Ryan Brierley is not like most Rugby League players.
He’s open about his insecurities, he’s happy to accept he’s widely emotional and he’d be the first to admit that his confidence can be fragile.
Those characteristics help to explain the fundamental reasons why he decided to cut short his Super League dream and start a new venture with Toronto Wolfpack.
When the 25-year-old joined the Giants 13 months ago, it was the arrival of the Championship’s hottest property, one that was a long-time coming. As a kid, it was a move he had only ever dreamed of. He’d made it to the big time.
But the novelty of carrying out a lifelong ambition quickly waned for the halfback. In the end, he decided to pursue happiness instead.
In an exclusive interview with TotalRL, Brierley reveals that life was not as he expected as a Super League star.
“I’ll probably get some hammer for saying this but Super League didn’t live up to the expectations I’d set of it,” he said.
“That’s my fault more than anything I suppose, but I just didn’t see much of a difference from Super League to Championship. I guess I thought it would be like going to Hollywood, but it was just the same day to day life.”
The Scotland international went through turbulent times during his brief stint in the top flight.
At Huddersfield, he battled not only with a change of scenery, but a change in coach just three months after he had been signed.
Despite scoring 15 tries in his time at the Giants, his time there was riddled with uncertainty. At first it was where he would play, and subsequently, under Rick Stone he didn’t even know if he’d be picked. Brierley admits himself that was something he struggled to deal with.
“I’m not going to bag Huddersfield,” he said.
“Richard Thewlis did a great job with me originally and I’m very grateful for that.
“I just think it was a clash of styles. Rick wants to be a bit more conservative and not take risks as such and not play quite as expansive. I’m not saying that’s the right or wrong way, it just doesn’t suit me.
“I admire what the Giants did for me but I think common sense prevailed. I wasn’t suiting their style in a team where we didn’t offload or make many line breaks. I think if that’s the case you may as well sit me in the stands, and that’s what Rick was doing. I can’t fault Rick’s way of handling me, it’s just the way it is.
“Looking back, it felt like the right choice to me but within three to four months the guy who signed me got sacked. I have a lot of time for Paul Anderson and he taught me a lot, he was great for me.
“It was strange to be in a setup where I didn’t know if I’d be full-back, halfback, dropped or on the bench, it was just a bit all over the place. I need consistency and I probably don’t deal with that change as well as others. I couldn’t get any consistency in my game and I didn’t know my role, which was just a bit confusing.”
After falling out of Stone’s plans. He decided it was time to move. But rather than make the conventional switch to a different Super League side, he opted to take a much bolder, adventurous move.
Toronto Wolfpack had been interested ever since there was a hint that he could become available. In the end, a variety of factors resulted in him dropping out of Super League and into League 1.
“In the past, I’ve made contract decisions on my Rugby League career, but this is different, it’s on my happiness.
“I tell people you can’t underestimate that and that was the case for me. I’d come home in a mood and my girlfriend wasn’t happy with me. I need to make sure I’m happy.
“I think the Wolfpack fills that void. Just being with friends from Leigh and people I trust. I was watching a Cooper Cronk interview the other day and he said the common denominator for success is good people. I think if you look top to bottom of the Wolfpack it is full of good people. I’d like to think I fit that mould.
“It’s quite obvious the club wants to be in Super League, and from my point of view having experienced that, I want to try and prepare the club for that when it does eventually happen.
“It’s a big opportunity for me to travel the world and try other things. I think the club has helped me massively in getting me out of a rut.”
Inevitably the lure of being reunited with a man he considers as a second father-figure had a huge impact. In Paul Rowley, Brierley is back to playing under a coach that helped launch his career.
“He certainly knows how to look after people as just that, not just players. I think that’s so important in life, people want to be valued and appreciated and that’s certainly what I’ve missed. I want to be loved and play with a smile on my face, which every player will tell you makes a massive difference to their career.
“I’m looking forward to playing under someone who appreciates my style. I think it’s well-documented the relationship we have, but I’m not going there because he likes me as a person, I’m going because I want to win games with Toronto. I can’t wait to get started.”
Now, the challenge for Brierley is to live up to the ‘marquee’ tag handed to him. It’s one he’s happy to accept.
“I know there is a lot of pressure on me to perform and the reputation I have now will be put to the test. I know there’ll be games where they start coming at me but I know I have to thrive on that pressure.
“I spoke to the chairman and Brian Noble, and I understand what pressure this brings. It’s been documented how I am a marquee player for them, but I’m happy to have that tag on my neck and the expectations that come with it.”