His route into Rugby League has been unique to say the least, but Andy Ackers is now an established Super League player with the Salford Red Devils.
It’s a career that started at Wigan and then Warrington without yielding a first-team appearance, but Ackers was determined to make it happen despite being disappointed.
“I only started playing rugby at 17 and then I signed at Wigan Academy at 18,” he explained.
“I played there as a loose-forward as Wigan had two hookers, but I was released by them after one season.
“The reason for that was that it was going to the under-19s from the under-18s and under-20s and Wigan had already signed two hookers from the Academy and had Logan Tomkins in the under-20s.
“When I was released I went home and cried to my dad, as I had always supported Wigan as a youngster.”
The end of his Wigan career opened the door to an opportunity at Warrington, however, which Ackers grabbed with both hands.
“Within two days of being released by Wigan, Peter Farrell (Andy Farrell’s father) at Warrington rang me and asked me to come and meet him.
“He was a great fella; he offered me a three-month trial and offered me a contract after three weeks of training.
“Gaz Chambers was the under-19s coach at the time and he made me the captain right away, which boosted my confidence.
“I played a year there and it was brilliant; I re-signed with Warrington, but went on a season-long loan with Swinton in the Championship.
“I had a great year there and then signed again with Swinton the following year.
“After a bit of adversity with Warrington’s coach at the time, Tony (Smith) released me after bringing me back for a month’s trial.”
That didn’t deter Ackers from playing the game in a bid to get to the top.
“I played at Swinton again and had another great year, but told my agent I wanted to play full-time.
“London offered me a full-time deal and I went down there and loved every minute of it, so I re-signed for another two years.
“Halfway through the second year though, I got really homesick and had some family problems back home.
“A few clubs were interested, so London kindly released me from my contract and I signed for Toronto, as they would be based in Manchester for ten months of the year.
“That was the best part of my career and where I played my best rugby as well. What a city in which to be living your childhood dream.
“I did two-and-a-half years there. There were some things that weren’t right regarding pay, but the backroom staff and players were quality and that will always be a great memory.”
Ackers didn’t hold back in his criticism of the decision to reject the Wolfpack’s readmission to the Super League.
“To see them being thrown away just like that is abysmal and narrow-minded in my opinion,” he said.
“It had all the potential to be right at the top and with the right people behind it; it was going to be that way.”
The hooker is now at Salford and is going from strength to strength at his new club after joining in June this year.
“I asked to leave and I took the opportunity that Salford offered me, signing a three-year deal.
“I’m very grateful to pull on this shirt; I have only been here a short amount of time, but I feel very privileged to be a part of something great going forward.
“We reached the Challenge Cup Final this year, which was such a high on a whole, but on a personal level I was gutted as I was cup-tied.
“On a professional level, I can’t beat myself up too much as I was proud of my mates and this great club for reaching Wembley.
“I’ve been finding my feet a bit this season and I’ve just been trying to settle in, but I can’t wait to get a good pre-season under my belt and rip in to 2021.”
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