Ryan Brierley is back at Leigh Centurions a more balanced and mature player – and with unfinished business.
Brierley left the club under an acrimonious cloud in 2016, having forced through a move to Super League Huddersfield.
Any bridges that were temporarily burned had been fully rebuilt by the time he returned to the Centurions on loan three years later.
But now he is back on a permanent basis after spells at Toronto and Hull KR, and ready to fulfil a long-held desire to play in the top flight for a club where he is the fourth all-time top try scorer. “I probably made a few mistakes back in 2016 if I’m honest but I was just desperate to play Super League,” Brierley said.
“I think both parties would probably say they could have done things differently, but what I will say is that ever since that day I’ve been in touch with Derek (Beaumont, club owner) and other people at the club, and it was never the nasty picture that some painted.
“I’ve been back plenty of times since and always been welcomed, and I’d like to think I’m a decent enough person that people would want me back. I was only 23 at the time and bound to make mistakes, but what happened has made me a better player and person than I was five years ago.
“The year I left, Leigh got promoted and there was some jealousy there from me because I felt like I’d been with them on that journey to Super League and had knocked back offers before to try and get them there. I got impatient and jumped ship to test myself, but playing for the club in Super League is an itch I’ve wanted to scratch for a long time.”
Brierley has spent the majority of his prolific career at half-back, but is now set to feature primarily at full-back for the Centurions, who beat five other applicants to replace Toronto this year. Brierley said: “I’ve spent a lot of time researching the best players at full-back, and watching endless videos of Lachlan Coote and Sam Tomkins. If you can pick up pieces from those two you won’t go far wrong.
“I used to be really strung up about wanting to play no.7 and be the next Cooper Cronk, a real dominant half-back that leads teams around. But if I’m honest that’s probably not me – I’m someone who thrives on popping up anywhere on the field.”
Having not been accepted until mid-December and receiving significantly less central funding than the other 11 clubs, Leigh will be many observers’ tip for the drop. But Brierley added: “It doesn’t really bother us and isn’t something we’ve spoken about – but hopefully we can prove a few people wrong.”
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