Dream XIII: Richie Mathers

Former Super League star Richie Mathers has picked his dream team from players who he played with during his career for Love Rugby League.

Mathers, 34, had a stellar career, making his name at Leeds Rhinos before going on to play for Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers, Wakefield Trinity, London Broncos and Bradford Bulls.

He even played one season in the NRL for Gold Coast Titans and gained international honours with England in 2005. He retired in 2016 and now is part of Warrington Wolves’ commercial team.

And he has named his all-time Dream XIII from players who he has played with for loverugbyleague.com…


RM: “I was thinking about my selections for this team and it is so difficult because I could probably pick three or four players for each position. I have played with some great players but my choice at full-back would have to be Gary Connolly. I was his understudy for a couple of years at Leeds and I eventually took over the reign from him. He was everything you would want a teammate to be, he was at the back end of his career but he was a fantastic talent. He was as tough as they come and taught me lots about the game in general and spent a lot of time with me which he didn’t have to. He loved a pint and was an old school player but he was a great player and a genuine friend to this day. He is a legend of the game.”


RM: “He is another guy who I played a couple of years with at Leeds. He was as tough as anything and could finish a try. He transformed our back three at Leeds because me, Marcus and Mark Calderwood all had different strengths. He used to say to me in his Papua New Guinean accent ‘You don’t take the first carry, I take the first carry!’ and he would do the hard yards. Players used to hate tackling him. He wasn’t the best trainer, I remember doing a hill session and Tony Smith was trying to make him do some more but he was sat at the bottom of the hill against a tree and said ‘Tony, I kill you!’ as he wanted to get Tony to leave him alone but he was funny and a great bloke.”


RM: “He was our superstar signing for Gold Coast and that was before marquee signings came in. He was our Hollywood signing, definitely. He joined the Gold Coast from the Waratahs in Rugby Union and turned up like a rockstar. He was a lovely bloke though and was an unbelievable athlete. He didn’t have an ounce of fat on him and was incredibly balanced. He loved a beer but trained equally as hard as well and is a legend on and off the field.”


RM: “He was unplayable on his day and a sheer monster. He used to terrorise his opposite numbers because he was a massive man. He was strong anywhere on the field and he was intimidating. He blew teams away on some occasions and it was an absolute privilege to play with Keith.”


RM: “He epitomises what a great teammate should be. I had three great years with Benny and I had loads of battles playing against him. We always seemed to rub each other up the wrong way but I never knew him and he never knew me but we really bonded when we joined Wakey together. We had a great back three there in myself, Benny and Peter Fox. They weren’t the superstar names but we worked unbelievably hard for each other and knew each other’s strengths. Benny was a tough player and a really good team player. You wouldn’t want anyone else but Benny in the trenches with you. He would be one of the first names on the teamsheet.”


RM: “It was so difficult to pick the half-backs because I played with so many good ones! My stand-off would be Lee Briers. I got to know him when I was 13 and originally signed for Warrington and he had just left Saints. I hit it off with Briersy straight away and he is still a really good mate today. He used to see things two or three plays before anyone else. He was probably the worst trainer I have ever played with! But as soon as you walked out with him on gameday, you knew that he could turn it on and he won three Challenge Cups and deserved to be on the big stage. He was a special talent.”


RM: “Stand-offs and scrum-halfs are very similar these days so I’ve put him in at seven. I played all the way through Leeds Schoolboys, Yorkshire, England Academy and at Leeds’ first-team with him. He is Super League’s all-time leading try-scorer and some of them tries were just unbelievable. As young lads, we used to look at the likes of Garry Schofield for his poaching ability and kids these days should be looking at Danny’s poaching ability. He could score from anywhere and if you needed someone to step up, then he would be your man.”


RM: “He was our captain at Warrington and one of my heroes growing up. He was a hard man and would do all of the dirty work for us. He would come up with all of the big plays in defence and was an intimidating player on the pitch. He didn’t say much but he led by example with his actions and the opposition were fearful whenever Adrian was on the pitch. He always had your back.”


RM: “He could have played six, seven or 13 but I am going to put him at hooker because on paper, I’m picking my best team to take on anyone else. Kevin Sinfield would be my nine because he epitomises what every modern-day Rugby League player should be like. He was the best professional I have ever played with by far. He was our leader at Leeds and was unbelievable. He was a brilliant goal-kicker as well.

“Kev would be my captain. The team is full of leaders but I have picked Kev for two reasons. He is a really great leader and was my longest serving captain. He fits the side perfectly as well because he is level-headed and able to deliver a game-plan on the biggest stage.”


RM: “There is only one number 10 I could have and that is big Barrie McDermott! I am pretty confident that my pack would strike through most, with Moz at eight and Baz at 10. Baz was one of a kind and I don’t think there’ll be many more like him ever again. There are not many more with his aggression in the game and he just wanted to go out on the field and do damage for his teammates. He was just an animal and you knew he had your back, no matter what.”


RM: “He played his latter years as a prop but could have easily played in the second-row. I didn’t play for too long with JP but he changed the dynamic of our dressing room and came as an absolute warrior. He was a stubborn man but in the right way, he stood up for the group and was an inspiration to all of us. He made you feel 10ft tall and demanded the best out of you which made me want to gain his respect by training as hard as possible. He is another legend of the game.”


RM: “He is the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde person! He is the nicest, humble, well-mannered and softly spoken guy you have ever met but on the training field or in a game, he would turn into an absolute animal. He played the game so hard but fair. He was a great player and used to smash people in training and games. He was a massive bloke and was as tough as teeth but had skills like a centre.”


RM: “He was special and we are taking world class quality. He was a really big six so that is why I have put him in at 13. He could whack in defence, had great ball skills and was an all-round great bloke who was just a brilliant player. He was probably one of the last superstar signings for Super League in my opinion. He loved a beer and a good time – he was the full package! He was a housewife’s favourite because he was a big good-looking bloke and was funny. A real special player.”

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