Tigers are far from a spent force, warns veteran Lynch

CASTLEFORD Tigers prop Andy Lynch says there is no chance the club will be exposed as a mere fleeting success.

BIG DAY: Castleford Tigers prop Andy Lynch ahead of his testimonial match. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

They were the surprise team of 2014, a remarkable campaign that saw one of the competition’s traditional lesser lights reach the Challenge Cup final, secure their best finish in Super League and coming within 80 minutes of claiming top spot for the first time in their history.

However, ‘Man of Steel’ Daryl Clark, key front-row Craig Huby and prolific stand-off Marc Sneyd, the instigator of so much of their quality football, are among those who have left Wheldon Road during the winter.

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Stalwart Lynch, so inspirational on his return from Hull FC last season, knows the pressure will now be on.

BIG DAY: Castleford Tigers prop Andy Lynch ahead of his testimonial match. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The 35-year-old – who hosts his well-earned testimonial against former club Bradford Bulls on Sunday – told The Yorkshire Post: “There will be more expectation on us.

“But also we expect higher standards from ourselves, too.

“We can’t look too far back on last year but we are confident in our ability, what we can do and know that we can get a massive start to the season.

“Part and parcel of the game is that people come and go every year. As players, we are confident that whoever comes in will do a good job.

“The lads have performed great so far, trained really well and they all know the high standards we set last time.

“We have to improve further this time but there’ll be competition for places and that will only bring the best out of us.”

Part of the reason behind Castleford’s rise over the last 12 months was not only the new levels of professionalism instilled by Daryl Powell but also the coach’s astute business in the transfer market.

He has been busy again in this off-season with the likes of London Broncos captain Matt Cook – who won the 2006 World Club Challenge in the same Bradford side as Lynch – Melbourne Storm duo Ben Roberts and Junior Moors plus England Knights scrum-half Luke Gale, from the Bulls, all arriving.

One signing who should be desperate to flourish under Powell’s command is Scott Moore, the ex-Huddersfield Giants, St Helens and England hooker, who has had a chequered, itinerant career but is only 26 and remains undoubtedly talented.

Granted, replacing current England nine Clark, who left for Warrington Wolves in a £180,000 deal, will be a big task.

“He’s got a massive opportunity here,” added Lynch, about a player who, at one point, became more famous for his friendship with Hollywood star Mickey Rourke than his on-field skills.

“People will say he’s got big boots to fill but Scotty’s his own player and he’ll bring his own dimensions to the team.

“When he settles in, he’ll play a massive part with Adam Milner at hooker.”

Castleford, ultimately, missed out in the significant fixtures last term, losing to Leeds Rhinos at Wembley, Warrington and Saints in the play-offs and at Catalan in a game where a win would have secured the League Leaders’ Shield.

However, Lynch feels they will have learned from all of those experiences.

“We did stuff last year people probably didn’t expect,” he said.

“And now it’s just adding little things to our game – being more disciplined, buying into more stuff that we do and getting better at that, too, while improving all the time.

“We’re looking forward to the start and it’ll be a really good challenge against Bradford on Sunday.

“We’ve trained hard over the last three months and Bradford, after being relegated, will be coming here with point to prove to show they can still mix it with Super League teams.

“I’m expecting a real tough, physical challenge and it will be a stepping stone towards the start of Super League.”

That comes against derby rivals Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Wheldon Road on Sunday, February 8.

Firstly, though, Lynch is looking forward to being reunited with Bradford where he spent seven enjoyable years and played more than 200 games after leaving Castleford at the end of 2004.

“The highlight of my time there was probably the World Club Challenge in 2006 when we beat Wests Tigers,” he said.

“Matt Cook was in that team, too. But every year was special at the Bulls – they are a great club, a great set of fans and it’ll be nice to play them on Sunday.”

And, at the age of 35, can one of Super League’s finest-ever props continue his stunning form of 2014?

“I don’t see why not. I just felt at home back at Cas last season –this is where it all started for me back in 1999 and I loved it all all over again.”

Supporters of both clubs will no doubt show their own appreciation come the weekend.