Ryan Brierley’s success as a fullback last season may not have come as too much of a surprise to his new coach at Salford Red Devils because Paul Rowley wanted him to play there years ago.
Despite Leigh Centurions’ woes on their way to relegation from Super League, Brierley was a revelation at fullback, having previously spent most of his career playing in the halves.
But the positional swap was far from a new idea – he’d been told numerous times before to give it a go and admits now he should have listened.
The idea was first suggested when he left Leigh for the first time to move to Huddersfield Giants, and then again when he reunited with Rowley at Toronto Wolfpack.
“Paul Anderson signed me as a fullback, then three weeks later he got sacked,” Brierley, now 29, told League Express of his time at the Giants. “A new guy came in and put me at halfback.
“Thinking back now when I did play halfback for Huddersfield, I was a disgrace really. I didn’t know where to stand, where to be, what to do. I wouldn’t even like to watch those games back; I’d be cringing like mad. It’d be really embarrassing.
“When I went to Toronto, Rowls briefly mentioned it and I felt like he’d ripped my heart out because he didn’t want me to be number seven.
“I shut it down. I said ‘no chance, I’m playing halfback, that’s it’. I was probably stubborn; my ego probably got the better of me.
“I’d like to have bought into it a lot earlier. I’ll never know what could have been or couldn’t have been.”
He’s doing his best to make the most of what time he does have left to become a top-level fullback, however.
While not quite as obsessive as he confesses he used to be, Brierley – who is described by Rowley as a “rugby nerd” – is keen to keep working on his craft and learn from the best.
“I want to be as good as I can be. I’ve watched loads of Sam Tomkins and Lachlan Coote over the last 18 months and how they do it, because they’re the best in the business,” he said.
“Sam is someone I look up to massively, so just (looking at) how he works, he’s mastered it down to a tee. If I can reach half that level, I’ll certainly be happy.”
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