CASTLEFORD Tigers star Andy Lynch may be marking his testimonial but former team-mate Chev Walker feels the veteran prop can play on at the highest level for some time yet.
Lynch will face Bradford Bulls, where he spent seven years of his career, at Wheldon Road tomorrow with supporters set to come and show their appreciation of one of the most popular players.
The former England front-row is approaching 400 Super League games yet, even at the age of 35, there is no sign of his quality diminishing.
Having left Hull FC to return to Castleford last year – the club where he started out in 1999 –Lynch was inspirational as Daryl Powell’s side reached the Challenge Cup final and almost topped the league for the first time.
He is out of contract at Wheldon Road this year but Bradford captain Walker, a colleague at Odsal, feels there is still more to come from the tireless front-row.
“Lynchy had a great year last year and obviously flourished under Powelly,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“He’s always been so dedicated and with Powelly as skilled as he is they complemented each other and brought the best out of him.
“He’s fit as a fiddle, one of the fittest I’ve ever played with and his work ethic is second to none.
“Lynchy is a proper professional and a good bloke, too, so I’m really chuffed he’s got Bradford Bulls for his testimonial.
“If he can continue training as he is, there’s no doubt he can commit further and the way he’s going he is playing himself to another contract.
“Hopefully, he’s going to be around a lot longer if he carries on playing like he has.”
Undoubtedly, given the recent exploits of fellow props, the 37-year-old Jamie Peacock and evergreen Adrian Morley, plus former Bulls team-mate Steve Menzies, the irrepressible Australian who played on until nearly 40, Lynch has every reason to believe he can.
The challenges for Walker, however, are much different in 2015. He has been made captain by Jimmy Lowes as the relegated giants look to plot an immediate return to the top flight.
After years of financial struggle and uncertainty finally resulted in the drop last season, the player who won a Grand Final with Leeds Rhinos in 2004 says there is now a fresh outlook at Odsal.
“We’ve been under pressure for years to stay up but now it’s a different sort of pressure to get back up,” he added.
“It’s settled off the field, though, and the most settled since I’ve been here. Hopefully that will stand us is in good stead and we can go out and enjoy our football.
“We’ve been in since October 1st with a few breaks so everyone is raring to go.
“It’s been one of the toughest pre-seasons I’ve ever had; Jimmy really has tried to break us knowing we’ll get that rest. Some of the boys have been ill and run down it’s been that hard but hopefully we can now transfer all the hard work onto the pitch.
“We’ve three big friendlies starting at Cas before we face Leigh in our opener.
“We know Leigh will be tough. They’re training in Lanzarote at the moment and have been preparing for a few years to go up.”
The ex-Great Britain centre, 32, feels both clubs could prosper in the new structure which sees Super League’s bottom four after 23 rounds tackle the Championship’s leading quartet in a separate division to ultimately decide who stays up and goes down.
Some feel the chances of Championship clubs prospering are limited but Walker said: “The best example for me is when Leigh went to Leeds in the Challenge Cup last season. They played like they didn’t know how to lose as they’d been on such a winning run.
“At times last year we were beaten before we’d even stepped onto the field at Bradford but this season Super League sides will panic coming up against the likes of us and Leigh as they’ll be on losing runs and, hopefully, we’ll be the opposite.
“The standard isn’t much different especially in the four teams predicted to be in the Championship top four. We’ve got players who could be playing in the top four of Super League. It’s only the speed of the comp that will be really different but we’re all looking forward to this.”
Walker, of course, has spent parts of the last three seasons operating as a makeshift front-row but says that will not occur in 2015.
“Lynchy was actually captain in my first year here but when he was sold to Hull I ended up going to prop,” he recalled.
“I’m definitely not doing it this time, though. As soon as Jimmy came in he sat me down and said he admired that I’d put my hand up to play there and was grateful but it was definitely my wrong position and if it happened again we’d be struggling.
“I’ve trained at loose-forward, centre and back-row so far so we’ll see what happens. I’ve had a good pre-season and not missed any sessions so I’m feeling fit but I know I’m not guaranteed a place just because I’m club captain.”