan through and through, Steve Gill had very little experience in a role as complex as chief executive. A scoreboard operator as a child at the club and then Head of Youth, Gill had been given arguably the most demanding job at Castleford. In April 2013, chairman and lifesaver of the club, Jack Fulton, appointed Steve on a permanent basis following a two-month interim period. Many fans met the decision with disdain, arguing that the Tigers needed someone way more qualified to turn around the club's fortunes.

Gill immediately realised that he could not do the job alone and brought with him Mark Grattan and Richard Pell as Commercial Directors, both of whom joined the Tigers with over 20 accumulative years experience with Coca-Cola.

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In May 2013, Gill continued the rebuilding of the club, appointing Terry Cheesbrough, Steve Vause - whom was appointed in April - Dion Lowe and John Duff as directors. All four men were lifelong Castleford fans and thus knew just what the club meant to the fans, but they also had a plethora of necessary business experience behind them. Slowly but surely, Gill was building a solid foundation at the club from which the Tigers could finally clamber their way out of the darkness.

Gill and Castleford were, however, faced with a real possibility of administration, and were thus forced to sell star hooker Daryl Clark - a player whom Gill had brought through the Tigers' academy ranks. A fee of £185,000 had been agreed with Warrington in 2013 yet Gill had been canny to ensure that Clark would play one more year at Castleford in 2014. In doing so, Gill had got the best possible deal for the club as a whole. Gill had effectively saved Castleford, no matter how painful the deal had been to let go of one the country's brightest young stars.

Daryl Powell

Steve Gill's most memorable moment just has to be the capture of Daryl Powell as head coach from local rivals Featherstone in May 2013. By the time of Powell's appointment, Castleford were up to 12th after Tigers legend Danny Orr had won two from three as interim coach following Millward's sacking. Leaving Featherstone after a successful five years, Powell came into the job as Gill's top choice. It was Gill's determination to lure Powell that finally convinced chairman Jack Fulton - whose main target had been Bradford boss James Lowes - to go with Gill's decision. Boy, that decision paid off.

In the 13 remaining matches of 2013, Powell won the same amount of games - six - as the Tigers had done throughout the whole of 2012. In 2014, Gill's resolve in chasing Powell was justified once and for all as Powell led Castleford to their first Wembley appearance since 1992 and their first ever top-four Super League finish. From that season onwards, Powell has done wonders on the field, turning Castleford from bottom-of-the-table strugglers to silverware contenders. But, if Gill had not been so adamant that Powell was the right man for the job then the story today might have been very different.

Denny Solomona saga

Throughout his time as chief executive, Steve Gill has conducted himself with the highest decorum. The decision to edge out powerhouse winger Justin Carney in 2015 after an alleged affair with a teammates wife showed just how much Gill believed in the "family club" culture that he and Powell had developed. But, the Denny Solomona saga certainly tested Gill's decorum to the greatest limit. New Zealand-born Solomona had signed a new contract with Castleford in the latter part of 2015 and then enjoyed a hugely successful 2016 season, breaking the Super League try-scoring record with 40.

However, speculation was mounting towards the end of 2016 with claims that Solomona had failed to turn up for training in a bid to force through a move to Rugby Union side Sale. Then, in December 2016, Solomona 'retired' from Rugby League to join Sale on a three-year deal.

In response, Steve Gill sought £500,000 for Solomona's transfer, as he was contracted to Castleford until 2018. At the time of the alleged deal, Gill said his club had started legal action "as a last resort", while Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond maintained that the Sharks had "acted legitimately". With little help from the Rugby Football Union and only verbal support from the Rugby Football League, Gill and Castleford continued on alone. In the end (which turned out to be June 2017), Gill was rewarded for not being bullied into submission with a fee in excess of £200,000 from Sale for Solomona.

In addition to the compensation payment, Castleford also revealed that they would receive a substantial contribution - approximately £100,000 - for their legal costs. The whole of Rugby League lauded Gill and the Castleford club in their determination to get what most felt they were owed. It truly was a groundbreaking moment in the history of both codes and it proved Gill's honesty and integrity in what was a very difficult time for him and the club.

The Hardaker saga

With the sale of Solomona confirmed, it enabled the Tigers to purchase full-back Zak Hardaker - on-loan from Leeds - for a £150,000 fee. Gill had trusted Powell in his decision to bring Hardaker to the club. Initially, that decision proved correct; Hardaker was vital for Castleford in their first-ever first-placed finish in 2017 and their first-ever Super League Grand Final appearance.

But, things turned sour; Hardaker, found guilty of failing a drugs' test following a clash against Leeds in September 2017, was omitted from the Tigers' Grand Final squad. It was a bitter blow to the club and their long-suffering fans. Gill, the Tigers board and Powell had all given Hardaker a chance to put his misdemeanours behind him, but, Hardaker had betrayed their trust and ruined one of the most important games in Castleford's history.

Since then, speculation has been flying around concerning issues behind-the-scenes. The decision to sack Hardaker in February of this year was allegedly Gill's with Powell intent on keeping the full-back. However, with nothing released by the club regarding this, the rumours just keep on flowing. All eyes will therefore be looking towards the Hardaker case to see whether or not he gets the likely two-year ban. If a two-year ban is forthcoming, the decision to remove one of the Tigers' highest-paid players will certainly be justified.

Parting thanks

Steve Gill commented in an interview on his decision to step down that "the sparkle has gone". In essence, his love for the game whilst being Castleford CEO has disappeared. If this is true no one can blame him for removing himself from the lonely position at the top. Gill will remain as a director when he hands over all responsibilities at the end of May, determined to still move the club forward. This says it all about the person that Steve is. He bleeds black and amber (or orange nowadays) and his first consideration has always been the club, which has often been detrimental to his health in the past.

Gill steps down knowing that the club is in a much more secure place both on and off the field since he took the chief executive reins five years ago. Financially and structurally, Castleford Tigers are a million miles away from the days of 2013 and that is largely down to the energy, passion and dedication of Steve Gill. For that, he will always be respected and loved by the Castleford faithful. #RugbyLeague #coyf #Castigers