Watts focused on strong year with Cas

Posted: Thursday 21st January 2021 - 7:00 AM

This article is taken from the January 2021 edition of Castleford Tigers' monthly club magazine ROAR, which you can read in full for free by visiting castlefordtigers.com/roar.

One of Super League’s best forwards, Liam Watts knows how important of the year 2021 is to Castleford Tigers and the sport of rugby league as a whole with the World Cup on the horizon at the end of the year.

In the past, he has not been shy about his international ambitions and will be fighting for a spot back in the England squad, but that’s not his primary focus, his main aim is for a successful season with the Tigers.

During Castleford’s Christmas Camp, ROAR caught up with Liam Watts for a catch-up and he started by giving an update on his fitness.

“It’s good to be back, I had picked up a slight injury training before we came back in when we had our own programmes and just slightly tore my calf a little bit, so the first day I was sat on the Watt Bike for about four hours watching the lads! It was a bit frustrating not being out there on day one, but they put a good dig in to say it was the first day back, quite a lot of testing and it looked quite strenuous.

“My programme has been a bit different to what the lads have had at the start, I picked up an injury at the back end of the year and came back for the Leeds game. We were down on numbers and we had lost a few through injuries and COVID, so I put myself in, put my hand up for that game and now it’s about more or less getting back up to fitness levels and getting a good base for the start of 2021.”

Looking back on the year that was, it was a period of lots of ups and down for Liam.

“Obviously the birth of my new son was definitely an up before COVID started we were flying and second in the table and we came back we were just on the wrong end of a few losses and stood in for games that we probably shouldn’t have played. But we stuck our hands up and we are not one to shy away from a battle and just came up short on a few occasions which was a bit upsetting after the start that we had. I think it’s time to put it to bed now and start looking to the new season.”

Heading into 2021 the Tigers have got the reigning Man of Steel in their squad, a player who Watts has battled against from their youth days and who he loves working on the same team with now.

“Macca has been on the scene for the last couple of years in that sort of category which has been massive for him and it’s testament to what he’s like in training, always competitive, he pushes everybody to the max. He just keeps trying to learn and is constantly in people’s ears coming up with new ideas which is why he is a great player to play with. Macca is a tough kid and I’ve played against him all my life; we’re the same age and we have had a few good battles over the years! It’s nice to see him getting recognized for the effort that he has put in over probably the last five or six years.”

Suaia Matagi and Lewis Bienek are two of four new faces in the Cas ranks for 2021, the two big men bolster Daryl Powell’s forward pack even further, but Liam discusses how the middles have got men returning and young Tigers nipping at their heels.

“We needed a bit of size in the pack and we’ve got that in Lewis and we’ve got that in Sui, they are definitely going to bolster our pack. Tyla came back into a bit of good form in the back end of the year and put his best foot forward for us, same with Jacques. We’ve got youngsters like Sammy Hall, Nathan Magee and more that are young kids that are coming through the system, and we’ve got a few players back too. Fozzy (Alex Foster) is getting back to full fitness now and he can play in the pack, we’ll leave Jesse out of there… he can’t handle it in the middle with the big lads! He shies away from the hard work…! We’ve got a good bolster in the pack for us and a few additions in the outside backs which were much needed in Niall and Jordan coming in. It’s given us a few more dimensions to add to the ones we’ve already got.”

Castleford’s Christmas Camp was a tough three-day course of exercises and tasks designed to set the standards and lay down the groundwork for the upcoming campaign. With the added bonus of having the festive period off, the players knew how important the camp was, as Wattsy explains.

“The camp was put in for a reason, they put it in so close to Christmas to get us out of our comfort zones with a few big days and for it not to be easy. Then we’ve got the break over Christmas with our families which is something we have never had; I’ve never had one for however long I’ve been playing. Powelly’s even chucked one in there that he’s never had one for the last 35 years, that’s showing his age! It’s the first that we all can actually relax with no Boxing Day game, yeah, it’s a shame but it’s there for the fans and the fans are not there. So, we enjoy it with our families and friends and hopefully hit the ground running come the start of January.”

When the new season begins in March, Liam Watts will be focused to do well for the club, he knows a big year for him could see a call up into the England squad for the World Cup and that would be brilliant recognition for the prop forward.

“I came out of the England squad for a number of reasons, obviously my form has been nonexistent in 2020 which has been tough, battling a few injuries and niggles and it’s not allowed me to be consistent which was of the main things for me, I pride myself on consistency. I had a few chats with Shaun Wane and I’d not been consistent and if the form was, we had to play, I wouldn’t be playing so he was honest with me in that regard. It was a decision on both parts that I just concentrated on Cas and rather than looking too far ahead so my point of call is having a good, good 2021 for Castleford Tigers more than anything. Hopefully, we’re up there at the end of the year for the honours, then who knows come the World Cup, hopefully, my form is at its peak and I’ve done what I needed to do now to put me in good stead for that.”

Read more interviews and features in ROAR by visiting castlefordtigers.com/roar

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