Mark Aston is backing former team-mate Daryl Powell to lead Castleford Tigers to their first Challenge Cup final win in nearly 30 years today.
The pair formed a great partnership at Sheffield Eagles as players for nearly 10 seasons and come from the Castleford area.
“It’s brilliant for ‘Cas’ and for Daryl,” said Aston. “Daryl has worked hard and got the team where they need to be. It just shows what people are capable of doing when they are given an opportunity. Cas have a massive chance of winning.”
Powell, who played 312 games for Eagles, will send out his team against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley today (3pm). It’s the first time two of Yorkshire’s greatest clubs have met in a Challenge Cup final.
Wembley marks a remarkable 18 months for Powell who took over as Castleford coach when they were at the bottom of the Super League. He will be plotting the downfall of the club he won the Cup with in 1999. He also played in Leeds’ defeat by Bradford the following year and was Rhinos’ coach in 2003 when they again lost to the Bulls.
The pressure is on Leeds to end a run of six Final losses with the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock knowing there won’t be many more chances. A key battle will be at hooker with Cas-born Rob Burrow facing Tiger’s Daryl Clark; a contender for player of the season.
Aston, who took the man-of-the-match Lance Todd Trophy when the Eagles won at Wembley in 1998, said: “Daryl has a great group of players and they have a great attitude. You can see the mental strength and belief they can win the Cup.”
On the road to the final Aston and Powell were reunited at the fifth round with Cas beating the Eagles 60-10. The Tigers’ squad includes half-back Liam Finn who Aston coaches for Ireland and assistant coach Ryan Sheridan a former team-mate at Eagles.
“Daryl has played at Wembley and now he’s taking a team there and he’ll be as proud as punch” added Aston. “It was 1986 the last time Cas did it. Let’s hope they fetch the Cup home.”