Category: Super League Rugby

Super League Rugby News

Jul 18

Ryan Brierley on playing for Toronto Wolfpack: ‘It’s a crazy way of living’

Ryan Brierley left a Super League club and dropped two divisions to play in Canada but he is loving the ‘surreal, bizarre, thoroughly enjoyable adventure’

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

This time last year Ryan Brierley was adjusting to Super League, having moved to Huddersfield Giants after being a star with second-tier Leigh Centurions. Now he is a leading light at expansion club Toronto Wolfpack, the first transatlantic franchise in British sport. He sat down in his hometown of Preston to consider what went so wrong at the Giants and what is now going so right in Ontario.

How’s your Toronto Wolfpack adventure been, so far?

It’s everything I could have imagined and more. It’s a crazy way of living, especially when you’re in Canada. Going into the city and fans stopping you in the streets, people offering you free donuts… it’s surreal! It’s a bizarre situation, a crazy adventure, but one that we’re thoroughly enjoying. And who is to say being normal is being right? Everything the club said they would do they have delivered. There have been no false promises and it’s only going to get better with time. There’ll be some road bumps along the way but we will iron those out.

Yes, it’s boring over here. We don’t really like coming home now! It’s a dose of reality and I don’t think that’s a bad thing with what’s going on over there. When we come to England it’s a little bit different. We have to put our egos to one side and do the jobs we are supposed to do. When you go to places like south Wales and Newcastle, who don’t have many fans, the challenge is a mental one. You have to create your own atmosphere. That’s probably the most difficult thing but it’s all worth it when you go back to Canada.

Related: Luke Gale on Castleford’s title battle: ‘I’ve not been in big games but I back myself’

We train at Lamport Stadium, where we play, and have a college residency about 15 minutes away. We’re living in pairs but there are two private rooms to each apartment so, although we like doing stuff together, you still need time to yourself, like when your Facetiming your family. It’s great. The gym is five minutes away and we all got given cars so we can go out and explore. A few of the boys have been to Niagara Falls, which is unbelievable. We just roll with it!

It’s a challenge. A few players were missing their kids and family back home. It’s tough for those without a big support network back home. Given time, some of the younger players might get girlfriends over in Toronto and that might become home for some. It’s certainly a place I could live. It feels normal. I wouldn’t rule out living there in the future, certainly when my contract is up or when I finish playing – and I know a few of the boys feel like that. There’s scope for Toronto to become somewhere you stay after rugby and that can only be good for the city.

If I was talking to any player who has the opportunity to come over here I’d encourage them to do it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’d say “go for it”. Anyone who wants to be involved – players, coaches, support staff – I’d strongly recommend it. It’s a different way of life. Sometimes you’ve got to make that jump to experience something different and something better. It’s the best experience I’ve had in my rugby league career.

“We’ve been to a few schools and tried getting among the people. The big push we want is to get more kids involved in rugby league over there. It’s very new and it’s very fresh. It has to start at school level. You can’t start after that or you’re too raw. This month of home games gives a lot of time to get into schools and deliver the message. They just love any type of sport.”

The 80 minutes on the rugby field at the end of the week is a challenge mentally to keep your standards high and keep motivated. When there’s 7,000 crazy fans in Toronto wanting to give you everything – scarves, hats, they just want to love you and get any piece of you they can – that’s brilliant. It’s when you come back home, getting off the plane and going to play when everyone is fatigued, that’s the challenge. But if the only negative issue is I’m a bit tired after a flight and I’ve got to go and play, we’re on to a winner. That’s not a big deal. It could be worse.

Maybe it’s my fault for thinking things would be different. I’ve always wanted to know what this Super League bubble was, blinded by the bright lights. The easiest way to describe it is this: we travelled from Huddersfield on a Friday night to play at Wigan on Sky TV, we won and I scored three tries. We went home, I got into bed and woke up the next day and nobody cares. It’s totally forgotten about. It’s a weird feeling. You score three tries and you think you’re some sort of superhero, untouchable, but the next day you wake up in the same house, get in the same car. You don’t all of a sudden wake up in Las Vegas or Hollywood. Maybe I thought I’d be mobbed by fans and the media, but it wasn’t like that. It was just day-to-day work and it shocked me a little bit.

Related: Jamie Peacock interview: on England, Hull KR and the wisdom of Rocky III

It didn’t help that we were in a losing team and the environment was never going to be great anyway, but it felt like every day I was going into work, and to me playing rugby league has never been a job: it’s always been something I absolutely love. I just couldn’t feel the love for Huddersfield or Super League. That was probably my fault and I have to look at myself. But I don’t think I could be any more professional. Off the field I do the right things: I look after my body. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do anything bad, don’t eat rubbish. So I give myself every opportunity to develop in Super League. But once I’d ticked that box, I just didn’t feel fulfilled.

100%. We weren’t a successful team, especially last season, but the club did everything right by me. I was speaking to Huddersfield players, trying to get a feel for the club and the town, but I just didn’t feel emotionally connected to the club. I really tried, getting to know the fans and doing promos. Living out of the area didn’t help as you’re not really connected as much. Going to Huddersfield’s stadium felt a little bit cold to me and I can’t hide my feelings. I couldn’t shake that off. What rattled me was I had three coaches in the short time I was there. And I started at full-back then I went to half-back, then I got dropped, then I was on the bench, then back to half-back, then full-back. I probably didn’t do enough to tie a regular starting spot down. That plays with your emotions as well. When you’re playing every week at Leigh and everyone loves you, to not getting a game, it rocks your ego a little bit. It’s not great for the mindset. I’m thinking I should be some sort of hero in Super League and it never really worked out that way.”

I’ve ticked that Super League box. I should have been better when I played but did I get a fair crack? Probably not. I’m thankful for the opportunity though. In Super League we get blinded by this big dream. This is going to sound daft, because I’ve not won the league or the Challenge Cup and people are going to think I’ve got above myself, but it just didn’t fulfil my needs. The decision was made to feel the love again, to feel appreciated and to go back to a comfort zone where I knew I’d be appreciated for my talent and really develop my skills as an attacking half and really control a team. Going into a team and just getting through training and getting through games and then going home to go out with my mates, isn’t what I play rugby for.

Me and Paul have been really good friends for many a year and he’s always joked saying I’m not good enough for Toronto! So I never got the feeling he wanted me there. He’s so professional he would never put me in a situation. He kept it secret from me. I actually got a phone call from Richard Thewlis [Giants CEO] who said they’d accepted an offer from Toronto Wolfpack for me. That shows I’m not needed there and there’s no point them paying a guy to sit on the sidelines. Danny Brough was doing the job I’d been asked to do. Rick Stone was trying to make me more an all-round game-manager, which I don’t deny I need, but my natural ability had been put to one side. He didn’t want me to leave but when an offer has been accepted to sell you, I don’t think you belong there anymore. Rowls said: “I want you to come back and lead this team into Super League.”

That was a big pull. I know the lads there and they’re really big friends of mine. I was watching a Cooper Cronk video – I’m a little bit obsessed with Cooper Cronk – talking about Melbourne Storm. He said the common denominator in successful organisations is they’re good people. And top to bottom at Toronto Wolfpack they’re good people. I really missed the love of going to training and high-fiving everybody and just being myself, being with close friends who love me for who I am. As much as that sounds soft, as men we’re probably afraid to admit we need a bit of love now and then, and that’s what I was missing.

Yeah, it makes a massive difference. I could guarantee I’d be happy with Paul Rowley. As much as I’ve come down two divisions, my happiness level has gone through the roof. I’ve got a really supportive family who are only happy when I’m happy. I’ve always made decisions based on me wanting to be a superstar, a global superhero – I’ve been blinded by that and needed to take a step back and realise what’s most important in my life, and that’s family. I’m a much happier person now which makes me a very, very dangerous player for the Toronto Wolfpack. Hopefully we can both benefit from that.”

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Jul 13

Ben Currie try boosts Warrington’s hopes of top-eight finish in win over Wigan

• Wigan Warriors 10-16 Warrington Wolves
• Forward helps secure victory on return after long period out with knee injury

Ben Currie marked the end of his long injury nightmare with the winning try as Warrington kept alive their faint hopes of a top-eight finish, spoiling Sean O’Loughlin’s landmark 400th Wigan appearance in the process.

Last season’s Grand Finalists knew anything other than victory here would consign them to this summer’s Qualifiers, where they would face the Championship’s best sides in a battle to avoid relegation to the second tier. While this victory may prove only temporary respite – a win for Huddersfield on Friday night would confirm Warrington’s bottom-four place – this was a welcome victory for Tony Smith’s side.

Related: Luke Gale on Castleford’s title battle: ‘I’ve not been in big games but I back myself’

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Jul 10

Luke Gale on Castleford’s title battle: ‘I’ve not been in big games but I back myself’

How did Castleford Tigers mount an unlikely challenge for their first title in 91 years? By having a good coach and working hard, says their scrum-half Luke Gale

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Eight points clear at the top of Super League with nine games to go, unless they are struck down in a manner that would cause Devon Loch to raise an eyebrow, Castleford Tigers are sure to be hosting a semi-final down Wheldon Road one late September night. Then they will be just one more win from a first Grand Final appearance and two from their first championship title in their 91-year history. Few of their squad know what that feels like, but inspirational half-back Luke Gale is chomping at the bit to taste the glory.

“We’ve not been there, we’ve not worn the T-shirt, but I’m looking forward to doing that and leading this team to some silverware,” said the England scrum-half. “We don’t have many players who have been there and done it. I’ve not been in big games myself, but I know I’ll back myself when it comes to the end of the season, and these boys will back themselves, too. When it comes to big games we know what we’ve got to do. We’re footy players: it doesn’t matter if you’ve won 10 Grand Finals or you’ve won zero, we will know what to do when it comes to the end of it.”

Related: Zak Hardaker: ‘I am a better player than when I won Man of Steel’

Related: Luke Gale gets his kicks as relentless Castleford overcome Wakefield

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Jul 09

Danny McGuire on fire for resurgent Leeds in thumping win at Salford

• Salford 24-50 Leeds
• Win propels Rhinos to second spot in Super League

Leeds delivered the most impressive display of their title credentials yet with this emphatic victory against Salford. It was their fifth victory in six games and their only defeat in that period was a narrow one against the leaders, Castleford. After the annus horribilis of 2016, when the Rhinos went from champions to relegation contenders in the space of 12 months, there is little doubting that they are fully capable of going all the way again this season.

The reigning Super League champions, Wigan, have shown with back-to-back wins that their title challenge is not over just yet. St Helens, with two wins from their past three, have begun to threaten the same of late.

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Jun 26

RFL confirms it is discussing central contracts with top Super League players

• St Helens says Jonny Lomax is one of those handed a deal by the RFL
• George Williams, Mike McMeeken and Kallum Watkins believed to be in talks

The Rugby Football League has confirmed it is in discussions with a number of leading Super League players about becoming centrally contracted with the sport’s governing body.

Leading members of the RFL’s hierarchy, including the former Leeds and England captain, Kevin Sinfield, have identified a number of players to become the first in the sport to be awarded central contracts, after St Helens confirmed on Monday that their full-back, Jonny Lomax, would be among those to benefit from the deals created as part of the radical proposals approved this year to try to retain the competition’s best talent.

Related: Warrington give Steve McNamara harsh introduction to life as Catalans coach

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Jun 24

Warrington give Steve McNamara harsh introduction to life as Catalans coach

• Warrington 24-16 Catalans
• Qualifiers loom for Catalans as McNamara’s first game ends in defeat

The Catalans Dragons concept is facing perhaps its greatest challenge since the club’s accession to Super League 11 years ago and Steve McNamara was shown first-hand here the enormity of the task awaiting him less than a week after taking charge.

The capacity of the former England coach to make meaningful changes to a side that look in increasing danger of a relegation battle will have been minimal; the fact he began French lessons on Thursday suggests it may be some time before his labour bears fruit.

Related: Castleford come from behind at Leeds to tighten grip on top spot

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Jun 20

Warrington fight to stay in Super League a year after contesting the Grand Final

Super League is imitating the Premier League; we’re still waiting for rugby league’s Champions Trophy; and State of Origin II is not just an all-Australia affair

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Panic on the streets of Warrington, panic on the streets of Wigan; Salford, Leeds and Perpignan. Yes, Morrissey saw it coming. Super League clubs are apparently considering a proposal to increase the competition to 13 or 14 teams in 2019, having cut it to 12 just three years ago. Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before.

It beggars belief – until you realise the RFL and the clubs themselves are simply terrified of losing another giant of the game to relegation. Bradford was bad enough. Warrington, Catalans or Wigan would be an equal opportunity too far.

Related: Super League could expand to 13 or 14 teams under new proposals

Related: Rugby league players should learn from footballers and start their own union

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Jun 19

Super League could expand to 13 or 14 teams under new proposals

• Relegated Hull KR could benefit from mooted expansion from 2018 season
• Odd number of teams would raise questions on Magic Weekend’s future

A proposal which involves increasing the number of teams in Super League to 13, or even 14, is being considered by the Rugby Football League as discussions begin on the format of the sport’s league structure for 2018 and beyond.

Related: Hull make wilting Castleford pay to set up semi-final against Leeds

Related: Sam Tomkins’s drop goal sends Wigan past Warrington in Challenge Cup

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Jun 10

Castleford’s Andy Lynch joins Super League 500 club and sets sights on silverware

• Forward will become seventh Super League player to reach 500 appearances
• ‘To bring a trophy back to this club would mean everything to me’

Andy Lynch joins a select club on Sunday. The venerable Castleford prop, who retires at the end of this season, will become the seventh player in the Super League era to reach 500 club appearances and he is in esteemed company.

Lynch, who could yet finish his career with the record for Super League appearances, joins Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Leon Pryce in one of the game’s most exclusive groups, yet there is one thing missing.

Related: Albert Kelly inspires depleted Hull to impressive win at Salford

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Jun 09

Albert Kelly inspires depleted Hull to impressive win at Salford

• Salford 10-34 Hull
• Visitors move into top four despite absence of key players

Hull moved into Super League’s top four with a commanding victory over second-placed Salford on an evening that, given the key personnel missing for the visitors, may well rank as one of their most encouraging of the season. The big names Gareth Ellis, Danny Houghton and Scott Taylor were all missing here yet Hull were still too good.

The effects of a second double-header weekend will linger in the performances of some sides for a good while yet – and you suspect Salford will not be the only side this weekend to look below-par as a result of those demanding excursions.

Related: Rugby league players should learn from footballers and start their own union

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Jun 04

Castleford leave it late to edge out St Helens and stretch lead at top

• Castleford 16-12 St Helens
• Late try from Tom Holmes inflicts first defeat on Saints’ new coach

Castleford took another step towards finally securing the title after almost a century of trying with a narrow home victory against St Helens. The win was notable also for the fact that they were without a number of key front-line players.

Daryl Powell, the Tigers’ head coach, made no secret of how, with this third game of a gruelling 10-day period, he would rest several big names to not only make a point to the sport’s schedulers but also to ensure that his Castleford players do not burn out in the long term.

Related: Castleford’s Daryl Powell accuses RFL of neglect over player welfare

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Jun 03

Steve Michaels grabs two tries as Hull pile on the misery for Wigan

• Hull FC 39-26 Wigan
• Slumping Warriors have now gone six matches without a victory

It is undoubtedly an exaggeration to suggest Wigan’s season is in crisis just yet, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the reigning Super League champions are running out of excuses and, more importantly, fixtures.

The Warriors have now gone six games without a win after this latest defeat, and while there are still the Super 8s to follow later this summer, the fact Shaun Wane’s side are closer to the bottom four makes their remaining six fixtures before the split essential to remain in touch with the leading pack.

Related: Leeds end gruelling run of matches with gritty win over Leigh

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Jun 02

Leeds end gruelling run of matches with gritty win over Leigh

• Leeds 22-14 Leigh
• Almost as many penalties as points as fixture congestion hits home

It is at such moments, in the final game of a demanding period which involves playing three times in eight days, that one may learn most about a side. However, in a week which has featured criticism aplenty from coaches and players alike, the most obvious lesson of all was how it is perhaps more important to seek out quality, rather than quantity, if the sport is indeed to undergo a restructuring this winter.

For those arguing that the sport’s stars are playing too often, this was the ideal night to press home their case. If any of the Rugby Football League came along to watch a game which featured almost as many penalties as points, they would have surely found it hard to disagree. One double-header weekend over Easter is congestion enough but another – squeezed in to allow an England pre-season training camp in Dubai which never actually happened – is clearly too much of a strain.

Related: Castleford’s Daryl Powell accuses RFL of neglect over player welfare

Related: Salford’s title push continues with convincing win at Warrington

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Jun 01

Castleford’s Daryl Powell accuses RFL of neglect over player welfare

• Double-headers show ‘lacking of understanding’ regarding physical toll
• Castleford to protect at least six players by resting them against St Helens

Daryl Powell has accused the Rugby Football League of a “lack of understanding” following Super League’s second double-header round in less than six weeks, claiming the exertions placed on players makes a laughing stock of player welfare.

Castleford beat Widnes and Leigh over the bank holiday to remain top but Powell will make at least six changes for Sunday’s visit of St Helens, insisting he has to protect his players because the sport’s administrators are not. “The RFL are not going to look after the players so I’m going to do it – there’ll be a lot of changes,” Powell said. “We’re hardly halfway through the year and we’ve had two Friday-Monday turnarounds. There’s a lack of understanding from them of what happens on a day-to-day basis.

Related: Widnes Vikings face move out of rugby league heartland if club is sold

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May 31

Rugby league players should learn from footballers and start their own union

When speaking about ‘ridiculous’ fixture congestion in Super League, Hull FC’s Mark Minichiello bemoaned the lack of a players’ union. They should start one

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

You would think most folk would quite enjoy two Easters in a month. More chocolate eggs, strange goings on down Lancashire hillsides, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and another two days off. But there’s the rub. When players and reporters refer to the Whitsun weekend as “a second Easter” they mean Super League clubs playing twice in four days. Strap yourself in for a ferocious backlash.

Speaking before their shock defeat at home to Leigh on Friday, which was followed by another narrow loss in a tempestuous game at Catalans on Monday night, Hull FC second rower Mark Minichiello called it “ridiculous”. Fair enough. Most elements of the season that players don’t like, coaches moan over and pundits waffle about are actually agreed by the clubs’ chief executives. Super League works like that. The club bosses vote for something then sit back and keep schtum while everyone blames the RFL. But this is a little different. The RFL wanted to start Super League a week late to fit in Wayne Bennett’s infamous England training camp in Dubai that ended up being cancelled anyway. They couldn’t push the season deeper into October as half of the players will be off to the World Cup training camps. So “two Easters” it was.

Related: How many kids could name a rugby league player? Fewer than 20 years ago

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May 29

Salford’s title push continues with convincing win at Warrington

• Warrington 10-38 Salford

As this extraordinary Super League season enters its second half it is becoming increasingly evident that Salford are not going to fall away from the title race.

Had it not been for Castleford’s dominance this season, Salford’s transformation into genuine contenders would have been the most eye-catching of all.

Related: Widnes Vikings face move out of rugby league heartland if club is sold

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