CASTLEFORD seem to have united the whole of Super League this year with their brand of exciting and entertaining rugby illuminating the competition.
They have always had that flair in them - the Classy Cas monicker was not purely a piece of convenient journalistic alliteration but a reflection of the way they have always played the game especially on their short pitch where every set is an attacking one.
Up until now they have been the competition’s favourite side attraction; the team that every fan wants their club to play like even though they have traditionally fallen short on the big occasion.
Fans want teams to play like Cas but still win the big games.
But this year Daryl Powell’s outfit has ticked both boxes – entertaining and winning with last week’s win over Wigan keeping them on top of the league.
Who would have thought playing what is in front of you, running at gaps rather than men and supporting each other would prove to be so revolutionary a concept?
There is still a very long way to go but one of the biggest difference we have seen in Cas this year is the iron beneath the velvet.
Their defence against Wigan was out of the top drawer – and there was none of the ‘you score, we’ll score’ mentality that used to be a tendency within Cas play.
With the ball Castleford’s big men have been really bending the line and punching holes in opposing defences this season with some real impact and venom off that bench.
There is no soft underbelly to the team anymore- Grant Millington has been the comp’s most under-rated prop for years but throw in a big unit like Gadwin Springer and powerhouses Junior Moors and Jesse Sene-Lefao then you can see why the likes of Luke Gale and Ben Roberts have such a good platform to work off.
You can see that life is good there at Cas - the fans are responding both home and away.
Surely this is what we want in Super League; a team with a proud rugby league heritage breaking into the elite circles and showing that it does not have to be fully paid up members of the interchangeable ‘big four’ to win things.
It is better for the well-being of the comp that clubs like Cas keep the players they have developed and not see them enticed away like Michael Shenton and Daryl Clark were in the past.
The salary cap has meant that the days of all the best players being sucked towards the same three clubs have gone and surely that is to be welcomed.
The result is a much more even competition.
Some instinctively see a drop in standards when they see the old order turned upside down.
The idea of Wigan, Saints and Warrington losing to clubs like Cas, Salford and Leigh never goes down well.
The fans of the big clubs have a winning attitude – they do not want to hear about the levelling out, and where they can almost accept defeats to Leeds and Wigan the even comp idea is simply translated into their team declining. In some cases that is true.
However, having got to an even comp and a real chance of a new name on the Super League trophy you can understand why there may be a little unease among clubs faced with a salary cap increase.
Just when they have got up there it looks like the cash-rich clubs want to pull out the extendable ladder.
Those clubs who have been patiently building, living within their means to assemble teams that can be competitive – and keeping players that would have gone elsewhere five years ago – will be disadvantaged as they are lumped in with the unambitious plodders again.
As much as the changes to the cap and marquee player will let some clubs grow taller, it will have an undeniable effect on those who felt they had caught up and the first sign of that will be their star players gravitating back to the ‘top clubs’.