Bear hunts his NRL dream
As Titans players mingled with sponsors at their annual corporate golf day last November, Jeff Lynch moved quietly amongst them emptying the bins at Parkwood International.
A month ago he was one of them, yet here he was working as an apprentice greenskeeper eager to interact, but also aware that right in that moment he didn't belong.
In terms of an illustration of the small margins between playing Intrust Super Cup and NRL, and the chasm that exists in the real world, this was about as stark as you could find.
I'd been told late last year that Lynch had been offered a second-tier contract to remain at the Titans, but instead had decided to step back out of an NRL system for the first time since 2011 and see what else life might have in store.
The truth is that there was no offer from the Titans – “If there had been I definitely would have taken it up” – and Lynch now uses the workplace of both he and the Titans at Parkwood as motivation to earn an NRL contract again in future.
Lynch was a pivotal part of Burleigh’s premiership campaign last season and is again lining up for the Bears in 2017, starting at lock on Saturday afternoon in their first home game of the season against Norths Devils.
Two months shy of completing his apprenticeship that he began when he joined the Canberra Raiders Under 20s in 2011, Lynch needs only look across to the brand new training field as the Titans go to work each day to know his NRL dream still burns strong.
“When I did see all the boys on that golf day it definitely did bring me back to reality,” Lynch said.
“I see that every single day. I see the boys out there warming up and I think that's actually good for me to see that because it keeps the fire in the belly.
“That gives me something to strive for and it's a bit of an insult to see that every day.
“It gives you that goal to strive for.”
With no NRL options presenting themselves; it was a lack of NRL experience curtailed a potential move to Bradford, while a second division French team offered a contract that would have been barely enough to live on.
The Townsville Blackhawks were among a couple of Intrust Super Cup clubs who also expressed interest in signing Lynch, but the 23-year-old informed his management that if there wasn't an NRL club willing to sign him; he would stay on the Gold Coast and go around again with Burleigh, putting an NRL call-up in the hands of his Bears team-mates.
“I'm absolutely looking at ways of getting back into an NRL system full-time,” Lynch said.
“When you're doing full-time work and then going to training and doing these long days, you do appreciate it a lot more now that I'm not in the full-time system any more.
“If we can have a good year this year with Burleigh then a fair few people should be able to get signed and pursue an NRL career, hopefully.”
Did You Know? with Tony Webeck
It seems the recent history of grand final rematches running all the way of the team that suffered defeat in the premiership decider again proved true.
Sunday’s result which saw Redcliffe defeat Burleigh is the fifth time in the past five years the premiers have all succumbed in the grand final rematch the following year.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.