Diskin so humbled by support flowing in for Bulls
Matt Diskin is facing up to a grim financial situation he has never experienced before during his illustrious career in rugby league.
After being told there may be no salary landing in his account this month, the Bradford Bulls hooker, like the rest of his colleagues, had some serious thinking to do on the journey back to the family home in West Yorkshire.
Following the bombshell news last week that his club is on the verge of collapse – let alone able to pay his wages – unless £500,000 is quickly generated by this evening’s deadline, a wildly mixed range of emotions descended on the 30-year-old.
“We don’t earn footballers’ wages,” said Diskin. “A lot of the players here have young families, bills and mortgages and that situation is quite scary, the fact that you might have to default on your mortgage.
“Probably every player did the same thing when we found out – went home, looked at the bills and looked at the worst case scenario that we don’t get paid this month.
“I know that’s what I did. We didn’t envisage it any of this happening. Sometimes, as a professional sportsman you are sheltered from the economy because you believe that you’re playing a game and it’s very unique.
“This is not a nine ’til five job and it’s something we all always love doing but you just don’t think the economy is going to affect you. For it to come on your doorstep and start knocking is scary.
“We’re not crying a sob story here. We’re not unique in this and everyone over the last three years has been through it. We’re just experiencing it now and we’ll handle it as positively as we can.
“But also there’s the bigger picture, that a club steeped in such history could potentially not exist any more.
“The rugby league community would be a hell of a lot weaker without Bradford Bulls there so the support everyone is getting has been amazing.
“It’s been massively humbling to see the donations people have put in towards reaching that pledge total and the atmosphere and togetherness generated has been very special.
“I’m confident there will be a Bulls in the future and, as players, we’re just doing all we can to help.”
That ranges from washing cars to manning the phones in the Odsal office as the fight for survival continues.
“It’s been really humbling to sit and take those pledge calls,” added Diskin, with the total having passed the £368,000-mark last night.
“The Bradford fans are ringing up and talking about not having family days out or not going out with friends so they can donate that money.
“And it’s not just Bradford fans – its all of rugby league from Wigan, from Warrington supporters, Widnes and across Lancashire. Everyone is contributing.”
The one-time Great Britain star admitted the whole episode has opened his eyes to another side of the sport.
“The players have been fantastic and all have been really positive about what the club is trying to do,” he said.
“Everyone has jumped on board with the fund-raising and this adversity and the inter-action between the team and the fans has really come together.
“It’s the first time I’ve experienced something like that in the whole time I’ve been in rugby league.
“It’s really special at the moment and the community feel is a big selling point to anyone out there interested in investing in this club.”
Bradford’s best hope of reaching the £500,000 mark, meanwhile, is to attract a bumper crowd at tonight’s game, a fixture which Diskin holds close to his heart.
A product of the same Leeds academy side that produced Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire and Ryan Bailey, he made his Rhinos debut in 2001 and went on to become a mainstay of the side that earned four Super League titles.
Diskin was man-of-the-match in the 2004 Grand Final win over his current employers and also enjoyed World Club Challenge success, the Dewsbury-born player enjoying a testimonial in 2010 before making the surprise switch to Odsal.
Subsequently, he has experienced the famed fixture and all its deep rivalry on both sides of the fence.
“I do believe it’s the biggest derby in Super League,” said Diskin.
“There’s some great ones elsewhere that have some big crowds but, for me, this is the best.
“A lot of my memories of them over the years are quite hazy – too many bangs on the head perhaps – but I played at Bradford for Leeds in the early 2000s when there were crowds of over 20,000 here.
“To walk out at Odsal at that time, in a hostile environment, was really a thrilling experience.
“It’s that atmosphere of the big crowds and occasion which really stand out with these derbies.
“The club has budgeted for a crowd of around 16,00 but if they break 22 or 23,000 on Friday it’d make a massive contribution towards reaching that £500,000.
“We’re calling all Leeds and Bradford fans to come out in their numbers but also any rugby league fans in general.
“As players, we just want to go out and put in a performance on the field which keeps everyone working hard and keeps those spirits high.”