Rochdale Hornets have re-signed Chris Riley for the 2017 season as they continue to build their squad for the Championship next year.
The 28-year-old will stay with the club next year following their incredible victory against Toulouse Olympique in France, which secured a return to the second-tier for Alan Kilshaw’s side.
And Riley, a former Challenge Cup winner with Warrington, says the enormity of the achievement cannot be overstated.
“It’s right up there to be fair,” admitted Riley.
“To finish second in the league was obviously a massive achievement and then all the odds were stacked against us and we pulled off one of the biggest victories of my career.
“It’s one of the biggest underdog sides I’ve ever been involved in, so to go over there and achieve what I have with Rochdale this season ranks highly up there.
“We’d had a good season so we had that belief that we could go there and win.
“We knew that the task in hand was huge, Toulouse hadn’t lost all year but we were the only team that took a point off them in the season.
“We believe that we should have won that game at home, fair play to Toulouse they pulled it back in the end and earned themselves a draw, but we had that belief that we could match them.
“On the day, in finals, anything can happen and we knew if we stuck with them we would give ourselves a good chance of going on and taking the championship and we did that.”
When the club announced the signing at the start of 2016 it marked Riley’s return to the sport after leaving Wakefield Wildcats.
He admits that at the time he was in a bad place mentally, and thanks the club for helping him through such a tough time in his career which is one of the main reasons for him extending his contract.
He is also thankful to his full-time employers, who have helped him with the transition from a full-time professional to working and playing at a semi-professional level.
“Firstly, I’d like to thank the club and Alan Kilshaw for giving me the opportunity to come along when I was probably down at the lowest point of my career.
“I wasn’t really enjoying my rugby and he gave me a chance here to gradually get back involved and not rush me and expect too much.
“I’m grateful for that opportunity. What we have achieved this year, I want to continue and keep the club in the Championship where Rochdale belong mixing it with the big boys of the division.
“When I came to Rochdale I had a few things going on. Mentally I wasn’t in the right frame of mind but I wasn’t expecting it to be as tough as it has been this year.
“I think to have this full season of working full-time and part-time rugby then obviously family life, getting the right mix was something I only got towards the back end of the season.
“I think it took a long time to adapt, and for me it was a struggle getting used to training at night. I haven’t trained that late since my Academy days, so getting that right mix was key and I think I got that towards the end and I think it showed in my rugby.
“I think I’ll be better off as a person and a player next season and it won’t be such a shock to the system.”