Gareth O’Brien has revealed he agreed a new two-year contract with Toronto Wolfpack just days before they pulled out of Super League, and he admits he feels let down by the “lies” and frequent late payments by the Canadian club.
O’Brien has joined Castleford on loan for the rest of this season, which he admits could be an opportunity to put himself in the shop window for 2021, should the Wolfpack not return in any form whatsoever next season.
That would be an especially hard blow for O’Brien, who revealed to League Express: “While all this was going on, I’d actually signed a two-year extension, so it was surprising to then learn about them pulling out.
“We’d signed Kallum Watkins; other lads had agreed new deals alongside me and we were offering contracts out left, right and centre. So you thought we were going to be okay. But then everything changed very quickly from the players’ perspective.”
O’Brien, like many Toronto players, is still waiting for unpaid wages from the Wolfpack, and he revealed: “Pay has never had a specific date there.
“It’s always been two days late or thereabouts, but that was the norm. Then it started creeping up to a week, then two weeks and that’s when you start to get concerned. You can’t predict a pandemic and I wasn’t surprised that it put pressure on them, but it’s tough for the players and staff.
“Just the things we were getting told, the false promises. That’s what disappoints me the most. We can take the truth; we’re men, you know. But when you’re getting fed pretty much lies on a constant basis, that’s difficult to deal with.”
Despite those troubles, O’Brien admits he’s relishing the opportunity to get back playing after a turbulent few months.
“I want to help Castleford win some rugby games and contribute the best I can,” he said.
“If you’re playing well then your future takes care of itself.
“I’m still hopeful we’ll get good news on a takeover and I can enjoy playing knowing I’ve got stability after November. If that doesn’t work out though, this is a chance for me to be in the shop window next year.
“I’ve tried to remain positive throughout the whole thing. My partner has been very good at keeping me upbeat and telling me you can’t worry about what you don’t know, but it’s been challenging. Luckily I was in a position to dip into my savings, but the other boys have had to go find some work, which is a challenge in itself.
“The news that we’re getting recently is positive, that there’s a Canadian contingent that is very keen on taking over and they know the responsibility of back-paying wages. I’m hopeful it’ll sort itself out. But for this season, my entire focus is now on Castleford and winning something.
“Castleford are a very good team. I’ve played against them many times over the last few years and they’ve always been a dangerous side to play against, so to be a part of that is very exciting.”
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