Incoming Halifax back rower Paul Brearley says the club can partially credit their Grand Final winning coach Matt Calland for his presence at the Shay in 2020.
Brearley, a close-season recruit from Championship rivals Batley, praises Calland - who guided Fax to back-to-back Grand Finals in 2009 and 2010, winning the latter - as ‘a mentor, who I owe a lot in terms of rugby league’.
Now 27, Brearley’s association with Calland, who is now in charge at League 1 Rochdale, goes back almost a decade, to student rugby league at Hopwood Hall College.
The teenager also spent two seasons with Super League side Warrington before, by his own admission, ‘falling out’ with the sport and abandoning his ambitions of a professional career in favour of moving into the family’s construction business.
“Matt coached me through college and I did two years with Warrington in their under 19s and under 20s,” said Brearley, who made a big impact for Matt Diskin’s Bulldogs last season, despite his rookie status.
“I was only 18 when I left Warrington; I’d fallen out with the game a little bit and I just got stuck into full-time working life.
“But I went back to Rochdale Mayfield, where I’d played my juniors from under 14s, and Matt was coaching the National Conference side, so the training was always good.
“He’s been there all the way through my career really and he’s had a big influence on me.
“He’d always pushed me to have another go at the professional game and last year, when I was 26, I decided it was now or never so he made some calls and arranged for me to go to Batley on trial.
“I ended up signing there and when Halifax approached me about next year I spoke to him quite a bit about it and he was 100 per cent positive about me making the move over here.”
At 6’ 7”, Brearley’s size is his most obvious asset, but there is a lot more to his game than an imposing physique, with his ball skills - which have already caught the eye of Fax boss Simon Grix in training - the legacy of extensive experience in the halves.
“People always said ‘Oh, he’s too tall to be a half back’, but I played there for Warrington, then a lot of stand off for Mayfield and England Lions,” said Brearley, who partnered Siddal’s Shaun Garrod at the scrumbase on the Community Lions tour to Fiji in 2016.
“I just want to play, so I’ll go wherever Simon wants me to, but last year it was probably a 50/50 split between loose forward and back row.
“I like the involvement of being in the middle, but I’m also happy on an edge, running good lines off a half back and trying to use some skills.
“This year was a big step up for me and I want to take another step forward next season.
“Training’s going well, I’ve settled in well and I can’t wait to get started now.”