Clark's sacrifice to save Castleford

He'd been a part of the Castleford system since the age of 13 but in order for his beloved club to survive Daryl Clark first had to agree to leave.

Judged the best player in the Super League in 2014, Clark shapes as a key weapon for England against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday evening as they seek to qualify for the Four Nations final for the third time in four instalments.

Twelve months ago Clark was anxiously watching England play in the World Cup from his home five minutes from the Tigers' home ground on Wheldon Road, The Jungle.

Although his move to Warrington on a four-year deal wasn't announced until late August after he had helped carry Castleford to a Challenge Cup Final and fifth position on the Super League ladder, Clark's future and that of his club had been secured long ago.

"It were a bit different. I have to say I've never experienced anything like that before," Clark said of being sold to save the club he loved. "At the time the team were joint bottom of the league – I think we'd won two games all year – and Warrington were a big team that were winning stuff that year and they came in and the deal suited both parties really.

"There were relegation coming up too the year after and we were bottom of the league so I had to kind to look to secure my future and the club had to do the same so the deal pretty much suited both parties."

When it was finally announced that Castleford had agreed to sell their best player, chief executive told fans on the club's website of the desire situation the club had found itself in.

"The sale was agreed back in 2013 when the club had a real threat of going into administration and this decision was made to ensure we had financial stability at the club," Gill said. 

"We negotiated Daryl's services for this season as part of that sale and he has been an integral part of our success this season."

Castleford coach Daryl Powell added: "When I took on the job last season, the deal had already been done for Daryl to move to Warrington, which secured the future of the club at that time.

"Whilst we obviously don't want to lose our best players, this deal was in the best interests of the club."

It's part of the unique fabric of sport in the northern hemisphere where transfer fees are the norm and the market dictates how much a player is worth to any given club.

At just 21 years of age it must be a somewhat confronting aspect to your career but Clark seems unaffected either by his sale to a rival or his breakout season that saw him become the first player to win both the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award and the Young Player of the Year award.

Shifted to hooker at 13 years of age by Leeds legend Rob Burrow who was the assistant coach of his school team, Clark's blistering speed regularly tore apart Super League defences in 2014 and in his first touch in international rugby league sparked a try for Michael Shenton with a line break in the Four Nations opener against Samoa.

Despite wearing No.14 all season for Castleford Clark started in all but a handful of games but is more than happy to fill the 'super sub' role for Steve McNamara and start from the bench against the Kiwis.

"I'm not really too fussed about starting or coming off the bench but when I come through as a youngster I pretty much made a name for myself coming off the bench, after the first 20 or 30 when the big fellas are tiring, so hopefully that will work for me on Saturday," Clark said.

"The school team that we played for, the first year that we picked positions, it were actually Rob Burrow, he was the assistant coach for our school team, he was the one that put me there.

"Obviously as a little kid, being put there by a known Super League player, I just went along with it and it turned out all right for me."

With a population more than five times that of his home town, the move to Warrington will be an eye-opener for a number of reasons and perhaps give him something to do on his days off other than watching more footy.

"There's not really much to do round Castleford to be honest. A lot of my mates who I've grown up with and played amateur rugby and stuff still play a lot of amateur now so normally on my weekends off I do a lot of watching mates play amateur rugby and stuff. That's it really."