Ryan Brierley is a self-confessed Rugby League nerd.
When he gets home from training he takes to YouTube to study other players. If Huddersfield aren’t playing, he heads to a different match. When he’s at home, he bores his family with constant discussion about the sport, and if they won’t listen, he’ll happily chat about the game with anyone who will speak to him.
In fact, his obsession with the sport is so severe that Huddersfield head coach Rick Stone put a ban on him watching any footage at all and ordered him to take up golf. Brierley doesn’t think it will last long, though.
In essence, the 24-year-old is a fan, but one with very special talents that allow him to fulfil a dream he has held for as long as he can remember.
But with that comes challenges and external pressures that are self-inflicted. His passion for the game gives him extra motivation, but also more external pressure to succeed. His determination to do well results in him contemplating every minute detail of his day-to-day life, and when things don’t go to plan, it can leave him distraught.
His love for the sport probably got him where he is, but at times it is also the master of his downfall too.
“I am a bit obsessive and compulsive, and don’t get me wrong, it probably creates the good things in my game, but also some of the bad things,” Brierley admitted.
“It’s my own doing, I suppose. I don’t really have much of a life outside the game, my family will tell you that.
“I always want to do better. I don’t want to sound big-headed and try to make people believe I have more in the locker, I just want to be the best I can be.
“I hate making mistakes and I’ll sulk for things for weeks. I need to snap out of that mode a bit and once a game is done leave it behind. That’s the beauty of Rugby League, it comes around fast. I need to stop being a spoilt brat as such and realise there’s more to life than Rugby League, but when it’s what you live and breath it is hard to do that.”
Even during this interview, Brierley’s self-critique surfaces. He’s certainly a perfectionist, but it also has its flaws.
“For me, it’s about finding who I am and what attributes I can put on the field.
“At the moment I’ve not been putting my best foot forward and trying to change my game too much in certain situations where I probably need to do what made me successful and be that buzzing character. I need to keep it simpler.
“I spoke to Rick and we’re getting into a mentality of working harder than any other team. I need to buy into that a bit more rather than pulling a special play and winning the game on my own.
“It goes through your head at night, you think about what you do in the game and I get that feeling towards training too. It can eat away at you, but that’s just how I am. I am a weirdo and people know that.
“I need to find that balance, but I’m 24, and I’ve spoken to players who are 28, 29 or 30 who still haven’t found that balance. I understand the steps I have to make, I know it won’t happen overnight and I’ll keep improving.”
The Scotland international has never shied away from the fact that he can be emotional, which again results in positive and negative influences on his game. However, picking up the number seven jersey ahead of the 2017 season proved to be a massive confidence-boost for Brierley, especially after the previous year in which he enjoyed a rollercoaster year with Leigh before joining the Giants.
“With the number seven shirt it gives me an opportunity to be more settled in my role, and with that, I won’t come to the ground when I get into the team and think I have to perform miracles to impress.
“It was the number I wanted, I understand the talent in the squad is massive and when a player like Jamie Ellis is allowed to go out on loan it shows how much talent there is in the squad. It’s an honour to wear it and represent the town, but I also know that it doesn’t mean I’m guaranteed a place in the team. It’s about what you do whilst you wear it.
“I wouldn’t say it is a make or break year for me, but it’s one I want to kick on in and develop. I’m far from the finished article and I really believe I have the team and coaching staff around me to bring me on.
“I think I know now how a Super League player needs to live and act. I’m in a really good place which I guess after last year I needed. I finished the year strong in the Middle 8s and performed how I know I could, now it’s about taking it into this year.”