Castleford Tigers recruit Danny Richardson keen to make up for “wasted year” with St Helens
AS a half-back, when Garry Schofield is singing your praises, you know you must be doing plenty right.
Admittedly, the outspoken rugby league legend often holds controversial views about the sport and espouses opinions that can easily rub people up the wrong way.
However, as one of the best stand-offs in the last 30 years or so, when he speaks about the art of play-making, it pays to listen.
Just a year ago, Schofield was rejoicing in the play of a young scrum-half at St Helens called Danny Richardson, imploring Wayne Bennett to select the then 21-year-old for England given his exciting, creative talent.
He helped Saints to the League Leaders’ Shield, was named in the Dream Team and the world was his oyster; a proper No 7 even being likened to the great Sean Long.
But a year is a long time in sport; Saints head coach Justin Holbrook largely opted against utilising Richardson’s craft in 2019, preferring, instead, to pitch Frenchman Theo Fages alongside England’s Jonny Lomax.
In fairness, you cannot argue with the Australian’s decision; Saints went on to retain the League Leaders’ Shield by a record 16 points, reached Wembley and won the Grand Final.
Still, all of this means Richardson is keen to make up for lost time which should be brilliant news for Castleford Tigers, who recently bought him on a three-year deal with every intention of forming their side around him and another gifted young English half-back, Jake Trueman.
Richardson has been in situ at the West Yorkshire club for a few weeks and is relishing the chance to kick-start his burgeoning career.
“I played every single game in 2018 and, in my mind, I wanted to kick on and really improve (at Saints),” he said.
“I came back after pre-season and, for whatever reason, I wasn’t involved in the team.
“Last year was a bit of a waste of a year for myself; I didn’t play many games and I don’t feel like I got much out of it.
“But I will always take the positives. It has made me grow up a bit and realise who I really am. It is only going to help my going forward.
“When the opportunity came to come here and play every week and to really improve as a player and play under Daryl (Powell), I jumped at the chance.”
Certainly, Powell, a contemporary of Schofield’s and himself a former Great Britain stand-off, should be just the right influence to bring the best out of Richardson.
Moreover, assistants Ryan Sheridan and Danny Orr are also erstwhile Lions No 7s so the new signing will not be short of guidance in how to dictate play.
His prospective partnership with Trueman, the 20-year-old who played for England Nines in Sydney in October and who was an unused Lions tourist on their tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, is clearly an intriguing one.
“We are both young lads and both love playing the game,” said goal-kicker Richardson, who has been recruited essentially to replace England’s 2017 World Cup final scrum-half Luke Gale following his move to Leeds Rhinos.
“We get on really well, we are good mates. Hopefully, we can be here for the next few years and kick on and lead Cas to some silverware.
“I have really enjoyed pre-season. From day one, the boys and all the coaching staff have made me feel really welcome. I am enjoying coming to training and working hard.”
Inevitably, the talk is that, if things go well in Castleford colours, Trueman and Richardson could make a push to be the half-backs for England when the Australians visit for an Ashes tour next year.