Sunday, January 22, 2023

Ryan Brierley believes RL players should have much bigger profiles than stars

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RYAN Brierley has a simple message for Super League players – believe you are stars and you will become them.

The Salford ace has seen the best come and go but can still go unrecognized due to rugby league’s profile.

He has also seen women’s football catch up and potentially overtake the 13-a-side code through his role as players’ agent.

Now that media giant IMG is “reinventing” the sport by raising the profile of players high on its priority list, he says it’s time to think big and act big.

He said: “I look at the sacrifices the players are making and we can’t get them a pair of shoes. It’s just crazy!

“Look at Jai Field, Bevan French, Sam Tomkins, you want to make them household names, you want them to have really strong sponsorship deals.

“Through my involvement in women’s football, I see the brand deals my players get – I want rugby league players to get that.

“It’s scary. When I first got involved with women’s football it wasn’t as big as rugby. Now I would argue it is, if not bigger.

“It would be an excuse to say that the Euro win accelerated that, it was on the way before. I see a lot of money being pumped into it and I know our product is just as good, if not better.

“Brodie Croft is Steve Prescott Man of Steel, the best player in the league but he could be walking around the Trafford Center and nobody would recognize him.

“It hurts but we’ve had a stalemate if I’m honest. This is the year we need to start making progress and moving forward as a sport.”

Last year’s World Cup showed rugby league how it can grow on the national sporting landscape – and IMG has this at the heart of its plans.

But Brierley believes there is just as much responsibility on the players’ shoulders as Rugby Football League’s.

He added, “When I talk to the likes of Nike and Adidas, I always add that I’m still playing and their feedback is, ‘You need to be more active as a player to be more positive about each other and the sport on social media.’

“Making the sport big. When it’s a rugby league post on social media it’s very teasing and the players start pounding each other – in football they don’t, they’re really positive towards each other.

“If nothing changes, nothing will change, right? Surely it should be bigger than it is and sometimes we celebrate cheapness.

“It’s a real shame that we can’t tie the better players to bigger brands. Bridie is sponsored by Nike in Australia, when he comes here it stops. Every professional player should be committed to a good, solid brand.

“I want everyone to have a boat deal, a sponsorship deal, because of what they do. Hopefully in five years we’ll be in a position where you Nikes and your Pumas want to get involved.

“I don’t ask for deals like Jack Grealish’s. I’m just asking, ‘Can we target that?’”

The Super League’s promotional push ahead of its Thursday 16 February launch will be intensified this week as the promo is set to launch from Sky.

And full-back Brierley, 30, believes it was a step in the right direction.

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