Salford hooker Andy Ackers enjoyed his best season to date in 2022, representing his country at the World Cup, and wants to go one better in 2023.
The 29-year-old played a key role for the Red Devils last season, helping them come to within a whisker of the Grand Final as they fell short to champions St Helens in the semis.
And his impressive displays for Salford earned him a call-up to England’s World Cup squad, the first time he has represented his country.
“I have to keep pinching myself,” Ackers told Love Rugby League.
“It’s mad to think I’ve represented my country at a World Cup. I obviously would’ve loved to have won it.
“2022 was my best year yet and hopefully I can replicate that this year. I just want to go one step better this time and reach the Grand Final and hopefully represent my country again.
“Nothing changes for me going into 2023. I’ll just get my head down and train hard as I always have done. That’s what I’ve been brought up on.
“But I want to go one step further now and win something. I think we’ve got the team and calibre of players to do that.
“I don’t see why we can’t do that so I want to win something this year and represent my country again. If I get the call-up again, then I’ll give it 100%. I’ll always give 100%.”
Paul Rowley knows how to get the best out of me
The Golborne-born dummy half has had to work hard for the position he now finds himself in.
Having been released by Wigan and Warrington as a teenager, Ackers combined playing part-time with Swinton with working on a building site.
Ackers has worked harder than most to be in his position as a professional rugby league player, but he has taken Super League by storm since his move to Salford in 2020.
“I’m very grateful for it and I know that I’ve worked very hard to be here,” he said.
“I’m an emotional person. I live most of my life on emotions but I think I’ve grown as a person and as a player in the last two years, and a lot of that has to do with Paul Rowley.
“He is a great coach and a great friend and he knows how to get the best out of me. He fully respects me and I fully respect him and he gives me that freedom to be who I am.”
Andy Ackers “proud” to have played under Shaun Wane
Another coach who has helped bring the best out of Ackers is Shaun Wane, the current England head coach.
“He’s a great bloke and he knows his stuff,” Ackers added.
“He’s the England coach. In my opinion there’s no better position to be in than representing your country in anything you do.
“I get on with him, he’s a great bloke and he’s down to earth. He’s honest with you and as a player that’s what you want from your coaching staff.
“I’m really glad and proud to have worked under him. The proof is in the pudding… He’s won Super Leagues and Challenge Cups and that’s why he’s England coach.”
Ackers will don the number nine jersey for Salford in 2023 – his third consecutive season with the number.