Gareth O’Brien hopes Toronto Wolfpack’s forgotten players can secure new Super League futures after revealing the extent of their 2020 ordeal.
Full-back O’Brien is one of a cluster of players who joined other clubs ahead of the transfer deadline and is now set to stay with Castleford next year. But over a dozen players remain without a club and have not been paid for almost six months after the financial implosion at the Wolfpack.
The decision by Super League clubs not to accept a takeover by Carlo LiVolsi on Monday means those payments will not now be met – although the players are considering legal action to recoup the money, through their players union.
O’Brien says it has been a nightmare for all involved – and has urged rival clubs to offer those players a route back into the game after suffering a hellish year through no fault of their own. He said: “I’ve been one of the lucky ones but some of these guys haven’t had a wage in six months.
“We had all been clinging to a hope that the new owner would be accepted and the wages would be paid. I was heartbroken on Monday – I broke down and not because of myself, I’ve been lucky enough to get something sorted.
“But my mates have gone so long without money and some have no clubs to go to. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have half a year without anything coming in.
“I know some boys found jobs to keep themselves ticking over, but I don’t know if they’ve had to take out loans or use credit cards to stay afloat.
“I’m checking in with them all on a daily basis, because there’s a lot spoken about mental health and men needing to talk more, and what they’ve gone through is horrendous. I hope clubs looking for new players for next season look to these guys first.”
O’Brien’s plea could be boosted by Super League’s decision yesterday to run with 12 clubs next season, with whichever team is promoted set to bolster their squad.
He says that current Toronto owner David Argyle must shoulder the majority of the blame for what’s unfolded after pledging to honour payments – but believes rugby league will now miss a massive opportunity.
O’Brien added: “If the sport was going to get into another market then this was it, this was the chance.
“I can’t put into words how good it was playing over there in front of big crowds and we were all excited about what we could achieve this year. But it does feel as though some in Super League were against us from the start.”