Orr returns to roots and plots big things for Castleford's young crop

Half-back is 'home' again, at the club where he made his name – and he has high hopes for the new season, he tells Dave Hadfield
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The Independent Online

Life goes full circle for Danny Orr at the start of the new Super League season this weekend. He was a prodigious youthful talent with his hometown club, Castleford, but broader ambitions took him away for eight years only for him to return as senior player and guiding light this time.

They say you should never go back. Time will tell whether it is a good idea in his case.

"It's something I've been asked about a million times: Why would I want to come back? All I can say is that I've been made very welcome and it feels right."

There was plenty of ill-feeling in the town when Orr moved to Wigan in a typical small-club-to-big transfer in 2003. His former Castleford coach, Stuart Raper, made the same switch and took Orr with him.

There he played plenty of hooker as well as half-back, never more effectively than after Wigan decided to let him go. "I really enjoyed it at Wigan, but I did at Harlequins. I've been lucky to be at three great clubs," he says.

The Orr family enjoyed four years of life in London so much, in fact, that when his eight-year-old son was told that they were moving back to the north, he barricaded himself in his bedroom, his dad recalls. They are settled happily back in Castleford now. "It's very different from London obviously, but to me it will always be home," Orr says.

He has come home to a job he last did in 2003, with his coach, Terry Matterson, making him captain. "I was 22 when I was captain before, so I'm a much more mature player now. I remember the way that players like Mitch Healey and Brad Davis used to look after me, so maybe I can do the same for the younger players now."

Key among those is his half-back partner, Rangi Chase. The Kiwi was sometimes brilliant last season, but he was also occasionally weighed down by the pressure of organisational responsibility on his shoulders.

"He was having to do everything," Orr says. "Hopefully, I can take some of the pressure off him and he'll be even better this year."

Despite the loss of Michael Shenton to St Helens and Joe Westerman to Hull, Orr is enthused by the quality of the young players he will have under his wing at what is now the Probiz Coliseum this year. "Richard Owen coming back will be like having a new player," he believes. "If he hadn't broken his leg, I reckon he would have been in the England side at the end of the season."

Orr indirectly owes his role as captain to Adam Milner, who led the England Academy side to their victories over Australia in the autumn. His rapid progress as a hooker means that last season's captain, Ryan Hudson, will not be on the field for as long this season, whereas Orr will be out there regularly for the full 80 minutes.

Also, with Hudson, Milner and the exciting 17-year-old Darren Clarke, all queuing up for the No 9 shirt, it frees up Orr to do what he does best – direct a team from half-back. The first test of his ability to do that effectively will be at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, when Cas take on their local rivals – and rivals for a Super League licence for the next three years – Wakefield. The balance has swung strongly in Castleford's favour over the past couple of weeks, with Trinity suffering setback after setback with their plans for a new ground and going into administration with heavy debts.

Orr knows enough about local rivalry, however, to predict that it will not make the Tigers' task any easier in Cardiff. Quite the reverse, in fact. "I don't think it will affect them on the pitch at all. They could even use it as a motivating factor, so they are going to be really tough."

Not that he has any doubt that Cas, with a new ground on the way, a steady production line of young players and a modicum of financial stability, will get their new licence.

Orr has only signed on initially for one year, but there could be few more appropriate players to lead them into their new stadium on the outskirts of the town. "I was reading about some other sport and they were saying that you should never go back, but this is home and it just feels right."