The draw for the Women’s Challenge Cup was made at Wembley yesterday, pitting Castleford against Warrington Wolves, London Broncos and the current holders of the trophy, St Helens.
The Tigresses have had some history in the competition, reaching the semi-final in 2021, and the final in 2019 and 2018. Back-to-back finals against local rivals Leeds Rhinos saw the Tigresses lose out by six points on both occasions after two fantastic campaigns.
In 2021, York City Knights, now Valkyrie got the better of the Tigresses winning 32-10, although they lost out in the final at the hands of St Helens.
Head Coach of Castleford Tigers Women Matty Faulkner spoke to ctrlfc.com shortly after the draw was made and was excited at the prospect of coming up against the reigning champions, and most successful side in this competition, St Helens.
“It’s a good draw, exciting. It’ll show us how far we’ve come in a year putting ourselves against some of the top teams in the country. It’ll be a good test against a strong London side that haven’t been tested against many in the north. So, getting the chance to play against these teams is massive for us. Hopefully we can use these games to show everyone what we’ve done over the last few months.”
The season will see the Fords have their first game in the Super League Group 2, and then go into the Challenge Cup Group Stage, meaning that a break in the league format early on. This can be a positive for Faulkner’s women as they have the chance to get off to a good start in the league, and then have what would be a free hit away from league action in the cup.
Matty is positive about the way in which the fixtures are lined up, and believes the Challenge Cup can be a springboard for success once the league format returns.
“It’s good for us. It gives us a nice break to reassess. We get to jump into the season, hopefully start well, and do well off the back off these Challenge Cup games. We’re seeded 3. Which gives us an opportunity. We’re an underdog most of the time in the Challenge Cup, so it gives us an opportunity to try things and test ourselves and push ourselves to become better.”
The Tigresses are in a much stronger position this year than they were last. Having hosted successful trials nights and begun their preparations early for the season’s opener in April, they have a bolstered squad.
When looking back on the last year, Faulkner spoke of how proud he is to see the difference in the strength and depth of the squad, and how his backroom staff have waited patiently and are now seeing things come to fruition.
“I’ve been really impressed. Being sat in this position last year with one player definitely and a handful of maybes. How far we’ve come I’m really proud of what the girls have done and the coaching staff who stuck around and been part of that have been very patient and very persistent in what we’ve done. I think no matter what happens in these games, we can be proud of what we’ve done in the last 12 months. It’s been unbelievable. Last season, we ended with a strong playing group and I think we’ve added to that since. I’m really excited to get started and I know the girls are too.”
The first round of fixtures will get underway on the 23rd April, but full information of exact timings and venues will be confirmed in due course.
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