Written by Callum Walker
When Salford needed someone to help the club come through their Million Pound Game to secure Super League status in 2016, they looked to Gareth O’Brien.
An unlikely hero that came through the ranks at Warrington, playmaker O’Brien made his debut in 2011, but spent a lot of time on-loan and eventually moved to Salford ahead of the 2016 season. It was a move which rejuvenated his career.
“With Warrington, I was in and out of the team quite a lot so it was just a case of playing week in and week out going to Salford.
“I switched to fullback and I believe I found my best position there.” he told Everything Rugby League.
Of course, the new number one will forever be remembered for that 40-metre drop-goal in Golden Point for the Red Devils as they faced Hull KR to retain their place in the top-flight. And, O’Brien remembers that 2016 season as being an incredibly difficult one in general.
“That first season was a real tough one and a great mental strain which I have seemed to have a lot of in Rugby League!
“We finished the season high enough to avoid the Middle 8s, but because of a salary cap issue a few years prior, we got handed a six-point deduction.
“We ended up in the Million Pound Game and won that in amazing fashion.”
North America – Toronto to be exact – was the playmaker’s next destination. It was perhaps a surprising move given O’Brien’s ever-increasing pedigree in Super League, but he helped guide the Wolfpack to promotion in 2019 and spoke of his disappointment at the club’s current situation.
“The Toronto move was very exciting; it was the most enjoyable part of my career without a doubt.
“It is an amazing city and looking back, I made some incredible memories and I was looking forward to making more, but it’s heartbreaking what’s happened.
“It’s still not sunk in really.”
With Toronto’s future up in the air throughout the 2020 season, it was up to the players to find other clubs and outlets. Luckily, Castleford came calling for O’Brien and snapped him up on a loan deal until the end of the year. But, that may well become permanent.
“Castleford threw me a lifeline this year and I’m very grateful.
“I’m currently in dialogue with them about the potential of staying there, so we will see what happens in that regard.”