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 very best come and go yet still be able to walk around unrecognised because of rugby league’s profile.
He has also seen how women’s football has caught up and possibly overtaken the 13-a-side code through his role as a player agent.
Now as media giant IMG ‘re-imagines’ the sport, with boosting the profile of players high on its priority list, he feels now is the time to think big and act big.
He said: “I look at the sacrifice players make and we can’t get them a pair of boots. It’s just mad!
“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 with women’s football, I see the brand deals my players are getting – 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’d argue it is, if not bigger.
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“It would be a cop-out to say the Euros win has accelerated that, it was on its way before. I see the 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, yet he could walk around the Trafford Centre and no-one would recognise him.
“It hurts but we’ve had a standstill if I’m honest. This is the year we need to start progressing and moving forward as a sport.”
Last year’s World Cup showed rugby league the way it can become bigger in the national sporting landscape – and IMG have that at the heart of their plans.
But Brierley believes as much responsibility lies on the players’ shoulders as the Rugby Football League’s.
He added: “When I speak to the likes of Nike and Adidas, I always throw in that I’m still playing and their feedback is, ‘You need to be more active as players in being more positive around each other and the sport on social media.’
“Big the sport up. When it’s a rugby league post on social media, it’s very banter-driven and players start hammering each other – in football, they don’t, they‘re really positive about each other.
“If nothing changes, nothing will change, will it? Surely it should be bigger than it is and sometimes we celebrate cheapness.
“It’s a real shame we can’t attach the better players to bigger brands. Bridie is sponsored by Nike in Australia, when he comes here that stops. Any professional player should be attached to a good, solid brand.
“I want everyone to have a boot deal, a sponsorship deal because of what they do. Hopefully we’re in a position in five years’ time where you Nikes and your Pumas want to get involved.
“I’m not asking for deals like Jack Grealish’s. I’m just asking, ‘Can we aim for that?’”
Super League’s promotional push before it starts on Thursday, February 16 will step up this week as Sky’s promo is set to be launched.
And full back Brierley, 30, believes that was a step in the right direction.
He told SunSport: “After being to a couple, that was the best I’d been to in terms of production.
“They had a robotic arm doing the shots, they had a player from each side on a runway with a drone and fireworks going off, it was really good.
“As players, we’re very quick to criticise the game at times – that was a real positive. Ultimately, they’re trying to make the game bigger.”