Ryles cock-a-hoop at Storm move

Jason Ryles understands as well as anyone that you need a thick skin to play this game – and no, he’s not talking about the pounding his body takes on the football field for seven months a year.

The 32-year-old fully expected to be playing out the final season of a three-year deal with the Sydney Roosters in 2012 – was even contemplating staying longer – but instead finds himself lining up against his former team-mates for Melbourne this weekend after being told by coach Brian Smith late last year that his services were no longer required.
Yet Ryles holds no grudges. And he isn’t out to prove any point to the coach that basically sacked him.

“I had a meeting with Smithy at the end of the year and read between the lines a little bit… but there are no hard feelings,” he told NRL.com. 

“At the end of the day it was all about keeping the young guys and I totally understand that. It is just a business these days and if you take anything like that to heart you’re probably playing the wrong game. It’s just how it is. They needed to free up some cash for some young guys and obviously to sign the two guys that they’ve already signed for next year (James Maloney and, unofficially, Sonny Bill Williams). 

“Unfortunately I was one of the guys to be moved but it doesn’t bother me. I really enjoyed my time at the Roosters and being coached by Smithy. There are certainly no hard feelings.

“As it turned out, within 24 hours the opportunity to come down here had presented itself. To be honest, if this opportunity hadn’t come up I probably would have retired but things happen in strange ways.”

It hasn’t been the easiest of transitions for Ryles and while he insists he is well settled at his new club now, the timing of the Roosters’ decision to let him go was far from ideal. Already busy confirming final preparations for his wedding to long-time partner Alana last October, he also had to contend with an unexpected move interstate before checking in at pre-season training in November.

“My wife and I are expecting a baby in July as well so it’s all been happening,” he revealed.

“Everything just seemed to happen at once. We knew we were getting married but we didn’t know we were having a baby… or moving clubs – or moving states. 

“I guess we were lucky that we didn’t have any kids or anything holding us down in that regard. I’m at the back-end of my career now so I probably won’t have to make that decision again but Alana has been very understanding about it all and she found work within a week of coming down here, so that kept her occupied and not having to just sit at home.

“So in the end it all worked out okay. As I said, things happen for a reason – even if you don’t know what they are at the time.”

And while Ryles was shocked to learn that he wouldn’t be at Bondi this season, it has at least allowed him to satisfy his curiosity about a club that has long been the envy of the NRL.

“Obviously they’ve had a lot of success over the past six or seven years,” he explained.

“I’ve played in a lot of talented sides where for whatever reason we didn’t have a real good year, but they don’t seem to have that problem down here – they always seem to be there at the end of the season. I was a bit envious of how it all worked and I was interested to find out how it all worked, which was one of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to come down here. 

“Having said that, there have been no massive surprises. I knew they trained hard, I knew they had quality players. So I’m just looking forward to contributing as much as I can, fitting into their systems and learning as much as I can from good players and a good coach.”

Ryles sees other benefits in moving to Melbourne, too.

The veteran of 15 Tests for Australia and eight games for NSW, who forged a reputation as a keen offloader and ferocious charger of the football, has spent almost his entire career playing for high-profile clubs, with nine years at the Dragons and two others with the Roosters. But in Melbourne he can go about his trade without a critical eye being cast over his every move.

“You don’t pick up the paper every day and see everything about footy,” he said. “It’s all AFL and horse racing and that sort of thing, which I’ve found pretty good. You just forget about everything and go to training. There isn’t too much talk about anything else other than what’s going on inside the club. 

“The café lifestyle down here is right up my alley, too. I didn’t see that much in the off-season because we were training but now that the season has started and training has eased off a bit I’m looking all around.”

Now two games into his Melbourne Storm career after missing their opening round win over Canberra through injury, Ryles sees some irony that the final stop of a career that has taken him to four clubs in two different countries may well prove to be his most fruitful.

Reluctant to commit either way when asked if season 2012 will be his last, he instead insists much of it will come down to enjoyment with the prospect of another deep run through the finals his ultimate goal.

“A premiership?” he muses. “That would be nice but there is a long way to go and I’ve been trying to win one for the last 13 years!” he said. “We’ll see what happens. There is a lot of footy to be played between now and Round 26 so the only thing I’m focused on is fitting into their system of play and contributing as much as I can. 

“If the opportunity comes to help the young guys I’ll do that, but first of all I’ve got to concentrate on myself and play the best I can.”