From ‘fed up’ at Bradford Bulls to refreshed at Swinton Lions, Dec Patton clings to Super League dream

After leaving Warrington Wolves, and an unhappy time at Bradford Bulls, Dec Patton is now focusing on rebuilding his career at Swinton Lions, writes LOUIS CHAPMAN-COOMBE.

DEC PATTON will be a familiar name to the Warrington faithful.

He burst onto the scene as a sprightly 19-year-old in the Wire’s 80-0 demolition of Wakefield Trinity back in 2015, and the future looked bright. 

His career in Primrose and Yellow went up a gear in 2016, as he started that year’s Grand Final against Wigan Warriors, scoring all their points on the day too as they fell to a 12-6 defeat at Old Trafford. 

Patton’s career went on an upwards trajectory from there, and his form for his hometown club earned him a spot in the England Knights touring party to Papua New Guinea in 2018.

He would later go onto amass over 100 appearances for the Wire, before leaving in 2021.

“It was hard to leave, to be honest. It was a hard time,” he told Rugby League World. 

Whilst he found it hard to leave a club he’d played at for five years, he says he now uses this as ‘fuel’: “You live and you learn, don’t you? Whatever’s happened has happened and you can use it as a bit of fuel, a fire in your belly to do better.”

Since his departure from the Halliwell Jones, he has had a fairly turbulent career. He initially moved to Salford in 2021 and made 11 appearances; but after just one season with the Red Devils, he made a move to Bradford Bulls. 

He went onto spend two years at Odsal, racking up 46 appearances for the West Yorkshire outfit. 

Patton’s time at the Bulls left him feeling out of touch with the game he loved, and he spoke candidly about how he nearly walked away from the sport completely. 

“When I left Bradford, I spoke to my mum and family about it and I was ready to retire,” he said. “I think it was a bit of a weird ending at the club where I was at, I was fed up. I had a couple of months where I just went to the gym and looked at myself in the mirror and thought ‘don’t be stupid, give it another crack and see how we go’. ”

This off-season, he did give it another go as he made a move back across the Pennines to sign for Swinton Lions. A move to the Championship minnows might be a far-cry from the lofty heights of the Halliwell Jones, but he says it’s helped him rediscover his love for the game. 

“I just wanted to get back to enjoying rugby again and have a smile on my face,” he said. “I got a phone call from Alan Kilshaw, and I went to Swinton, I’ve got a few friends up there anyway. Fingers crossed up to now, but I’ve never looked back; it’s probably the best time I’ve had in a long time.

“I’m really enjoying it up to now. It’s completely different to where I’ve been the past couple of years. I think it’s a real tight-knit group of lads; everyone just goes out and enjoys themselves, you know that every lad has got your back there. It’s a different feeling to where I’ve been before; I’m just really enjoying it.

“I can try and help Swinton do the best we can, and maybe hopefully get up as high as we can, but as long as I’m playing well I know the team will be playing well. I’m playing with a smile on my face again now and I want to get back to my best.”

His move to Swinton has also made him pick up work to go alongside his rugby, and Patton now works as a labourer for a joinery firm during the day, but he says he’s enjoying the switch to part-time. 

“It’s alright, it’s obviously something different that I’m not used to, it just started when I got to Swinton. It’s challenging, especially on a Monday morning when you’ve got to get up for work (after a game). But no, it is what it is isn’t it, your body just adapts to it.”

Balancing a packed training schedule around work and family life is, of course, a tricky act; but Patton explained Swinton’s schedule is designed to hold a full week of full-time rugby league into just two days. 

“Our training times are more like quarter to six to about eight-ish,” he said. “You come in, you do your video, you get your weights done and you have an hour of the field session; it is a lot of condensing and it’s all 100 mile-an-hour. You’ve got a few hours to try and get everything you need in.” 

“It is tiring but the lads are probably used to it now so it’s just a normal day.”

Swinton have had a tricky start to the season, but they’re putting in a decent showing. They stunned Toulouse away from home yet again in round three, and they gave a good account of themselves against play-off chasing teams Widnes and Sheffield despite defeats. 

On a personal level though, Patton has hit the ground running with his new team. At the time of writing, he has made eight appearances for the Lions so far (including in the 1895 Cup), scoring one try and knocking over 22 goals; two of which came in their surprise 20-14 away win over Toulouse.

Whilst there is still virtually a full Championship season to deal with first, a move back to Super League is never too far from the halfback’s mind. 

“A return to Super League is my aim, I’ve still got plenty of years left in the legs. 

“That is my main goal most definitely. It’d be stupid not to say it isn’t. 

“I’m loving my time here at the minute, but you still want to be playing in the best league that you can play in.” 

First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 496 (May 2024)

Click here to subscribe to the print edition of Rugby League World

Click here for the digital edition available from to read on your computer, tablet or smartphone