McShane: Man of the Moment

Posted: Tuesday 31st March 2020 - 12:00 PM

Heading into April Paul McShane is six points clear at the top of the Steve Prescott Man of Steel Leaderboard and it’s richly deserved as the Tigers hooker appears to be back at his dangerous best so far in 2020, his sixth season with the club.

In July it will have been five years since Paul McShane made the switch from local rivals Wakefield Trinity (then known as Wildcats) to join Castleford Tigers. The two sides had contrasting fortunes back then with Trinity flirting with the possibility of relegation whilst the Fords were beginning to establish themselves as a top five team. For Paul it doesn’t seem that long ago that he first came to Wheldon Road but when reminded it’s been five years, he was a little surprised.

“Well it’s definitely gone quick but mainly because it’s been so enjoyable. Being with the club when they’re so welcoming, all the coaches and all the players are such great blokes to have as teammates and that as a whole brings out the best of me as a player, and I hold that in high regard.

2015 was the start of a new look Cas side with Ben Roberts, Junior Moors, Matt Cook, Luke Gale and Mike McMeeken coming into the club for the first time and all of whom have gone on to be key players in Daryl Powell’s system. Then during the summer Paul was added into the ranks too and what impressed him most at that time was the strong characters within the squad.

“The thing that stood out to me when I first joined was the leaders within the group such as Shenny (Shenton), Millo (Millington), Adz (Milner), Oggy (Holmes) and Dorny (Luke Dorn) they were the people that pushed you to be your best. They were pushing you to do better than what you had before and helping you out in any way possible.

“At the time there was Adz at nine and I had no guarantees that I would be able to break into the team. I was speaking to Daryl before the move and I just loved what he said the club was all about and he had a track record of getting the best of his players and I think he’s doing that with me.”

People that speak to Macca very quickly gather that he is what you might call a ‘rugby nerd’, for example despite training and playing the sport as his day job he coaches Hunslet Club Parkside, he clearly adores the sport which is why it’s surprising to know that before his move to Castleford, he was growing out of favour with the game.

“It was a case of falling back in love with my rugby as well truth be told, I was starting to fall out of love with it before joining Cas and I didn’t know if I would continue to be a rugby league player or not. So when I came in it was all about getting back to enjoying it and everyone at the club helped me do just that.

“When I was at Wakey I just wasn’t enjoying playing as much and I didn’t know what I might want to be, at the time we were struggling in a relegation battle and I was thinking a little bit about life post-rugby and when that might be. Joining Castleford, a team on the up, it made me realize again how much I wanted to be a rugby player and from then on I think I’ve grown so much and maybe that’s why I’m such a ‘rugby nerd’ now.”

As a player he’s become more high profile as a Tiger too with more eyes on what hazards he can cause to the opposition on the field, that’s perhaps because he’s matured into one of the leaders in the team, so we asked him if he enjoys being one of the key senior players.

“No, it just means I’m getting old… Nah I love it, since being at Cas and seeing what the blokes I mentioned before when I came in, seeing how they were leading made me want to be like that, someone the younger lads can look up to or who they can come to ask for advice if they need it, it’s nice knowing that you’re trusted.

“I think I’m a lot calmer now, when I was younger it was more about me and what I could do whereas now I’m a little bit older and there’s more responsibility being one of the older lads in the team, I’m less selfish. It probably sounds bad but as a young kid you just play rugby because you want to and you don’t think about what goes into being that sportsman such as sacrifices you have to make, and I fully realized that I think when I was about 25.”

Over the course of the last two seasons Fords fans have been able to see the growth of a young, talented half-back, Jake Trueman, who has impressed despite not having a regular partner with him at #7. Paul has stepped up to help organize the fellas on the field including the youngster, something that he wants to do as one of the squad leaders.

“Truey is a great kid and I’ve got a lot of time for him he’s going to be one of the very best and if I’m there to help him or take a bit of the pressure off of him so he can play his natural game then that’s what I’m there for. That’s what leaders are for, to shoulder a bit of responsibility so that the young guns can come through and enjoy those early years.”

McShane has high standards on the field as can be seen by fans in the stands by how vocal he is when things are not up to scratch, and that has been laid into the foundations set by his Head Coach Daryl Powell who continually strives for his players to be better.

“Daryl still wants me to improve and keep getting better because he sees that there’s improvement to be had in me, I can remember on the back of the 2017 season which was maybe the best year I’d had with Cas up to that point. He sat down with me for a review and said, ‘There’s still another 20 or 30% in you to be better’. Hearing that from your coach and knowing that they believe that I can still improve, it gives you a buzz that you’ve still got to keep working hard and there should be more to come.”

It’s been a solid start for Macca in 2020 with impressive performances earning him Man of the Match nods as well as sitting top of the Man of Steel Leaderboard following the first month of the season. There is competition in every position and it’s driving players to be the best they can be to earn their starting spot.

“Within the camp there is a great buzz at the start of this year, and everyone wants to be playing every week. Last year I might have shouldered a bit too much responsibility and took too much on which might have taken my focus away from parts of my game such as my running but not having two regular dominant halves meant I had to.”

“Now I’ve got those two halves plus a fullback that want to get their hands on the ball and all of them are confident in playing rugby, I’ve found my running game again on the back of that because I’m not worried about organizing too much, we’ve got three blokes there who are good at it and do it with tremendous confidence.”

Many supporters of Castleford Tigers in recent years have vented their frustration online about Paul McShane not being included within the English international squad, despite showing he can be an outstanding #9. Shaun Wane has now replaced Wayne Bennett so who knows, Paul may yet get his chance on the world stage.

“Super League is blessed with plenty of great hookers but I’m enjoying my rugby at the minute and whilst every single player wants to be an international, I think I might have lost hope a little over the last couple of years thinking it may never happen getting to 30-years old. But, this year I’m confident in what I can do on the pitch, who knows what could happen.”

When you watch Paul McShane in match action you see just how hungry he is to get a victory, how determined he is to do his best and have those players around him be at their best too, and that feeds into his desire to earn a trophy with Castleford and become a part of the club’s legacy.

“Over recent years we’ve come so close but we have fallen at the important parts of the year but as a group we are incredibly driven and there is a few blokes in the team who are not going to be around for a lot longer so we’ve spoken about leaving a legacy at this club. If we can win some silverware, we will write our names in the history books of this club for many, many years to come.”

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