Young at heart Huby heading back to the level he wants to be

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For Craig Huby, the one overriding memory of his debut as a 16-year-old prop still barely out of school was weighing up whether to run at Barrie McDermott or Dave Furner.

To the initiated he was clearly always on a hiding to nothing as he contemplated which grizzled Leeds Rhinos player to battle it out with but there would have been a slightly less painful option.

However, for the young Castleford forward, he genuinely thought he was taking the sensible approach staying clear of the more familiar and sizeable Great Britain front-row.

“I got the ball and saw both of them,” he recalled to the Yorkshire Post.

“I just thought ‘I’m not running at McDermott’. I went at Furner instead and obviously soon knew about it as he hit me. It definitely gave me something to learn.”

Ten years on and Huby has learned plenty, not just the famously granite-like make-up of that ex-Australian second-row.

He has established himself as one of Super League’s leading props who is now enjoying a testimonial at Wheldon Road and, therefore, picking up a few business skills along the way.

“I’ve had some really good events and enjoyed it,” explained Huby, who has two months remaining of his benefit year.

“Planning events has been a bit of an eye-opener and it does teach you how to run a business almost with what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

“I wasn’t sure about the Ladies Night down at the club, though. I didn’t realise we’d sold so many tickets but there was at least a thousand there.

“A few of the lads came down and ended up topless waiting and everyone said they loved it. It went better than I ever imagined when the missus first mentioned doing it.”

Regaling tales from his career with his hometown club has, obviously, been a big part of the whole process and, reassuringly for someone who plays at the coalface, his recollections have been vivid.

“It all seems to have gone so quickly,” he added.

“I’ve had to write about every year for the testimonial but looking back I can easily remember stuff from what happened back in 2003 like it was yesterday.

“Obviously there’s that Leeds match on debut but I remember playing in a friendly against Leigh a couple of months after leaving school.

“I’d already played Thursday night for the 21s and Graham Steadman came in before the game saying there’d be three places up for grabs for three players who played well.

“I thought people like Adam Thaler and Richard Blakeway would get in there but it was me who got the chance and they offered me a full-time deal on the back of that.

“The next thing I’m playing alongside people like Dean Sampson, Danny Orr, Mitch Healey and Michael Eager.

“I was probably the lightest prop around at just 92 kilos. I was never that big, had never done many weights and – at 16 – got thrown in with some seasoned pros which was pretty daunting.

“But I’m glad I got that chance and like to think I took it.”

More than 150 senior games since is irrefutable evidence that he certainly did while the moniker “Chubbs” suggests he has also managed to put on some much-needed weight too.

A cornerstone of the Tigers side and their longest-serving player, he has seen plenty of highs and lows, so much so that last Friday’s 52-0 mauling at Hull FC was not even the worst.

Huby will be central to Castleford’s bid tomorrow to try atoning for that debacle when London Broncos arrive at Wheldon Road although there is no panic.

“A lot of people backed us not to win a single game from our opening eight fixtures,” conceded Huby, Tigers instead having achieved that victory over champions Leeds, also drawing against Catalan and pushing Wigan close in their first six.

“Friday was just one of those nights.

“We made eight errors and Hull scored eight tries.

“There is always the potential that could happen and it did but we now know what we need to do better on Sunday to put it right.”

On a personal level Huby – remarkably still only 26 – is edging back to the form that saw him tipped for England honours two years ago.

Just as it seemed he would be included in Steve McNamara’s plans, he broke a kneecap against St Helens in April 2011 and did not play again for a full year.

“I got a bit of attention and it probably was the best form I’d ever produced,” he said.

“I’d never been up to that level and it was nice to be touted as one of the best props around with the likes of Adrian Morley and James Graham.

“I know myself I can get back to that and people do say props don’t mature until their 30s so I’ve a few years yet.”