Richie Myler Interview
“We didn’t even learn French in school!” Richie Myler chuckles when asked how his French lessons are going.
The former Warrington and Salford scrum-half left behind the north-west of England at the end of 2015 for a new chapter in his career living and playing in the south of France with the Catalans Dragons.
The 25-year-old scored 80 tries in 142 appearances during his six seasons with the Wolves and most notably lifted the Challenge Cup in 2012 following a 35-18 win over Leeds at Wembley.
Warrington just missed out on attaining the double that season as Leeds avenged their defeat when the sides met in the Grand Final at Old Trafford; an occasion in which Myler grabbed the first try to give Wire supporters hope of winning their first league title in 57 years.
The half-back was again on the losing side at Old Trafford 12 months later as Wigan beat the Wolves 30-16, but the experiences of playing in the grandeur occasions are what Myler says he cherishes most about his time in the Primrose and Blue.
“I had an amazing time at Warrington,” he reflected.
“I had six great years there. I’ve been fortunate to play in a Challenge Cup final and Grand Finals. We got beat in those two Grand Finals but it was still a great experience.
“I made a lot of good friends there and the club was very good to me. It will be interesting when I go back- hopefully I’ll get a good reception.
“I left on good terms and the club seems to be heading in the right direction as well which is always a good thing.”
After playing an integral role in Salford being promoted to Super League in 2009, the then 19-year-old became the most expensive teenage signing in rugby league history when Warrington parted with £200,000 for his services.
Myler spent his first five years at the Wolves playing alongside Catalans assistant coach Michael Monaghan and he claims the opportunity to work with the Australian again was one of the factors which influenced his decision to move to the south of France.
“I’m good friends with Michael away from rugby,” he explained.
“When the option to come to Catalans came up there was the draw of Monas being here and he told me good stuff. It wasn’t the deciding factor but to work with him again was definitely a reason why I’ve joined here.
“The way the club is heading was a big draw and I’m excited for my time here.”
For someone who has played in England for his whole career, Myler could easily be forgiven for speaking tentatively about the challenges which face him and his family in adapting to an unfamiliar culture.
However, even through a scrambled phone connection you can hear the excitement brimming in his voice when talking about the new chapter of his career.
When it became clear he wouldn’t be playing at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in 2016, Myler and his wife, former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton, began to assess their next move.
The half-back became a father to his son Ernie back in June last year and despite rumoured interest from NRL side Manly he says the family needed a fresh start that wasn’t a million miles from home.
“There were a couple of other options but for myself and my family Catalans was the right choice,” he said.
“We’ve just had the baby and it would probably have been too far to have gone to Australia so across the channel was the right way to go.
“We’ve settled in well. It hasn’t really been much of a culture shock just a change to the way of life. For example on Sundays everything is closed, it’s a family day which is good. Nothing opens at all- if you want to go the supermarket you go on a Saturday.
“It’s a nice place to live and is quite relaxing.”
Myler’s new club Catalans are Super League’s Jekyll and Hyde team. The side have consistently made the top-eight in the past few seasons but dismal displays on their travels have prevented Laurent Frayssinous’ men from challenging for silverware.
The Dragons won just twice away from home last season- a 40-4 drubbing away to bottom of the league Wakefield and a 28-24 dead rubber against Hull FC in the Super 8s.
On the other hand, their home form is immaculate with only Leeds and Huddersfield leaving the Stade Gilbert Brutus with the two points in 2015.
After training in 20 degree heat for the past couple of weeks, Catalans were understandably perturbed by their visit to a freezing, rain-soaked DW Stadium last Friday in their opening game of the season.
Laurent Frayssinous’ side made 12 handling errors in the opening 40 minutes as they slowly adapted to conditions but put in a stronger second-half performance to narrowly lose 12-6 to a Wigan side who remain favourites with bookmakers to lift the Super League title in October.
Whether it is preparation, mentality or failure to adapt to conditions Myler insists the side are determined to overcome their away struggles this year.
“As an away team one of the factors you have to overcome is the travel and that’s always a tough ask,” he said.
“It’s an obvious fall and one we’ve spoken about putting right this year. But on the other hand you have to look at how good the home form was last year. We’re a really consistent team at home and hopefully we can continue that.
“If we can pick up a few more away wins this season then we shouldn’t be too far off the top.”
Myler is one of seven new faces at the Dragons this year and has the difficult task of replacing Scott Dureau following the Australian’s retirement at the end of 2015.
The nucleus of every successful rugby league side is a dynamic and audacious partnership in the halves and Catalans’ supporters will be hoping that Myler and Todd Carney will link-up and be the Dragons’ creative force this season.
Carney too is looking to kick-start his career in the south of France this season after injuries restricted him to making just 12 appearances last campaign and Myler is relishing the opportunity to play alongside the former Cronulla stand-off.
“He’s a very smart player and it’s good to be able to work alongside a player like that.
“Hopefully it brings my game on. He’s a talented player and hopefully we can get the best out of each other this year and be successful.
“There’s a good feeling amongst the team and a good spirit. There is that language barrier and it could have easily been a case of the English-speaking blokes sitting in one corner and the French in another but that’s not the case. You mix, get to know each other and I think that’s helped the team bond.
“We’re aiming for the top 8 and if we’re successful in the top 8 then we’re going to be happy with how we’ve done.”
Myler has lined up on the away side six times at the Stade Gilbert Brutus during his career but will walk out in Catalonian colours for the first time in front of the home fans on Saturday when the Dragons face Hull FC.
The half-back praised the fans for the electric atmosphere they generate and is excited to make his home debut in front of them at the weekend.
“We train at the stadium everyday and some fans come down and watch us train,” he said.
“It’ll be nice to play in front of a big crowd hopefully and to play here with the crowd cheering in my favour for the first time.
“As an away player it’s not always a good experience playing here. The fans can be very vocal but now they’ll be on my side.”
2016 is an exciting year for rugby league in France due to the reintroduction of Toulouse Olympique into the English competition and Challenge Cup.
The side will join League 1 with the intention of promotion to the Championship for next year and the long-term aim of joining Catalans in Super League.
Renewed interest, support and investment in the sport has led to Toulouse’s progress and Myler agrees that passion for rugby league among the locals is evident.
“There’s a massive draw for rugby league in this part of the world,” he says.
“When you meet the fans and you meet the locals in Perpignan you see their passion for the sport and Catalans. People come from far and wide to watch the team.
“If there ends up being another French team in the competition one day it’ll only make the fan base here even stronger.”