AS a seasoned member of the prop fraternity, Andy Lynch is delighted to see so many front-rows excelling in Super League.
Ordinarily, those at the coalface doing all the hard yards and thankless graft get little of the attention when it comes to people waxing lyrical.
However, this season, unstinting front-rows across the competition are winning wide acclaim from Leeds Rhinos’ offloading expert Adam Cuthbertson – favourite to win Man of Steel – to St Helens’ blockbusting Alex Walmsley and to Lynch, the Castleford Tigers favourite who at 35 is as good as ever.
Throw in the ageless Jamie Peacock, Hull FC’s improving Liam Watts, the reliable Chris Hill at Warrington Wolves and Saints’ man-mountain Mose Masoe and there is a plethora of in-form props fast becoming the sport’s new glory boys.
“It is brilliant to see,” Lynch told The Yorkshire Post.
“But it’s even better when you actually play them. You want to measure yourself against the best to see just how good you are.
“JP (Peacock) and Cuthbertson are probably the two props at the moment you do test yourself against and want to go up with. They are going great for Leeds.
“Everyone knows what a legend JP is and Cuthbertson has just broken the record for offloads in the season.
“The last time we played Leeds, though, we managed to restrict him to just one, a fine effort. But there are some great props around playing really well.”
Lynch fails to mention it was his own record – 90 offloads in 27 Castleford appearances in 2003 – that Cuthbertson, the Australian now standing on an incredible 104 from his debut year in Super League, surpassed.
Watts is third in the list of offloads, way back on 46 behind Catalans’ Zeb Taia (47).
Keeping Watts in check will be key to Castleford’s hopes of success in their opening Super 8s game at Wheldon Road tonight.
Lynch knows the former Hull KR forward well having spent 18 months alongside him while at Hull himself in 2012 and 2013.
Watts, 25, was found not guilty of a biting charge earlier this week so can, crucially, line up.
“Wattsy’s probably in the best shape he’s ever been in,” said Lynch, as seventh-placed Hull seek a third successive win over Castleford that would see them close to within just two points of their fifth-placed rivals.
“He is getting better and better and is head and shoulders above everyone else over there at the moment with his offloads and the way he gets Hull going forward.
“Hopefully, he can push himself into (England) contention at the end of the year and all his hard work will pay off.
“Hull have turned us over twice this year and, though they’ve got some injuries, they beat us the last time without the two best back-rows (Gareth Ellis and Mark Minichiello) in the competition.
“They will be really up for this game and as well as Wattsy they’ve Westy (Joe Westerman), Mickey Paea and Feka Paleaaesina that we have to stop, too.”
Tigers, who enjoyed their best Super League finish of fourth last term and reached the Challenge Cup final, are desperate to qualify for the top-four semi-finals.
They were stunned 44-6 at home to Warrington in their final regular round and Lynch admitted: “We need to get back on track. It was disappointing and the last two times we’ve played Hull we just didn’t turn up either.
“We were really poor and it’s important we get these Super 8s off to a really good start, especially being at home.
“That Warrington performance wasn’t expected. It was as much a shock to the players as it was to everyone else.
“We’ve got a block of seven matches now and we have to try knock them off one by one.
“We’re still in the mix for that top four and have a great chance to achieve it. Once we’re in there I really do think we have a good chance of causing an upset in Super League.”
Castleford faded last term after losing to Leeds at Wembley.
Lynch added: “This year started slowly, too, but we’ve picked things up a bit now and, although you don’t like being out of the Cup, I think it’s meant we’ve managed to get refreshed. The dream is still there.”