Brierley living the dream

17 Dec 2021

Brierley living the dream

Change is not always wanted but sometimes needed. That was certainly the case for Ryan Brierley. The 29-year-old made the difficult decision to depart Leigh Centurions at the end of last season to remain in Betfred Super League after arguably his best year individually in 2021.

That decision was made easier when an opportunity arose to move to the club he supported as a starry-eyed kid, Salford Red Devils.

Growing up on the terraces at the Willows, Salford were a driving force behind Brierley’s evident passion and love for rugby league. It was there that he fell in love with the game and is a club that holds a special place in his and his family’s heart.

So, a move to the AJ Bell Stadium in 2022 is not lost on Brierley – he is acutely aware of the significance of this move and the chance to wear the famous red jersey.

“The reality of it makes you nervous if I’m honest. We all dream of it, and it’s been a dream of mine for years. When you actually walk into the changing room and get your kit as a Salford player, it’s real,” He admitted.

“It’s special – this club will always be special to me. I do feel a nervousness and do feel an expectation to make sure I do the club and the fans justice. Because them fans that stand behind the sticks and sit up there are my people. They’re the people that I’ve grown up with.

“I have an expectation to perform and that isn’t lost on me. And when I say perform, whether it means scoring unbelievable tries – that’s not what I’m saying – it’s effort wise. For me, Salford fans have always bought into the fact that if you try and you give 100 percent, that’s all they ask for.

“I know that and that’s not lost on me. Salford fans never expect anything other than effort. And if we can’t give that, then we’re in the wrong sport. That’s what we can guarantee fans – there’s going to be 17 blokes out there every week trying their hardest to win a game of rugby league.”

As well as linking up with his boyhood club, there’s more added sentiment in this move for Brierley. He’s also reigniting his relationship with head coach Paul Rowley, who Brierley played under at Leigh Centurions and Toronto Wolfpack.

The pair have developed a tight-nit relationship through the years and Brierley knows better than most about what the fans can expect to see from a Paul Rowley inspired side.

“They’re going to see a style of play that they’ve never seen before. And it’s a style I’ve always been accustomed to because I’ve played under Paul for a while.

“The style will be attractive. I think that’s what we’re all in the business for – we want to be entertained and I think that’s the way that rugby league should be played. There’ll be plenty of reasons to be excited.”

The Red Devils have bolstered their squad during the off season and completed several shrewd pieces of business ahead of 2022.

Half back Brodie Croft has joined Salford from Brisbane Broncos, having previously played for Melbourne Storm where he starred in an NRL Grand Final at 22, as well as tasting success on these shores for the Storm against Leeds Rhinos in the 2018 World Club Challenge.

He is expected to partner two-time Lance Todd trophy winner Marc Sneyd – the experienced half making a surprise switch from Hull to Salford last month.

And Brierley admits that he is taking every opportunity to pick their brains and learn as much from the pair ahead of their season opener in February.

“You can never get enough from them type of players. Obviously with Sneydy [Marc Sneyd], I’d never met the guy before he came here but his knowledge of the game and how he thinks - I’ve never witnessed that before.

“His method behind stuff and his left foot – everyone knows Marc Sneyd is a great kicker of the ball but when you see it first-hand and he’s putting bombs up for you in training, you realise how hard it is!

“I think the system will suit him as well – he’s going to get a lot of ball and you want the ball to be in his hands. It just makes your job easier – you know where to be, you know to follow where he wants you.

“And for Brodie [Croft], for how young he is at 24 years old and for the amount of criticism he’s had back in Australia – I watched his games and I just think the criticism was really unfair on him if I’m honest.

“I think he was being asked to do a role that didn’t suit him and when you see him out on the [training] field, he is not the person people kind of stereotyped him to be.

“He’s fast, rapid off the mark, tough, defends well and I think Sneydy will be his perfect foil. We've found a really good blend in the half-backs.

“This kids played in an NRL Grand Final at the age of 22, so just any sort of knowledge I can get from him – we’d all be naïve if we didn’t take advantage of that.”

After a difficult 2021 season for the Red Devils, the future looks promising. And with a side that has plenty of points to prove, they could well be the surprise package of 2022.