TOUGH Hull FC captain Andy Lynch has often been labelled an onfield warrior but realises that description is false in light of the sterling work the country’s real servicemen carry out.
Though the industrious prop boasts plenty of the attributes you would want in a soldier – tenacity, courage, stamina and leadership – what he does on the pitch pales into insignificance by comparison.
Help for Heroes is the East Yorkshire club’s charity for 2012 and Hull have chosen tomorrow’s fixture with Huddersfield Giants as their charity game for the season.
At today’s final practice session, Lynch will welcome half-a-dozen injured servicemen from Phoenix House, a Catterick-based personal recovery centre to help wounded, injured and sick members of the Armed Forces launch into the next phase of their lives.
It is a cause very much central to Hull’s hearts and the former England international admits previously meeting their residents opened his eyes.
“It is speaking to these guys which really puts life into perspective,” said Lynch, whose side, on this Armed Forces Weekend, will wear a specially designed kit for the visit of Huddersfield.
“It makes you realise just how lucky we are to be healthy and at home with our families.
“We sometimes think playing rugby is a tough job – we get battered and bruised each week – but it’s nothing compared to what these people go through.
“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few people from Help for Heroes this year, including some of those serving with the Catterick Garrison and recuperating at Phoenix House.
“Their tales of courage are simply astonishing. They are very humble about their achievements and their sacrifices and it is a pleasure to speak to them.
“Everybody in the Armed Forces does a magnificent job but it’s easy to take their work for granted until you get the chance to meet them.
“I know all the players are honoured to be playing our own small part this weekend to show our appreciation for what they do for us each day.
“There are also a lot of people from Hull and surrounding areas who are currently overseas serving their country at present, but would be at the KC Stadium cheering us on if they could.
“Hopefully, letting them know that they are serving as an inspiration to us and that they are in our thoughts can give them a little bit of comfort and make them feel that bit closer to home.”
Hull could draw level with fifth-placed Huddersfield if they can force a win and any sort of victory is much needed in light of their recent slump.
The Black and Whites, so promising early on, have yet to prosper this month after suffering a host of collapses from winning positions.
That started with the last-gasp Hull KR defeat at Magic Weekend, was followed by a dramatic draw against St Helens, before Wakefield overturned a 20-point deficit to inflict another defeat.
Hull were level 18-18 after 50 minutes at Warrington on Sunday but then lost that game 40-18 as their slide continued.
The main positive from that last outing was the appearance of Aaron Heremaia, the Kiwi hooker who finally made his Super League debut for the club after an injury-ravaged start to life in East Yorkshire.
A neck problem endured during a pre-season game against Hull KR had frustratingly sidelined the signing from New Zealand Warriors but he will make his home debut tomorrow.
“I played here in that friendly when I got injured, so it will be a bit nerve-wracking to return, but hopefully the fans will get behind me and this match will end on a much brighter note,” said Heremaia.
“It was good to get back on the field at Warrington.
“Obviously, the result wasn’t the one we wanted but it was great to get through and not have any problems with my neck.
“I’d been nervous all week but I think that’s only natural after six months out.
“I’d done all the work in training but when it comes to the game, you never know what can happen. Once I got out there, the adrenaline started pumping and I came through okay, though.
“I got nearly half a game and I’ll be better for it this week against Huddersfield; the more minutes I can play, the better I’m going to be.
“You can do as much fitness work on the training ground as you want but match fitness is completely different.
“It will slowly improve, though, and I can’t wait until I’m fully up to speed as I felt like I had concrete boots on after the game on Monday.”
Heremaia’s return is welcome news for coach Peter Gentle, who has been without regular hooker Danny Houghton due to a knee problem.
The England Knights international could feature tomorrow and Heremaia admitted: “I know I’ve got big boots to fill with Danny being out.
“I can’t wait for him to come back and, hopefully, we can share the role and be threatening around the ruck together.”
Gentle believes Hull have been boosted by the arrival of Hull KR forward Liam Watts, who signed last week and is now nearing a debut.
“We’ve already seen on the training ground that he can play a bit so I’m confident he will slot straight into the side if he is selected,” said the Australian.