Feeling surplus to requirements at Headingley, Richie Myler has now set his sights to helping York Knights achieve their Super League ambitions.
THEY SAY a change is as good as a rest, but for Richie Myler, a change is probably better.
At least that was the thinking behind his move from full-time Super League rugby to the part-time game with York Knights.
It was a close-season move that not many saw coming, especially as the 33-year-old still had a year to run on his contract with Leeds Rhinos. But with half-backs Matt Frawley and Brodie Croft among the new arrivals at Headingley alongside Aussie fullback Lachlan Miller and hooker Andy Ackers, Myler was going to face one of the toughest fights of his career to remain in Rohan Smith’s matchday 17 and keep up his recent good form.
That’s not to say he wasn’t willing to fight, but the former England and England Knights international felt the time was right to use his experience and knowledge to help one of the games’ most ambitious clubs to hopefully realise their dream.
“I just want to play rugby, and wherever I was going to do that this year I just wanted to add value to the side,” Myler, who represented Ireland three times during the delayed 2021 World Cup, told Rugby League World.
“Leeds signed four players that all play in the same positions as me, and while that was in the best interests of the club, it left my personal situation there a bit tricky.
“I knew I probably wasn’t going to play at the start of the season, so I had to decide if I was going to wait it out, wait for my chance, or look for a different opportunity elsewhere.
“I could have stayed at Leeds and done another 12 months with them and they wanted me to stay and play a part in the squad, but I felt it was the right time for a new challenge and to be part of something I knew I could add value to.
“Once the conversations with Clint (Goodchild – York’s owner) started it escalated pretty quickly. I completely understood the vision of what York is about as a club, what they want to achieve and where they want to get to.
“I could see how I could have an impact on that. I have been around a lot of big clubs in my career, and clubs that operate at such a high standard, so being able to bring that knowledge into a group that is trying to achieve that on all sorts of levels was the biggest draw for me.
“Sometimes a change freshens you up and it has done that for me and given me that enjoyment of feeling valued and adding worth.
“A move like this probably would have happened in 12 months anyway and York just felt like the right fit for me and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
The move to York brings to an end a 15-year spell in Super League which began with Salford before six-year spells with Warrington and Leeds either side of two seasons in the south of France with Catalans Dragons.
But it also signals a move back to where it all began, having made his debut from the bench as a 17-year-old for Widnes against Batley in September 2007. He made one further substitute appearance for the Vikings that season (against Castleford in the play-offs) before making the move to Salford, where he won the National League One title, and with it promotion to Super League, in his first season.
And he’s hoping history can repeat itself a decade and a half later.
“In my only full season in the Championship I was 18 years-old and fortunate enough to be in a Salford side that won the league, the National League Cup, the Grand Final and promotion,” added Myler.
“So my last experience of that competition was a good one, and if we can replicate any of that in 2024 it would be a massive achievement.
“But there are lots of talented players in the Championship, and a lot of ambitious clubs aiming for Super League, so it’s going to be a strong competition.
“If we can perform consistently well then the results will follow and we can be challenging up near the top end of the table all season.”
For many players in their 30s, the transition from full-time to part-time rugby is the first step in preparing for life away from the game once the boots have been hung up, but this is far from the case for Myler, who is targeting a longer stay and return to Super League with his new club.
“Training at different times of the day took some getting used to,” admitted Myler, who heads into the new season having scored 206 tries, 19 goals and three field goals in 398 career appearances.
“But I am quite fortunate that I have other things going on that fill in the shortfall a bit, so it almost feels like I’m still in a full-time environment.
“I’m helping out with some commercial stuff at the club and am also doing a house renovation, which will take some time, so it is still very full on but I’m enjoying the different schedule.
“I’m certainly not at the end of my career and thinking of this as a step down. York have the ambition to become a full-time organisation so my mindset, now I’m here, is staying in that frame.
“In a way, a move like this does prepare you for life after rugby, but I still feel like I’m playing some of my best rugby, and I’m still as hungry as ever so that’s not on my agenda anytime soon.
“As I still had a year left at Leeds we had to iron that out and find a way to release me from that that worked for everyone, so that’s why Clint and I only initially only spoke about the first 12 months.
“But the long-term plan for me and the club is that I’m here until I finish playing.
“York have ambitions to get into Super League and it’s my aim to help them get there.”
First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 492 (January 2024)