Life on the fringes: how transitioning into a new role as a utility has brought the best out of Richie Myler

For his 13 years as a professional rugby player, life has been pretty constant for Richie Myler.

Whether it was during his breakthrough at Widnes Vikings, his formative years at Salford, or even his spells with big clubs such as Warrington and Catalans, Myler has always been regarded as one thing if nothing else: a scrum-half.

It’s very rare in this day and age for one player to be shoehorned into one role and nothing else. Three-quarters can fill in all across the backline, props can now operate throughout the pack and even half-backs have been known to have the capability to play fullback or even hooker.

And as he approaches his 30th birthday later this year, Myler is having to embrace a new challenge and a new role in a squad. Having always been considered a half-back and nothing else, the arrival of Luke Gale and Robert Lui at Leeds in the last 12 months left Myler on the fringes. Many suspected he would leave the Rhinos. Instead, he has found a new lease of life.

“You have to try and take something like that as a challenge and try to thrive under the circumstances,” he explains.

Last week, Myler played fullback for the first time in his career, deputising for Jack Walker for over an hour and earning the man of the match award as the Rhinos hammered Warrington. Having been thrown on from the bench very much in the deep end, it was a situation Myler was readying himself for over a number of months.

“What do you do in situations like that, where you’re told there might be a new role for you?” he asks. “You’ve got two choices; you either try to embrace it or you end up sat in the stands doing all the corporate duties pre-match. I’ve been given a role, and I’m enjoying it.”

Myler concedes that trying to adjust to a new role within a squad – no longer the first-choice half-back for the first time in his career – was tough to adjust to in the off-season. One thing, however, made it much easier: coach Richard Agar.

“It’s helped me having Rich be so upfront and honest from the start, and not string me along,” he admits. “He was clear about the role he saw me in, and my relationship with Rich was fantastic from the start. It was tough to deal with at the beginning, getting to grips with that different role, but it’s helped me get to where I am now.

“You can throw your toys out of the pram – but I was never going to be petulant about it, because it’s about the team rather than one individual. I’m part of this team and I want to continue to be part of it.”

The change to eight interchanges has also afforded Myler a regular place in Agar’s squad on a weekly basis, with the need for a player who can cover multiple positions if injuries strike – as they did last week with Walker. With Walker unavailable for Thursday’s game against Toronto, it means he will almost certainly continue at fullback.

It is a far cry from the first decade of Myler’s career, but it is something that he is clearly taking to.

“If someone goes down at fullback, half-back or nine I can go there,” he says. The beauty of only having eight subs now is that you need someone like that on the bench, and Rich was honest and said he thought I could fill that role. We don’t want injuries but wherever I need to fill in, I will.

“I just want to play as many minutes as I can and do a job for this club, and if I’m contributing, I’m happy. I’ve said that all along, and wherever Rich chucks me in, I’ll do a job.”