By July 2015, seasoned hooker Paul McShane had moved to his fifth club - Castleford Tigers. Despite bursting through the Leeds Rhinos' academy setup into the first team in 2009, McShane never really cemented a place within the squad and spent time on-loan with Hull FC and Widnes before he was released from his Leeds contract in 2013. A move to Wakefield came about where he played for a year-and-a-half before a bizarre swap deal with Castleford for their hooker Scott Moore saw McShane go in the opposite direction midway through the 2015 season. The Leeds-born hooker settled immediately and has since improved his game so much that an England call-up must be on the horizon soon.

Unhappy early career

Paul McShane was signed by Leeds to join their academy in 2006, from local side Hunslet Hawks. The signs that McShane was going to grow into an influential No.9 were evident from the get go as he was named Junior Academy Player of the Year in 2007 - a year in which the Rhinos' youngsters clinched a Grand Final win over St Helens. In fact, McShane's form for Leeds earned him representative call-ups for the youth side - he was named in the England Under-18 Academy squad to tour Australia in June 2008.

By now McShane had shown plenty of potential - enough to be given a five-year contract by Leeds in July 2008. The durable No.9 made his first-team debut for his boyhood club on the opening day of the 2009 Super League season, but would go on to play just two more games that year.

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Things did not get much better for McShane the following season either; behind both Matt Diskin and Danny Buderus, McShane played just nine games for Leeds in 2010. Finding first-team opportunities limited, McShane spent part of 2010 on-loan at Hull FC where he played four games.

2011 proved to be a step-up for the hooker as he registered 18 appearances for the Rhinos, but, in 2012, McShane played just ten times and was once more shipped out on-loan - this time to Widnes where he notched up ten appearances. Though McShane went from strength to strength in 2013 - he played 24 times for the Rhinos - he was released from his contract at the end of that year to join Wakefield. Over the course of five seasons, McShane played just 63 games for Leeds.

Consistency at Wakefield and move to Castleford

McShane excelled as Wakefield's first-choice hooker - he registered 27 appearances for Trinity in 2014 and began to show a hint of the form that had once attracted Leeds to him as a youngster. In late July 2015 however - after playing 24 times for Wakefield that season - McShane was involved in an out-of-the-blue swap deal between Trinity and Castleford that saw the Tigers hooker Scott Moore leaving the other way on-loan with McShane signing a two-and-a-half year contract with Castleford.

Though most Castleford fans were happy with the agreement, many were still unsure whether or not the No.9 would settle - after all, Castleford were his fifth club in just six years. Towards the back end of 2015, McShane played six games for the Tigers, but five as a substitute with Adam Milner still appearing to be head coach Daryl Powell's number one choice at hooker. For 2016, Milner was handed the No.9 shirt and McShane 15 - evidence again that McShane was likely to play second-fiddle.

Improvement

After spending a lot of 2016 rotating with Milner or even playing at half-back due to team injuries, McShane cemented his spot as first-choice hooker towards the back end of that season. And, for the first time during his career, he became an 80-minute hooker, forcing Milner to adapt to the loose-forward role. In 32 appearances for the Tigers in 2016, McShane scored seven tries and kicked four goals, earning three man-of-the-matches in the process. It had been a remarkable transformation from the one-time isolated figure at Leeds, so much so that - in November 2016 - McShane was rewarded with a new deal that would see him stay at the club until the end of 2019.

Transformation complete

If Castleford fans had been happy with McShane's improvement in 2016, they were set to be overjoyed with the hooker's performances in 2017. One of the many standouts in what was, on the whole, a brilliant Super League season for the Tigers, McShane took his game to the next level. He proved pivotal to the Tigers' exceptional attacking play with quick and effective ball out of dummy-half as well as the odd superb kick and displayed a maturity that had him on the cusp of an England selection for the 2017 World Cup. He played 33 times for the Tigers in 2017, scoring four tries and kicking 17 goals.

In fact, McShane excelled so much in 2017 that he was awarded a new five-year deal in January of this year - a symbol of just how far he had come since joining the club back in 2015. Once the bridesmaid but never the bride, McShane had turned his career around - with Daryl Powell having an obvious influence - and has become one of the most influential players in the Castleford side.

McShane is the sort of player that his teammates and fans love and opponents hate with him regularly mixing it with the big boys despite being just 5 ft 6. At 28 years of age, McShane still has many years ahead of him and though there are many great hookers battling for a spot in the England side, if McShane keeps up his brilliant form, he must be a shoo-in for representative honours soon.