Richard Mathers is relishing the opportunity to repay Wakefield Trinity Wildcats after they saved him from his personal nightmare at Castleford Tigers.
The talented full-back, who won two Super League titles with Leeds Rhinos and two Challenge Cups at Warrington Wolves, found himself isolated when Ian Millward took over at Castleford last winter.
Mathers, 28, enjoyed an impressive first season under Terry Matterson but – with two years remaining on his contract – was surprisingly told he was not part of the new coach’s plans.
Training alone at Roundhay Park, the disillusioned player admitted feeling desolate at the prospect of being frozen out until Wakefield chief Richard Agar stepped in with a season-long loan.
“It was a unique and strange situation for me,” Mathers told the Yorkshire Post.
“It was pretty stressful. We all like to think we’re big and macho and, for the most part, we are.
“But it was a lonely time and it’s just good to get out of that situation and be wanted again.
“Playing rugby is all I’ve done since I left school and all the other things were a bit alien to me.
“To be told you’re not going to play – before you’ve even trained or played a match – takes a little getting your head around.
“It’s not like I’m a rookie – I think I’ve worked hard over the years and earned the right to be playing week-in, week-out. But my family got behind me, kept my head right and Rich (Agar) showed belief in me. It’s great to feel wanted again and he’s done that.
“Now I want to repay that faith. I’ve been here a few weeks, settled in great and tried really hard to help install what he wants here.”
With their Super League start in a week at newcomers Widnes, Mathers is one of a remarkable 18 new players Agar has brought in as he takes control.
“It was quite similar when I was at Gold Coast Titans,” said Mathers, referring to his time with the fledgling NRL club.
“It’s a double-edged sword – good for creating relationships as we’re all new, and there’s no established cliques, but on the flip side it takes quite a while to gel.
“We’re progressing, though, and learning systems. It’s exciting.”
London Broncos have been unable to register former Trinity prop Jarrad Hickey because of the non-Federation rule and he has been released.