If this is to be his last season as a rugby league player Lee Gilmour intends to put his experience to good use to make an impact with Castleford Tigers.
The 35-year-old former Great Britain international made an impressive start for the Tigers following his move from Huddersfield last year, but then suffered a potentially career ending shoulder nerve injury that sidelined him from May.
But after getting back close to full fitness ahead of schedule Gilmour was back in Cas colours in the Boxing Day game against Halifax and is now targeting a place in the first team squad for the first game of the new Super League season at Bradford Bulls.
A new knee injury picked up in his comeback game has complicated matters, but the back row man is keen to show Cas fans that he still has plenty to offer in what may be his last season.
Gilmour, who has been granted a one-year RFL testimonial, told the Express: “I’m out of contract at the end of this season and I will wait and see how my body is before deciding whether to play on after this year.
“I’m pretty confident in my shoulder now, but I’ll play it by ear, see how the body holds up and see how the season goes for myself and Castleford.
“If I’m really enjoying it and things are going well I would consider another year.
“I think it would be June or July before I’d make a decision. I’m not giving in on playing another year, but it’s a long way away from my thoughts. First I want to get fit and make a good start to the season.”
Gilmour was pleased with his run out against Halifax when his shoulder came through fine, but picked up a knee injury that requires attention before the start of the season proper.
He said: “Things are going pretty good, shoulder-wise. I had a pretty bad injury last year with nerve damage, but it’s come back pretty quickly.
“The specialist said it could take up to two years, but it has come back in six months or so.
“Strength-wise I’m now up to about 90 per cent in my shoulder. Like a lot of rugby players you play with injuries and it’s probably something that will never be back up to 100 per cent. But I played on Boxing Day and it felt fine under contact. It felt strong again and ready to play rugby.
“It was really good to be back in action. The severity of the injury meant it could have been career threatening as it happened with Lee Briers so I was pleased to get back out there. I was a bit apprehensive, but to come through it was nice.
“Unfortunately I picked up a separate injury to my knee. I just tweaked it a little bit in my first game back, but I’m looking to be right for the start of the season.
“It’s nothing major. I’m due to see the specialist this week, but I think it’s just a slight trim on my cartilage we’re looking at. So it’s nothing too big to worry about. But I would have thought I would miss the York and Featherstone games and see where we go from there.”
Gilmour spoke of his frustrations in his first year with the Tigers.
He added: “Last year was awful. We all knew where Castleford had been in the last couple of years and it was hoped that myself and a few of the other players brought in could make a difference, but I picked up the injury actually in round five against Wigan.
“I didn’t know what the injury was at the time. Obviously I knew how weak the shoulder was, but I tried carrying on playing and the last three or four games I pretty much had no strength in it. So it was very frustrating to watch the boys in a very tough season.
“I’m friends with Ian Millward and I was sad to see him leave, but under Daryl Powell hopefully the club can move forward then start looking towards that top eight finish.
“Before the nerve injury I was fairly pleased with the way I was playing after moving to Castleford. I’d had shoulder reconstruction at the end of my last season at Huddersfield so I was finding my way with that, but I was pleased with my form and thought that me, Jake Webster and Justin Carney had a good combination on the left hand side with Rangi.
“We seemed to be moving in the right direction, but the big loss to Hull seemed to knock the wind out of the team and obviously Jake got injured then myself and we had a pretty thin squad last year so it was very tough once we lost players.
“Daryl came in and steadied the ship and hopefully with a good pre-season behind us and a much deeper squad strength-wise we can do well in 2014. Any injuries this year and we’ve got Super League standard players who can slot in for whoever drops out.
“I think the important thing is getting some more mature players added to the team. Players like Luke Dorn and Andy Lynch, who have got a lot of experience, Brett Seymour, if he gets to stay with us on a permanent basis, and Liam Finn, who has come from the Championship but was player of the year for two years, which shows his quality. It’s nice to see him get an opportunity at 30 years old.
“Our aim is to sneak into the top eight. I think the top six is very difficult to break into, especially with the budget Castleford are on which I am sure will be a fair bit under the salary cap. I think we’ve got the depth and quality in the side to get into the top eight and that’s got to be our aim then make a run for it in the play-offs.”