Castleford Tigers have players falling over themselves to plug the gap created by the departure of Rangi Chase, according to coach Daryl Powell.
The mercurial Chase was the Tigers’ standout player in his five seasons in west Yorkshire but Castleford bowed to the inevitable last September when they finally accepted a big-money offer from Salford Red Devils for the 2011 Man of Steel.
Powell has used the cash to build one of the biggest squads in the club’s Super League history and has four new players vying for Chase’s old half-back role.
Luke Dorn, who is starting his second spell with the Tigers after being recruited from London Broncos, has been given Chase’s number-six jersey but is facing stern competition from fellow newcomers Brett Seymour, Marc Sneyd and Liam Finn as well as last year's number seven Jamie Ellis.
Castleford will begin the post-Chase era with the first of three pre-season friendlies, against York on Sunday, and Powell is comfortable with the prospect of life after the England international.
“I don’t see it as a major problem,” Powell said at the club’s pre-season media day. “I don’t really want to talk about Rangi too much. He’s gone and we’ve got to move on.
“Certainly the attitude and focus of this group is outstanding. The signs I can see are that we will have a pretty formidable team.
“We will probably be a bit more structured in the way that we play but I think it will be successful.”
Powell, the former Featherstone and Leeds Rhinos boss who succeeded Ian Millward last May, has also brought forwards Andy Lynch, Scott Wheeldon and Frankie Mariano and centres Ashley Gibson and Michael Channing into a new-look squad as he looks to improve on last year's 12th-placed finish.
Prop Ryan Boyle, centre Jake Webster and back-rower Nathan Massey, who was an ever-present in 2013, are all set to miss the opening game of Super League XIX at Bradford Bulls on February 16 but Powell is happy with his squad’s new strength in depth.
“I think we’ve got everything we need within this group to do a great job this year,” he said.
“I looked at the Castleford squad at the start of last year and it looked pretty skinny and that’s how it turned out.
“When I came in, we were having to bring a few loan players in but we’ve been running a lot of 13 v 13 in practice because we’ve got the numbers, even though we’ve got a few injuries.
“It’s great sign that we’ve got the quality of player within each position to push each other and I’m confident that will get the best out of them.”
Powell says he has yet to decide on his starting half-backs but hints that Ireland captain Finn, who was the last to join the club after making the step up from part-time neighbours Featherstone, could be in pole position for one of the slots.
“It’s all to play for in pre-season,” he added. “Liam Finn has come in reasonably late and he’s settled in really quickly and really impressively.
“You talk to players around him and they’ve all been impressed with the way he’s come in and organised the group.
“It’s helped him because he’s worked with me in the past but nevertheless he’s come in with a confidence that is impressive.
“I think he’s got a great opportunity to play really well in Super League and he’s desperate to do it.
“We’ve got other guys who are equally impressive in practice. There’s a battle on for positions across the field.”