Setting a rugby league legacy: Andy Lynch closes on heroic milestone

Aged 37 and in his last season with his home-town club, Castleford Tigers, Andy Lynch is favourite to break Kevin Sinfield’s record of Super League appearances, which currently stands at 454.

An absolute workhorse that is in the mould of the “good old-fashioned prop forward”, no one can begrudge Lynch the coveted achievement.

Andy Lynch began his career with Castleford Tigers aged just 19 and went on to play 137 matches for the West Yorkshire outfit, establishing himself as one of the most exciting young forwards in the British game. Whilst at the Tigers, Lynch was named in the England ‘A’ squad for their match against New Zealand in 2002 and for the South Seas tour at the end of the 2002 season.

The following year, Lynch played a key role in the England ‘A’ squad that triumphed in the European Nations Cup. Aged just 24 at the time, the prop forward made the 2003 Super League Dream Team, despite the Tigers only finishing eighth that season. Even more impressive, Lynch made the England team in 2004 even though Castleford were relegated for the first time in their history at the end of that season.

Move to Bradford

Having signed for the Bradford Bulls in 2004, following Castleford’s relegation from the Super League, Andy Lynch became a stalwart for the club, making 204 appearances over six seasons. Not used to winning trophies, Lynch racked up his first medal in his first season with the Bulls when Bradford became the 2005 Super League champions.

Following this success, Bradford then faced the National Rugby League (NRL) champions Wests Tigers in the 2006 World Club Challenge. Bradford won 30-10 with Lynch playing an important role in the victory. His personal accolades also soon mounted as, in 2006, he won several club awards for his performances, including Supporters’ Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year, BISA Player of the Year and Best Forward of the Year.

National honours again came calling and Lynch was selected for the Great Britain squad in 2006 for the Tri Nations tournament, but failed to make an appearance, which left many pundits and supporters questioning the decision. In June 2007 Lynch was again called up to the Great Britain squad for the test match against France, where he finally made his long-awaited debut for the revamped Great Britain.

Andy Lynch – Image Source: Rugby-league.com

Humberside

By the end of 2011 Andy Lynch had moved to Humberside – the black-and-white side – and was named captain for the upcoming season. A respected and passionate individual, Lynch quickly asserted himself in the Hull pack, becoming an ever-present in his time at the club. Unfortunately for Lynch and Hull FC, the team’s 2013 Challenge Cup appearance ended in defeat as the Airlie Birds went down 16-0 to a well-drilled Wigan Warriors’ team.

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Lynch in action for Hull FC, whom he captained in the 2012-13 season

Upon returning to his home-town club, Castleford Tigers, in 2014, Lynch again graced the Wembley turf, but once more endured another agonising defeat. This time the Leeds Rhinos triumphed in an enthralling cup tie, recording a 23-10 victory and in the process, ending their Wembley hoodoo after five previous final defeats.

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Lynch in action in the 2014 Challenge Cup Final

Crucial for Castleford

In recent years, the prop forward has become a vital cog in Castleford’s dramatic rise up the table, leading from the front as the Tigers finished 4th and 5th in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons respectively. However, this season, age and injuries – indeed a broken leg midway through the 2015-16 season led to rumours of retirement – have seemingly caught up with the experienced forward. Used only sporadically and, often as a substitute, Lynch’s performances have not lived up to the heights the Castleford faithful have been accustomed to.

Yet, now a member of the elusive 500 career appearances’ club, Andy Lynch will surely reach Sinfield’s record before he retires. With only six games to go, or seven if the Tigers reach Old Trafford, the League Leaders Shield is practically in the bag for the runaway leaders. A win next Thursday against their local rivals, Wakefield Trinity, will see their status as leaders confirmed. Lynch may not play in this game, but surely Castleford boss, Daryl Powell, will likely enable the much-travelled Lynch to break the all-time Super League record in the following games before the semi-finals.

“It’s in the back of my head that I would like to pass Kevin,” — Andy Lynch.

If so, Andy Lynch will go down in history and set a record that is unlikely to be broken anytime soon. What would be an even more fitting end to his career would be to win the Grand Final with his long-suffering home-town club. Unaccustomed to their place at the top of the table and the praise heaped upon them by the rugby league fraternity, the Castleford Tigers are, as a team, within touching distance of making their own collective history. It would be fitting if this could happen alongside Lynch’s brilliant individual accolade.

Andy Lynch has never won a Super League title despite his long career
Andy Lynch has never won a Super League title despite his long career – something which he and the Castleford Tigers want to put right this season