Just over five years ago - on May 7 2013 - Daryl Powell was appointed head coach of Castleford Tigers, following the sacking of Ian Millward. With the Tigers bottom of the table - having won just three times in 14 games - and in financial trouble off-the-field, Powell seemingly had the greatest task of his career on his hands. But, the ex-Featherstone boss' impact was instant; the Tigers won six, drew one and lost six with Powell at the helm towards the back end of 2013. Then, in 2014 and in quite magnificent style, Powell steered Castleford to the club's first Wembley appearance since 1992. The turnaround in a year was surreal - especially for the long-suffering Castleford supporters - and the club has kicked on ever since.

But, things have been going stale in 2018.

Lack of trophies

Castleford are now a top-four hunting and silverware-challenging side, but they have won just one trophy in Powell's five years at the club - the League Leaders' Shield in 2017. Performances have dropped off significantly in 2018 with a number of injuries stifling any sort of momentum the Tigers had built up after a dreadful round one hammering away at St Helens. But, the inconsistency can be relayed back to the lack of ruthless transfer activity in pre-season. The Tigers should have been able to carry the momentum forward from a brilliant season and recruit well.

Transfer dealings

Top sides often add just one or two signings that improve an already impressive squad, yet the Tigers brought in seven players before this season started, three of whom had never played a top flight game before in Cory Aston, Mitch Clark and Garry Lo [VIDEO].

Only Joe Wardle had nailed down a starting spot in his previous time in Super League, but even he has not broken any pots so far.

James Clare, Jamie Ellis and James Green were Castleford's three other signings, but with the influential Zak Hardaker [VIDEO] no longer at the club, many of the Castleford faithful were worried that their club's recruitment looked more like that of a side battling to avoid the bottom four rather than one trying to make the top four.

Aston and Clark have not featured in a Castleford shirt thus far, whilst Lo left the club in early May. Clare is currently sidelined with a broken leg and Green played just three times for the Tigers before being sent on dual-registration to Halifax. Jamie Ellis has been in and out of the team, but his lack of speed and ability to control games in the absence of Luke Gale [VIDEO]does not bode well for the rest of the season. All seven of Powell's pre-season signings have therefore been disappointing and whether or not he was fully behind some of the signings - as has often been rumoured - quantity rather than quality has certainly not paid off.


Castleford are not backed by a rich sugar daddy like most of those at the top, but they shelled out £150,000 for Zak Hardaker in 2017 and a hefty fee for Liam Watts in March this year. The money therefore seems there if Powell wants to use it, but the former Leeds boss has been keen to unearth diamonds and turn them into top-class players instead. Mike McMeeken, Greg Minikin, Paul McShane and Luke Gale have all prospered under Powell's tutelage despite coming from humble backgrounds, yet Powell's latest projects - Green, Lo and Aston - have all backfired quite spectacularly.

There has been speculation ever since the Zak Hardaker episode at the end of 2017 that all is not well off-the-field. Steve Gill - Castleford's chief executive at the time - was said to be at the heart of Hardaker's sacking with Powell apparently disgruntled at the decision. And, some fans have used Powell's apparent anger at the dismissal as reason for his lack of big-star hunting before the season started. Did Powell still expect Hardaker to be at the club in 2018?

Gill has since parted ways with the Tigers, but despite him claiming he needed time away from the game, fans could not help but think that Gill left before he was shoved. The lack of harmony behind the scenes inevitably transcended onto the field and the Tigers have appeared disjointed and at times disinterested in 2018. Could Powell be coming to the end of his tether?


Some of Powell's decisions this season appear as though he has ran out of ideas and suggestions on how to take Castleford forward. The Tigers' issues at full-back [VIDEO] have been never-ending; Powell started the season with Ben Roberts filling the No.1 position, then when that move failed to yield success, Jake Trueman was given the nod, but now captain Michael Shenton has been placed there despite playing just one game at full-back his entire career before 2018. Injuries have been aplenty, but the same was true of Castleford in 2016 and Powell managed to steady the ship and take the team forward through adversity - experience which enabled the Tigers to hit the ground running in 2017.

In 2018 however, injuries seem to have hit the Tigers much harder despite the fact that only four first-teamers are currently out - Luke Gale, Ben Roberts, Nathan Massey and Greg Eden - though others such as Jesse Sene-Lefao, Junior Moors and Jake Webster have spent time on the sidelines too.

Castleford are on a two-game losing run and looking void of ideas - it is up to Powell to show his mettle in the upcoming weeks and months. 2018 was unlikely to be as entertaining as 2017, but the difference in form and performances has been huge which begs the question, is this the dreaded second-season syndrome which coaches often struggle to get back from?

All good things must come to an end

Powell has been at Castleford for five years which is quite long in coaching terms. Tony Smith survived nine years as Warrington boss, overseeing the club's most successful period in its history whilst Brian McDermott is in his eighth year at Leeds. Smith and McDermott are anomalies however. Paul Anderson won the League Leaders' Shield with Huddersfield in his first year as head coach in 2013, but was sacked midway through 2016.

Good coaching runs don't last forever and with Danny Orr and Ryan Sheridan as assistants, the club would likely be in safe hands if Powell left. I don't want Powell to leave - he has done wonders in such a short space of time - but at times in 2018, he has appeared disconsolate and frustrated - more so than in any other season. But Powell is not a magician; it will take a serious effort to turn the Tigers into a Grand Final side once more and maybe, just maybe, Powell does not have the stomach for it anymore.