THERE was a time Wakefield Trinity’s Ryan Atkins would have been “kicking water bottles” at being left out of any side.
Now, though, the former England centre is wise enough to know any such scenario would not be the end of the world. Far from it, in fact.
At 34, Atkins – who rejoined the club last August after a decade with Warrington Wolves – is preparing for his 15th season of Super League action.
Granted, the Yorkshireman knows he might have his work cut out trying to get past Trinity’s first-choice pairing of Bill Tupou and current England international Reece Lyne in Chris Chester’s side.
But Atkins, who scored 165 tries in 272 games for Warrington, insisted: “It’s probably good for me at my age that I’m not playing every week. It’s nice.
“I’ve got a different role here now, more of a leader and a bit more of a team player.
I’ve got a different role here now, more of a leader and a bit more of a team player. It’s quite a quiet group so I’m talking a lot more than what I did at Warrington.Ryan Atkins
“It’s quite a quiet group so I’m talking a lot more than what I did at Warrington.
“I’m enjoying that, though, and, as for having some great centres in front of me – Bill, Reece and young Jack Croft is definitely one for the future – Joe Arundel and myself – so we’re all chomping at the bit to try and get those starting shirts off Chezzy.
“If I’m not selected initially I’m sure my time will come to get a crack at centre and it’s just about doing my best for the team, whether I’m involved in the game day 17 or we do opposed sessions.
“I train my best against the opposing centre to make them their best. It’s something I probably wouldn’t have realised years ago; I’d have been kicking water bottles and have been fuming I wasn’t selected. But over the years I’ve realised that it’s a squad sport and, although I came here maybe expecting to play 10 games, with injuries or dips in performance, who knows, I could go and play the full year.”
When he started his career at Bradford Bulls, he was also down the pecking order behind Shontayne Hape and Ben Harris, prompting his initial move to Wakefield as a rookie in 2006.
There the Leeds-born player flourished, scoring 40 tries in 77 games to earn England recognition and that move to Warrington where two Challenge Cup successes and three Grand Final appearances followed.
Atkins had a hand injury when he returned to Trinity last summer but made his ‘second’ debut in the final night relegation battle with London Broncos.
Wakefield, who have also signed the likes of London duo Alex Walker and Jay Pitts plus Hull FC loose forward Joe Westerman, kick off the new season at Hull KR next Friday and hope to be challenging at the other end of the table in 2020.
“When I walked back through the door last season, the stadium is pretty much the same as last time I was here,” added Atkins, who played in last night’s 16-4 friendly defeat against Huddersfield Giants.
“And there’s a bit of strapping on one of the showers which I think was there 10 years ago!
“But the professionalism in the club has just gone through the roof. Probably when I was here 10 years ago, other clubs had things that we didn’t have but now we’re on a level playing field.
“It may not be up to the standard of some other clubs but we still have everything that we need; an on-site gym, GPS and getting data from training, a lot more staff – physios rehab as well as back office and the social media side of it has all developed.
“They’re now recruiting great players and are able to keep hold of internationals as well.
“It’s a great time to be at Wakefield. We’re looking forward to this.”