With the Super League season over, the rumour mill is in full swing, yet there have been hardly any whispers about potential signings for the Castleford Tigers. Head coach Daryl Powell has repeatedly stated that his side is good enough as it is if no one suitable becomes available. That belief, however, is - for a lot of fans - just papering over the cracks that became quite evident as the 2018 season went along. With Jake Webster having departed for Bradford and with Michael Shenton having had a poor season in 2018, the centre seems to be the position the Tigers need to strengthen the most if they are to challenge for silverware in 2019.

Square pegs in round holes

In 2018, the lack of a specialist fullback came back to haunt the Tigers. The sacking of Zak Hardaker was always going to have a great impact on how the Tigers would play in 2018, yet the decision by Castleford not to replace him - whether they had the funds or not to do so may well have influenced the decision - meant that Powell was desperately scrambling around trying to find another no.1. In fact, seven tried their hand at the back - Ben Roberts, James Clare, Greg Eden, Michael Shenton, Jake Trueman, Calum Turner, and Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e - before Powell struck gold with the capture of Peter Mata'utia from Leigh in late July.

It took Castleford five months of the season to sort out the fullback problem finally, and the same could well be true in 2019 if Powell and the club decide not to invest in another centre.

Some Castleford fans on social media keep touting the names of Alex Foster, Joe Wardle and Greg Minikin as possible replacements for Webster with Powell himself stating that Minikin could be the answer. If that is how the Tigers are going to shape up in 2019, then the backline will be in trouble.

Alex Foster has been superb for Castleford since joining in 2017, filling in wherever and whenever Powell has asked him to, but he is not a first-choice centre.

Joe Wardle was disappointing in his first season with the Tigers in 2018 but arguably looked more at home in the back row than in the centres while Greg Minikin is a much better winger than a centre. A specialist centre needs to be signed and before the season starts.

Salary cap

If the Tigers are close to the salary cap - which has often been remarked by those associated with the club - then some players are on contracts that are rather inflated.

Castleford had a 31-man squad heading into the 2018 season with three of these - Cory Aston, Brandon Douglas, and Jacques O'Neill - failing to register an appearance. Tuoyo Egodo, Kieran Gill, Will Maher, and Garry Lo played less than ten games between them with the latter departing midway through the year. James Green played just four games, Gadwin Springer six and Jy Hitchcox nine while Jamie Ellis has been reportedly offered to other clubs after a below-par year.

Liam Watts and Peter Mata'utia joined midway through 2018, leaving a squad of first-team regulars at 25 - 26 if Ellis is included. But, some of these regulars just didn't cut it last season, and Castleford needs some new blood if they want to maintain their place near the top of the table.

The likes of big-earners Mike McMeeken, Michael Shenton and Ben Roberts disappointed or were absent in 2018. Greg Eden is a great winger, but James Clare and Greg Minikin should not be starting in a side hunting for silverware.

St Helens have signed Lachlan Coote, and Kevin Naiqama while Warrington have made Blake Austin their marquee player and Leeds Konrad Hurrell. The teams that will be fighting Castleford for those top five spots at the end of 2019 have strengthened their first-team squads while Castleford fans look on enviously. Even Salford have signed Ken Sio - a three-quarter that would have improved the Tigers' first-choice 17.

Sides pay to keep their best players, and perhaps the Tigers have fallen foul of their own achievements in the past few years with players earning contracts they might not have been able to get elsewhere.

If this is true, then Castleford may need to show another player or two the exit before they could sign someone that would improve the squad. But, this improvement - particularly in the centres - is essential going into 2019 and could be the difference between winning silverware and missing out once more.