Lee Radford: Future Castleford Tigers head coach goes back to roots ahead of Super League return

As he prepares to make his Super League return with Castleford Tigers, Lee Radford has gone back to where it all began for him as both a player and coach.

A career which saw the former forward win the Super League Grand Final, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge with Bradford Bulls and enjoy two spells with home city club Hull FC can trace its roots to Radford’s junior days with East Hull.

It was his old community club where he took his first steps in coaching too, taking charge of the open-age team in the National Conference League while still playing for Hull FC, and ahead of succeeding Daryl Powell at Castleford he has been back there helping his son in the club’s U16s side.

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“I’ve been coaching my lad at U16s, so that’s been keeping me entertained,” Radford told Sky Sports. “I take a keen interest in both of my lads’ rugby at U18s and U16s.

“I love it and I think you see more benefits in that than you probably do at any level.

“Coaching East Hull had a huge influence and I could almost get a glimpse of what my coach was feeling at the time and some of the pressures he was under, as daft as it sounds, having already seen it on the weekend at amateur level.

“It definitely had an influence on me as a player and a coach as well.”

Not that Radford has not had plenty to do since being confirmed as the man to lead the Tigers from 2022 onwards, with the former Hull FC head coach heavily involved in shaping the squad he will be taking charge of next year.

So far, Niall Evalds, Nathan Massey, Daniel Smith and, most recently, Radford’s former Hull FC team-mate Jordan Turner have all agreed new contracts, and more are expected to follow in the coming weeks.

“It’s gone from doing nothing to 1,000mph,” Radford said. “That’s the joys of the job, but luckily I’m out of the week to week stuff, so I’ve got plenty of clarity in what I want, whereas when you’re in the quagmire sometimes your emotions can get the best of you.

“After a couple of poor performances and after a couple of good performances you can get a bit carried away with it as well.

When I took the role, I said there is going to be a lot more retaining than recruitment. With those players being on board, that’s a clear indication of that so hopefully we can get a few more tied down as well.

Lee Radford on building Castleford’s squad for 2022

“When I took the role, I said there is going to be a lot more retaining than recruitment. With those players being on board, that’s a clear indication of that so hopefully we can get a few more tied down as well which I’m looking forward to doing over the next month or so.”

Had things worked out differently, Radford would have been out in the USA at this point coaching in rugby union, having originally agreed to join Major League Rugby side Dallas Jackals as defence coach after leaving Hull FC last March.

Dallas postponing their entry into the competition until next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic changed those plans, but Radford has been keeping a close eye on how the Jackals’ director of rugby Allen Clarke has been getting on in his role this year as Seattle Seawolves head coach.

“I’ve been watching their results and games – and looking and their stadiums and facilities and being slightly envious,” Radford said.

“Like any American sport, they’re trying to do it as best as they possibly can and facilities over there are certainly second to none. That’s something they get right out there, definitely.

“There are some similarities between the sports, but there are so many differentials as well. The game itself is a very stop-start game by nature and because of that it gives you a bit more opportunity to execute your systems in defence.”

Thursday night will see him get another chance to watch his new club in action when he appears on Sky Sports as guest pundit for the Tigers’ live Super League clash at home to Hull FC.

Castleford go into the match having reached the Challenge Cup final for the first time in seven years with a 35-20 victory over Powell’s future club Warrington Wolves in the semi-finals last weekend.

Victory in the final at Wembley on July 17 would see Cas lift the trophy for the first time since 1986 and Radford, who guided Hull FC to back-to-back Cup wins in 2016 and 2017, would relish the prospect of taking over the club which had claimed one of the sport’s major honours.

“I think one of the appeals of the job is the quality of the squad which is already assembled there,” Radford said. “Then getting to this year’s final is probably a little bit more substance to that.

“The fact it’s Daryl’s last year and they’re wanting to send him out on a high, hopefully that can be achieved this time around.”

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