Toby King on shock Warrington Wolves return, decisions being taken out of his hands & wanting to prove himself to the fans

James Gordon
Toby King, Warrington Wolves badge

Toby King in action for Warrington Wolves in 2022 - Alamy

Toby King admits it’s a surprise to be back pulling on a Warrington Wolves shirt as a key player in 2024, but he is determined to prove himself and win back the adoration of the club’s fans.

It seemed that King’s long association with the Wolves was over when he was farmed out on loan to Huddersfield Giants in 2022 following an apparent fall-out with then coach Daryl Powell.

That was a surprise, given Warrington had less than a year before handed him a new, long-term contract to wade off interest from several other Super League clubs.

With Powell undergoing a rebuild and no place for King, a successful season-long loan deal with Wigan followed, where he won a Super League Grand Final winners ring, ending the year by picking up his first England caps.

Toby King opens up on shock Warrington Wolves return with decisions being taken out of his hands this time last year

But despite an apparent desire to stay at Wigan, a change to the salary cap regulations meant it was more than worth Warrington’s while to get King back in their ranks for a new era under new boss Sam Burgess.

That change, announced back in June, enabled clubs to add a third marquee player as long as at least one is federation trained, meaning as a Warrington club product, King would only count for £50,000 of his salary on the cap.

Toby King
Toby King celebrates a try for Wigan Warriors against parent club Warrington Wolves in 2023 – Alamy

King said: “That was probably the factor that made the decision in the end. I just left it to both clubs, I don’t like getting involved in that sort of stuff, I just want to play rugby and what happens on the back of it happens, the business side is for the men in suits!

“I think speaking with Sam, there was more to it than that as well. I think he did want me, and I’m enjoying playing under him.

“It’s been a crazy 18 months. I sometimes pinch myself with what’s just happened. You open the door to leave, it closes and then you come back in. It’s been an incredible learning curve for me.

“Last year, the decision was taken out of my hands, which hurt a bit as I’d been at the club for 10 years, but I’m thankful to Wigan for believing me and giving me the opportunity.

“It’s like in any working life, if the boss says you’re not wanted, it spurs you on, but I understand now it’s different people at the club.

“It’s like being a new signing at a new team. It’s very different in personnel, I think the whole coaching and performance side there’s only one or two faces left.”

King was virtually an ever-present for Wigan last season, scoring 12 tries in 31 appearances, and he started in the Grand Final win over Catalans Dragons at Old Trafford in October.

‘I didn’t think I’d play for Warrington again’, admits King who wants to prove himself to the club’s fans

Handed the number three shirt upon his return to Warrington, he has previously played 138 games for the Wolves since making his debut in 2014.

His form in 2021 had attracted attention from other clubs, and he was particularly close to making a move to Hull KR, only to decide to commit to Warrington following the response from the club’s fans – fans he acknowledges he’s now got to win back around.

Toby King Wigan Warriors Alamy

King added: “I didn’t think I’d play for Warrington again after I’d left, so it was a shock to come back, I probably didn’t expect it.

“But I’m really excited and I’ve got a lot to prove in coming back and proving to the fans I’m worthy of being here.

“Obviously I was going to get a load of boos playing for one of their rivals. Hopefully the fans will be back on my side in a few games when I come in and show how passionate I am to get back to winning ways.

“Before the change in coaching staff, I think it was evident how passionate I was to play for this club, and I probably lost it a bit. It just wasn’t working. A few players were like that. Everyone who left seemed to have good seasons.

“I was proud of Rob Mulhern and Josh Charnley at Leigh. Myself and Mike Cooper had a lot of chats at Wigan, and at one point if you cut him open, he’d bleed primrose and blue.

“It upsets me to see the reception he can get because I know how passionate he is about this town. Of course we understand that fans don’t see everything that goes on behind the scenes, so the best way to prove it now is by playing well and they can see Toby loves the club and is passionate about playing well and wanting to win.”

Chasing Warrington’s elusive first-ever Super League title

Although Warrington did make the play-offs last season, the past two seasons have been a departure from their usual fashion of competing towards the top of the Super League table, where they had previously recorded four consecutive top four finishes.

They enter the 2024 season as fourth favourites with competition sponsors Betfred, as they look to end their nearly 70-year wait for that elusive league title, something that – ironically – King managed to achieve during his time away.

But he insists he hasn’t showed his Grand Final winners ring to his team-mates.

Toby King Wigan Warriors Alamy
Wigan Warriors centre Toby King lifts the Super League trophy – Alamy

“I’m too modest for that! I wouldn’t go bragging. I just keep it in my bedside cabinet. Obviously it was class. But I know how much the lads want that here and if anything, I just want to help them get one now.

“This squad is capable of big things. It’s all white noise now in pre-season, as I’m sure every team you go to says that. But we’ve made some great signings like Zane (Musgrove), Fitz (Lachlan Fitzgibbon) and Rodrick (Tai), plus the ones from last year and we’ve got a lot of good young lads coming through. I’m quite confident in the group, but judge us after the first few rounds.

“A personal goal for myself is to play as many international games as I can. I loved the test series with Tonga, it was a class three weeks in camp, and I know there’s a lot of competition for places, but I want to put a marker down.”

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