Wildcats full-back Richard Mathers says he cannot wait to renew his rivalry with Castleford this afternoon at the Magic Weekend, kick-off 2.15pm.
The vice-captain spent a year at the Tigers in 2011 before switching to Wakefield which has seen three victories from four derby games between the clubs. Both sides met at the Etihad in 2012 with Mathers helping his side to a 32-26 victory to kick-start an extraordinary Super League run.
The Wildcats went into the Magic Weekend struggling last year but victory kick started a run of 10 wins from the remaining 14 games which propelled Wakefield into the play-offs with a similar run needed in 2013.
The upcoming fixtures include a number of teams that are around Richard Agar’s men in the league ladder and represents a chance to push towards the top eight and Mathers says they have talked about targeting games.
“We highlighted that last week but that’s gone now,”
“The performance wasn’t acceptable but if you can’t get up for games against Castleford and your rivals at a venue like the Etihad then there’s not too many bigger games!
“It can define our season and its come around this week and if we can get a win then that breeds confidence and we are a team that when we are playing well we can get on a roll and that showed last year.
“It’s probably coming into the right part of the season for what we want to play but we have a long way to go. First and foremost we need to sort our defence out because we can attack with the best of them but hopefully get a win and it can catapult us on a run like it did last year.”
Mathers played 23 times for the Wheldon Road based club and he knows how much this game means to both sets of supporters.
“It’s my old club and it’s a fact that I enjoy playing against Cas and I still have a lot of friends within the playing group that I keep in contact with but they are our rivals and our derby.
“We’ve had some good tussles with them since I’ve been here and while I was there as well. They are always great games and bring a different intensity because the rivalry between the local boys certainly rubs off on the rest of us. You just have to be in and around the place with the fans and the people that work here to see how much it means to both sets of supporters.
“They’ve got a new coach and he’s improved them already, you can see that in the review we’ve done on them. I’ve got a lot of time for Daryl Powell, he gave me my debut a fair few years ago, he’s a good man and he’ll do a great job there.”
The number one is well aware improvements have to be made to secure the local bragging rights once again and he says the inclusion of Taulima Tautai has proved a big boost.
“Our performance on Sunday was nowhere near good enough and we know as a group. We had a pretty brutal day on Monday, we had to go through it and get it done, it wasn’t pretty but we put that to bed and we’ve been really positive since Tuesday onwards.
“It’s all about us and preparing right and we certainly didn’t do that last week and that reflected in our performance last week.
“It freshens the place up with a new face and certainly adds competition for places in our pack and that’s an area we’ve been looking to bolster and he’s a big thing and while it’s great to have him here I don’t want to put too much pressure on him because he’s not going to be the saviour straight away.
“We’ve got to look after him so we make sure he knows our systems but he’ll certainly provide a boost for us in terms of carrying the ball and some impact in defence.”
You can hear the full interview with Mathers on the Wildcats Sound Cloud account HERE where he also discusses his first game back and gives an update on his foot injury after his first game back against Hull KR last weekend. He also discusses the Magic Weekend as an event and previews the game against Castleford in more detail.
Tickets are available from 9am today at the Etihad ticket office which is situated in the North Stand with tickets starting from just £30 a day and £45 for the full weekend for adults while concessions are half those prices.
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