IT is Super League Grand Final day and the name that should be on everyone’s lips is that of a player who isn’t actually playing.
The release of Daryl Powell’s 19-man squad on Thursday lunchtime was certainly not without controversy.
It definitely signalled the end of the road for one of Castleford Tigers’ stars.
However, for all people would have loved to see Andy Lynch line up against Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford tonight in his final game before retirement, it was not to be.
The much-respected prop – who has never played in a Grand Final – was omitted to make way for the returning Oli Holmes.
In fairness, it was no real surprise; Lynch did not appear in the epic semi-final against St Helens and, indeed, had featured just twice in Castleford’s last eight outings, the 37-year-old gradually having fallen down the pecking order at Wheldon Road.
Ask anyone in the sport and they all say the same: Lynch is an utter pro’, dedicated on and off the pitch to being the best he can be, a fierce warrior, as fit as they come and one of the toughest opponents you could face.Andy Lynch
However, the romantics among us were all hoping for the fairytale finish; maybe Powell was keeping the wily old front-row fresh for one last all-or-nothing hurrah, or there would be a late injury crisis and he would be drafted into action.
But, unless players do start falling like flies in the next 24 hours, that won’t happen so it is time to pay homage to a true legend of the game and one of rugby league’s good guys.
Lynch actually made his Castleford bow in the last century, debuting in 1999, the same year Tigers tyro scrum-half Jacob Trueman was born.
He has just finished his second stint with his local club, sandwiching seven years with Bradford Bulls from 2005 to 2011 and then two seasons where he helped start Hull FC’s renaissance.
Ask anyone in the sport and they all say the same: Lynch is an utter pro’, dedicated on and off the pitch to being the best he can be, a fierce warrior, as fit as they come and one of the toughest opponents you could face.
He finishes having made a remarkable 452 Super League appearances, agonisingly just two short of Kevin Sinfield’s record 454. Earlier this season, Lynch had hoped to surpass that, especially given he started in commanding form, but, typically, knew the team came first and if it did not happen there would be no moaning from him.
Clearly, Powell has since demonstrated he does not do sentiment but there are no arguments; Lynch hasn’t quite done enough to get in that 17 and younger forwards have nudged ahead of him of late.
There is no disgrace in that; Lynch has almost defied medical science to be at the top of the game for so long, relentlessly ploughing onwards regardless of broken bones, creaking joints and exhausted lungs.
Missing the Grand Final, though, will be painful especially given his past experience there.
Let’s not forget, Lynch played the majority of Bradford Bulls’ games in the 2005 season only to then lose his place right at the death as they closed in on glory.
He was the unfortunate odd man out after Brian Noble signed Great Britain star Adrian Morley for a controversial six-game loan from Sydney Roosters to augment a successful title tilt.
Despite not playing in that showpiece, though, he was a Super League champion just like the 17 that did take to the field that night for Bradford and just as he will be this evening if Castleford prosper without him.
It was great to see Lynch celebrated at the Man of Steel dinner on Tuesday along with all his peers who have surpassed 200 Super League games and are now retiring.
As much as I don’t always agree with replicating what the NRL do, I would love Super League to copy it and have such departing stars honoured on Grand Final night.
The NRL hold a “retirees parade” where each player individually walks out onto the pitch before kick-off to be applauded by the crowd.
It would be fitting for the likes of Lynch, Leon Pryce, Gareth Ellis and Eorl Crabtree – all presented with Outstanding Achievement awards on Tuesday – to have one final moment in the spotlight.
Regardless, kids making their way in the game, looking for inspiration, should all look at the shining example Lynch set as the way to tackle life and sport.