After being frozen out at St Helens, Danny Richardson is aiming for a new lease of life at Castleford Tigers, and helping his new teammates in their quest for success.
There used to be a regular feature in entertainment magazines that was generally known as “Hot or not”.
The general theme of the piece was simple. Some people were hot, while others, well, they were not.
For many, they would be hot. But before they knew it, they were not.
It highlighted the very fickle and very unfair nature of the entertainment industry.
But that cut-throat mentality is just as applicable to Rugby League too.
The prime example? Danny Richardson.
In 2018 he was a rock star, a superstar, the latest breakthrough talent with the world at his feet.
Scintillating performances week in, week out, at venues across the country saw him emerge as one of the biggest talents on the scene.
He won trophies, he won individual recognition. He did the lot.
Then, without explanation or logic, his star fizzled out. Suddenly, he wasn’t being selected, his bookings on the field dried out, he was forced to take second-rate gigs at smaller venues.
With that, the passion died. The excitement waned. Distractions emerged.
You might think this is all very dramatic, an over the top analogy.
But really, when you listen to Richardson’s words, it’s very relatable.
“What was most difficult was the fact I was a young kid who is only ever happy when he’s playing rugby,” Richardson told Rugby League World.
“That might sound a bit sad, but I’ve only got a real smile on my face when I’m playing rugby and I wasn’t able to do that last year where I wanted. It was frustrating at times.
“It was hard to understand, the best word is confusing. I came back after pre-season and I don’t know what had gone on behind the scenes, but I came back and Theo (Fages) had a word with me and said ‘I’m in now’. I was as shocked as anyone and then I never really got a straight answer as to why I wasn’t playing. It was confusing.
“And I was a young kid and didn’t know how to deal with it and I struggled.”
Richardson’s coping mechanism? The casino. A recipe for disaster.
“I found myself going to the casino quite a bit, to get away from everything. It was my place to go and chill out.
“I’ve always gone now and again, but I just found myself going a bit more than I should have. I didn’t get into any drinking or anything like that, just going more than I should. I wasn’t out of control with it, I didn’t feel like I was in a bad spot with it, but people would say it’s a negative habit to have and it made me realise I was going more than I should.
“I won’t lie, I still go now, but it’s much less frequent so it’s not a problem. It was just my get out, it was quiet, there was nobody asking me about rugby, which I would have got if I’m with my family and friends who are all asking me how training is going and if I’ll be playing. It was my spot where I could go and chill out.”
Thankfully, this tale doesn’t end with Richardson a shadow of himself, bankrupt and on the streets, or worse, as is sadly the case far too often in this world.
“Luckily I had a good family around me. As time has gone on, I’ve realised opportunities will come about.
“I did struggle, but I had my family wanting to be around me, I suppose some may not be as lucky as me.
“It’s shaped me into the person I am today and given me this opportunity to come here. Since coming here it’s ignited my love for Rugby League because I was slowly falling out of love with it, I wasn’t sure whether it was the game or the club I didn’t want to be around, but since I’ve come here I can’t wait to get out on the field.”
The club in question is Castleford. It’s not an easy gig, there remains a level of pressure, particularly given he is replacing one of their greatest players for years, Luke Gale.
“I realise I’m replacing Galey who was a real standout player for Cas over the last few years. The expectation the fans have too, I get that, they’ve been challenging for titles the past few years and were in the Grand Final in 2017.
“But I’ve come from St Helens, if there’s anywhere that’s taught me how to deal with pressure it was there with some of the games we played in. I’ve got confidence in myself and my teammates that we can deal with whatever is thrown at us.
“In 2018 I played every single game and winning most of them. I want to do that for Cas now and play week in and week out. I want to kick my game on to a level that will hopefully get me an international call-up at some point.”
And in this rock star world, everyone loves nothing more than a collaboration of stars.
Richardson will do that at The Jungle, along with another young sensation know as Jake Trueman.
Will they hit the top of the charts? Who knows, only time will tell. But he’s confident they’re onto a big hit.
“There’s a lot been made of it and big pressure, but we’re the same in that we just want to play rugby. We want to be playing an exciting brand of rugby so we’ll be linking up quite a bit.
“The guys we are coming up against, they’re all household names within Rugby League and the pressure will be on them more than me and Truey. The year I played I came up against every halfback combination I could and Truey did the same last year so together we’ve probably come up against everyone in the comp. We know what to expect from other players and I think we’ll surprise people.”
Daryl Powell hasn’t been surprised, but he has been impressed. Within days of welcoming him to the club, he described him as “no shrinking violet”.
Yet there’s a sense of vulnerability around Richardson when he speaks. He gazes deeply when he recalls last year, it makes him, somehow feel fragile.
Though it might be a misguided view. He’s clearly appreciated by his teammates, who salute him to say goodbye as the interview progresses. He responds with the well-known hand-horns salute (Google it, if you need to), but doesn’t lose focus as he continues to talk freely.
“Since the day I signed I’ve just wanted to play for Cas,” he says.
“I’ve had a few little run-outs but it’s felt like forever for the season to start. But I’ve felt like I’ve belonged from the first time I stepped into the club. All the boys have had my back, they’ve been good to me and they’re all close-knit and I think that will end up showing on the field.
“Coming in from the outside, I can tell there’s a hunger to nail down that trophy. We’ve not done it yet, I can tell there’s still some unfinished business with 2017 and I hope I can help them satisfy that scratch so to speak.
“It’s not going to be easy, we all know how good a competition it is and when you see the lads that are coming into Super League it’s obvious the quality is going to go up again.
“But we’ve signed well too, we’ve a good squad that can do some damage. We’ve just got to put it together now.”
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