IN a strange sort of way, Castleford Tigers have Luke Robinson, partly at least, to thank for their excellent start to the season.
Admittedly, it is a full decade ago since he played for the club, and even then it was only a brief nine-game spell on loan from Wigan Warriors.
Furthermore, the ex-England scrum-half returns to action in Huddersfield Giants colours tomorrow actually hoping to derail their West Yorkshire rivals’ stellar campaign so far.
However, it was a chance conversation Robinson initiated more than 15 years ago when still at school in Halifax that inadvertently helped Castleford conjure up a brilliant 2014 in which they have emerged as title contenders.
“Me and Liam Finn were in the same French class,” he revealed to The Yorkshire Post, about the Tigers scrum-half who has been a revelation for Daryl Powell’s side this term after a super transition from Championship rugby.
“We went to Hipperholme and Lightcliffe (High School) together and were in the same year.
“Finny was more into his football and swimming initially and it was only later on at school that he turned his hand to rugby.
“But he said he was going to go play for the Kings Cross club. I kept telling him Siddal were by far the better team and we always had loads of scouts watching us.
“We did end up being Yorkshire champions and I talked him into coming down. He must have been 13. There was him at hooker, me at scrum-half and Scott Grix in that Siddal team, too.
“I’ve been texting him a few messages and it’s kind of funny this weekend – our old PE teacher has been in touch to say he’s coming along to watch us both!”
Whereas Robinson, now 29, signed for the mighty Wigan straight from school and has spent his entire career in Super League with Salford City Reds and, since 2008, Huddersfield, Finn joined Halifax and ended up on a different trajectory.
After two years with his hometown club, they were relegated from Super League in 2003 and, save for a brief spell with Wakefield Trinity the following season, he has until now been solely operating in the lower divisions.
Yet Finn consistently stood out there whether with Dewsbury Rams or at Featherstone, and he finally earned his second chance at Super League this term.
Such has been his excellent form, you will be hard pressed to find any fans at Wheldon Road rueing the loss to Salford of his mercurial predecessor, England star Rangi Chase. Instead, Ireland captain Finn – whose kicking and organisational quality have been fundamental to Castleford’s cause – is touted as the signing of the year.
Robinson said: “I always knew he’d step up. I’ve said it for a while; I don’t think English kids get a fair crack here. There’s people like Alex Walmsley, who has gone from Batley to Saints, and Chris Hill from Leigh to Warrington, and now Finny, who have really made their mark after coming from the Championship.
“There’s lads down there who, more than anything else, just need an opportunity but there’s too many clubs who just go for a quick fix and sign an Antipodean rather than putting their faith in these sorts of players.
“Finny’s one of the reasons Cas are going so well. He’s always been very smart and a great kicker. I’m pleased he got this shot.”
The two erstwhile school pals will face each other for the first time since 2003 tomorrow.
Robinson, so integral as Huddersfield lifted the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield, has missed the last two games due to a trapped nerve which caused tingling in his arm.
This is a crucial fixture, meanwhile, as his side seek to continue nurturing their signs of recovery. They had won just twice in their opening nine games before delivering welcome Easter successes against Salford and Wakefield, ironically, in Robinson’s absence.
“I’d been carrying a knock for a while,” he explained.
“It came from a bulging disc in my spine and I was getting lots of pins and needles in my arm and playing through it but it was probably starting to affect me too much.
“No-one really knows what goes on behind closed doors; God knows how many players will get injections before games this week. There’ll be cortisone jabs, pain-killing stuff, strapping…
“But the specialist said the only thing that can make this better is rest and I do feel better for that.”