New Castleford Tigers star Gareth O’Brien believes he has landed on his feet in Castleford, after joining the club on a short-term deal.
O’Brien, who has penned a deal until the end of November is expected to feature prominently in Daryl Powell’s team between now and the end of the season as the club looks to push for a playoff spot.
The full-back was left stuck between a rock and a hard place after previous club Toronto Wolfpack withdrew from the Super League season, but the Irish international is putting all that behind as he continues with his Castleford adventure. O’Brien believes he has landed on his feet.
Speaking exclusively with Last Word on Rugby, he explained how he feels. “Very, very lucky. As I say I think you can count on one hand the number of boys who have managed to source a club until the end of the year, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to play.
“I’ll have some money coming in which is good and I’ll be in the shop window for the club next year if things don’t work out at Toronto”. O’Brien said.
Gareth O’Brien on his struggles following Toronto’s withdrawal
Toronto were forced to withdraw after owner David Arygle’s financial difficulties and that left the club’s stars scrambling to find a club. O’Brien spoke of the toll it took on him and the rest of the team.
“It has been a challenge don’t get me wrong. With not getting paid for three months it is very much far from ideal, luckily I was in a position where I could dip into my savings and sort of pay for myself. We’ve had regular updates from the club and our owner David Arygle, assuring us even though we have pulled out of the competition our wages until the end of November will be paid – we were basically lied to about that.
O’Brien stated, “the boys have had to find full-time jobs in the meantime, some boys have managed to find a club. Luckily I was one of them until the end of the year, but with other clubs taking pay cuts and the financial pressure there, teams aren’t looking to add to their wage bill. As a result, a lot of our boys are stranded, looking for work and even that is difficult with the pandemic.”
Does the RFL need to set up a players’ association?
Unlike in other major sporting leagues such as the NBA, the Rugby Football League (RFL) has failed to set up a players association to help the players. Gareth O’Brien believes that the governing body could have done more to support the players mentally.
A number of the club’s stars have spoken out on Twitter, but their pleas have been left ignored. Club Captain Josh McCrone is one of many to do so.
— Joshua McCrone (@MccroneJoshua) July 20, 2020
“As players, we spoke out on Twitter, we’ve not had any help from the RFL or anything like that. Not even a phone call to see how we are doing.
“We aren’t so much just talking about financial support, it’s the mental stress with all our squad has been put under.”
“Our owner has just disappeared, that’s what we have been told and there is people at the club working tirelessly to try and find new investors and a potential takeover. I’ve tried my best to remain positive and hope things will work out and they’re going to get the takeover, and allowed back into Super League”.
A future outside the game for O’Brien?
Fortunately, O’Brien has managed to find a club, but sadly some of his former teammates haven’t been as fortunate. O’Brien’s teammate Greg Worthington has had to source a job outside the game and at one point, Gareth O’Brien was considering the same.
“I actually was yeah, I recently applied for a license for HGV vehicles, I was learning to drive heavy goods vehicles and will hopefully pass my license in that. It can be done quickly, depending on how good that you’re. I was hoping to get that under my belt and potentially find work that way.
“It is something that I am looking at doing in case the worst happens and there are no opportunities in the game because of what has gone on.” O’Brien stated.
Gareth O’Brien believes he is ‘playing for a 2021 contract’
Nevertheless, O’Brien is hoping to continue his rugby league career and as he gears up for his second game as a Tigers player ahead of this weekend’s trip to Wigan, he is aware he is playing for his future.
O’Brien’s former Salford Red Devils teammate Niall Evalds is set to move to the Jungle in 2021, full-back appears to be a set position for the Tigers. O’Brien believes he is potentially playing for a contract in 2021.
“Yes, I feel that every game you want to play to the best of your ability anyway, so especially with all the uncertainty at Toronto it does perhaps add a little pressure. But, I have to try to put that in the back of my mind, I know ‘Cas have got Niall Evalds, who I am good friends with coming in next year coming in as a full-back.
As for opportunities at Castleford in 2021, I am not too sure there will be anything there but you never know. But if I play well and put my self in the window there may be other clubs who are interested so I’ve got to push the pressure to the back of my mind and just play the game. If I do the simple things well I am sure it will go a long way.” O’Brien said.
The 2019/20 Super League season continues, with Gareth O’Brien facing the Wigan Warriors, as the Castleford Tigers continue to fight for playoff contention.
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