This time last year, Jeff Lynch was recovering from his second major re-construction in as many seasons instead of doing what he loves best – playing rugby league.
But just last week, the 22-year-old helped his Mounties teammates advance into the VB NSW Cup Preliminary Finals with an explosive two-try effort off the bench against the New Zealand Warriors.
Lynch is excited at the prospect of the grand final qualifying clash with Newcastle, but is even more satisfied by the fact he is simply playing rather than sitting on the sideline.
“Getting back on the park with these bunch of blokes has been absolutely unreal,” said Lynch.
“That’s what footy is all about. When I had that two years off with injury, I worked hard [to get back on the field] and I’m starting to see the rewards from my hard work.”
These types of injuries result in extended periods of rehabilitation, not ideal for young players coming through the ranks.
“A couple of years ago I had a shoulder reconstruction, and then second game back, I came back into a first grade trial and had a knee reconstruction,” explained Lynch.
“It was a long road but definitely worth the hard work and we’re starting to see the rewards now.”
A 43-10 victory over the Warriors in Finals Week One gave Mounties the week off before playing in the Preliminary Finals, and that was largely thanks to a two-try effort from Lynch.
Starting off the bench, he played for 44 minutes, ran 87 metres, made 17 tackles without missing one, and embarrassed the Warriors’ defence with a powerful double.
“[Scoring two tries is] still pretty surreal at the moment. I just want to do my job out there for the boys and try to get us over the line and was lucky enough to get two tries as well – so that’s a bit of a bonus for a personal level.”
His last full season was for the Canberra Raiders’ Toyota Cup side in 2012, where they went down in the decider against the Wests Tigers 46-6.
Although Lynch suffered some minor injuries in 2015, he is truly satisfied to be part of a team that has a realistic chance to win the competition in what has been his comeback season.
“I’ve had a few little niggling injuries, but when I’ve been on the paddock I’ve felt really confident, and I think the boys make it a lot easier for me because we’ve got a really good culture going on here,” said Lynch.
“The week off is a massive advantage. That’s what we were speaking about... It gets us fresh for the big [Preliminary Final], and if we lost [last week] it would’ve been a really hard journey into the Grand Final. We’ve given ourselves the best opportunity to make it there and lets hope we can take it with both hands.”
*This article first appeared on www.nswrl.com.au