TURBULENT TIGERS | Wests Tigers' 2016 season was... interesting.
From the demotion and eventual dep...
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Mick Nanyn is hoping for the chance to prove he is the man for the big occasion when Whitehaven take on Castleford on Sunday for a place in the engage Super League.
The big goalkicking centre had an off-day with the boot in last year's heart-breaking LHF National League One Grand Final defeat by Leigh, missing four of his six shots at goal as the Cumbrians were beaten in extra time.
The 23-year-old Nanyn, who scored the match-winning try against Castleford in the qualifying semi-final a fortnight ago, knows that his goalkicking could once more be crucial if his side are to go one better at the Halton Stadium, Widnes.
"Hopefully, the nerves will stand up," he said. "Last year maybe they didn't, maybe I had a bad day at the office, which personally I think I did. But this year I am hoping to change that."
Whitehaven were clinging to a 16-15 lead when veteran stand-off Tommy Martyn landed a drop goal to tie the scores and the Centurions ran away with the game in extra time.
"It was a big disappointment last year to lose the way we did," admitted Nanyn. "We were absolutely devastated.
"It was hard coming back into pre-season because you look back at the last games and you have the bad memories.
"I actually watched the video the day after the game. I got the video out just to have a look at a few things I couldn't remember in the game.
?It was mentally very tiring that day. When I watched the video, it looked a different game. It was a bit of a weird situation really."
Astute Whitehaven coach Steve McCormack used the experience of that cruel defeat to drive his team on to greater efforts and the virtually identical side finished top of the table this year with just two defeats.
A year on, Nanyn believes the team is older and wiser and will draw on the experience gained from last year.
"I think it will help us," he said. "There are 12 or 13 players who have already played in a Grand Final and it will stand us in good stead. The team is a year older, a year stronger and a bit more experienced.
"I think we were more determined to experience another Grand Final and make it a good experience this time."
Although Castleford began the season as favourites to bounce straight back into Super League, they finished below their rivals in the table and lost to Hull KR in the Northern Rail Cup final in Blackpool in mid-season.
Whitehaven look to have the edge, particularly after their 32-22 win over the Tigers a fortnight ago, but Nanyn is not starting to think about Super League just yet.
"Maybe last year we did get to the stage where we were dreaming of Super League but this time we're taking it one game at a time," he said. "We've got 80 minutes and then we can dream about whatever we want.
"I don't know about favourites. Castleford are a full-time side, we're the part-timers again.
?We've not been favourites all season. But, when you go out onto the field on Sunday, it won't matter who are the favourites or the underdogs, it will be just two good sides having a real good battle against each other."
One man already looking ahead is McCormack, who will have little time to assemble a new squad if the Cumbrians are successful.
Leigh, of course, struggled from the outset this year and were condemned to relegation five weeks before the end of the season after winning just two of their 28 matches.
"People keep bringing up the Leigh situation and they have struggled for one reason or another," said McCormack.
"Whoever goes up will certainly not win Super League at the first attempt but, if you are looking at previous seasons, some of the clubs have gone up and survived and prospered.
"If we win the game, we will have a full-time squad. It's a difficult situation with a lot of players working at Sellafield and a lot of things are up in the air until after the Grand Final but we have spoken to all the players."
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Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this article.