GIVEN he has been a Castleford Tigers player as both man and boy, Craig Huby understandably concedes he has not yet fully comprehended he will no longer pull on the famous jersey again.
The talented prop was just 16 when he debuted in 2003 but Thursday night’s 30-14 play-off loss to Warrington Wolves was his final game in Castleford colours ahead of his move to West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Giants in 2015.
“It will take a while to sink in,” admitted the 28-year-old, who is held in such esteem at Wheldon Road and his hometown club.
“With a couple of minutes to go when they scored it probably hit me for the first time, but I have made my decision to leave and I stick by it.
“I am looking forward to a new challenge at Huddersfield, but I am not thinking at all about next year just yet.
“I am just going to reflect on the game, have a few beers with the boys and see what comes in the next few weeks (Huby is in contention for England’s Four Nations squad).
“If nothing does, I’ll have a relaxing holiday with the family.”
There was some strange emotions swirling around at Wheldon Road following that Warrington defeat when hopes of a maiden Grand Final were extinguished.
A third consecutive loss meant Castleford’s season was over and, having missed a chance to progress in the play-offs at St Helens the previous week, it was something of an anti-climax.
Yet this has also been their finest campaign in decades given they reached the Challenge Cup final for the first time in 20 years, come within 80 minutes of lifting the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time and, furthermore, secured their highest Super League finish of fourth.
Huby – who did a massive stint with jaded Castleford missing six injured forwards versus Wolves – admitted: “It has been a pretty good year. But I am disappointed with how it ended.
“We gave ourselves a chance early on against Warrington, but we dropped the ball and didn’t execute again. It has been a cracking season, but we’ve just not delivered at the right time.
“The players will definitely take a lot out of it and I will definitely take a lot out of it.
“I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve been in the top-eight once before, but nothing like this, finishing fourth.
“It has been an amazing year, having done that and I am sure the club, the players and the coaching staff will get it right next year.”
Uncapped Huby was named earlier this year in England’s elite training squad and, so, is hoping his campaign will extend and that he could yet tour Australia and New Zealand.
Admittedly, there is vast competition for front-row spots given, not least, the form of NRL stars James Graham and George Burgess plus Warrington’s own Man of Steel candidate Chris Hill.
However, few people would begrudge the talismanic Huby a slot after his career-best form with Castleford in 2014.
“I’m back in training with the England camp and I’ll work hard there and see if I can get on the tour,” he added.
“If I don’t, there’s no dramas – I’ll work even harder next year to try and get in next time, I’ll have a couple of weeks off and then get back into it.
“I’m going to enjoy the next couple of days with the lads first though – and have a bit of fun.”