Richard Mathers has made his loan move to the Wildcats permanent by signing from Castleford Tigers on a two-year contract.
The full-back joined on-loan from Castleford Tigers at the beginning of 2012 and after joining the new era at the club he has gone on to make 27 appearances in Super League and was rewarded with the vice-captaincy in June after impressing both on and off the field.
Mathers impressive performances are backed up by his 2012 statistics where he sat second in the Wildcats charts for being directly involved in either scoring or assisting tries with 17 (eight tries, nine assists). Only Tim Smith, who had 34 assists, is above the full-back to mark an impressive debut season in the red, white and blue.
The former Leeds man also scored a try against his old team in the play-off defeat at Leeds and he is ecstatic to have committed his future to the Wildcats.
“The feeling I have is one of a big relief,” he said.
“I have been thankful throughout to Wakefield and it was never in question I wanted to stay because I enjoyed it so much last year. To get a two-year deal and represent the club while hopefully playing a big part is something that I really am delighted about.
“I think it (staying) was a number of reasons. From day one the club, the fans and everybody associated with the club welcomed me with open arms. It could have been potentially tricky with me moving from the big rivals but everyone made it really seamless.
“I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a season as much. We evolved as a team as we found our way towards the back half of the season and it was a great journey. Right from day one I got a good sense of the place and we really have a great bunch of players here and I really enjoy being coached by Rich and his staff. I have sat down a couple of times with James and Andrew and the vision they have for the club is really encouraging.”
Mathers, who has tasted World Club Challenge, Super League and Challenge Cup success during his career, missed just the Easter Monday defeat to Wigan Warriors in Super League XVII and says the second half of the campaign showed the potential the side have.
“I have enjoyed it and I have only missed one game while feeling pretty good all year. Injury wise you carry your bumps and bruises but I kept involved and it enabled me to define my role in the team because we were all working that out for the first 10 rounds with us all being new.
“When we all became a settled side that helped along with Rich really helping my game. He helped me enjoy my game and made me enjoy parts of the game that we were going to play and once we got used to each other and played in the style that worked for us then we had lots of fun out there.”
When signing the full-back on loan, Richard Agar said Mathers would assume the role of a senior player within the group and his influence on and off the field saw him named vice-captain to Danny Kirmond midway through the season.
“It was a massive honour and one that I didn’t take lightly because it’s a big responsibility to assist Danny Kirmond and Rich and the group as a whole,” he said.
“I really enjoyed the responsibility that was on me and it was a big honour at such a traditional club like Wakefield. I thought Danny did a fantastic job in leading the side and it was underlined and capped off the feelings of how much I enjoyed last season. It was something I held dear to my heart and I was immensely proud for myself and my family.”
Mathers is the latest recruit for 2013 following on from formed State of Origin prop Justin Poore, Paul Sykes and Reece Lyne all joining the Wildcats cause.
With the majority of the squad still together for next season and a sprinkling of quality new additions to add to the mix, Mathers says the Wildcats are much better placed for pre-season than this time a year ago.
“I think we have that continuity because there will not be too much chopping and changing. We started pre-season with 17 new players and by the time we finished the season we had 20 new players throughout the season and that is just unbelievable.
“It has probably gone unnoticed that the achievement in making the top eight with that fantastic run to say how we started the season new together, including the coaching staff.
“I’m looking forward to pre-season training and it’s an integral part to prepare for the season. A lot of us missed chunks of last pre-season for one reason or another so to get everybody on board on our first day back will go along way as well.”
It wasn’t just on the field where the Wildcats made great strides last season, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the squad, with Mathers quick to praise the club and in particular the fans who helped generate a buzz around the Rapid Solicitors Stadium with a 25% increase on crowds.
“I think it (the crowd increase) goes hand in hand with performances on the field and a steady ship off it. Some of the games and the away support was up massively too. I cannot say enough about the fans and how great they were to the team and me personally.
“It really was a pleasure playing in front of them and just to get the support every other week as well as the away games when we went on our run and everybody could see we were evolving as a team and putting in performances in.
“One thing you can say about our team is we never gave in and we didn’t get too many hidings all year. Sometimes a bit of class shone through but the fans appreciated that. With the home attendances up that much there is a real feel good factor around the place and that starts from the people in the offices and it works its way down to prove it’s a good place to be at the minute.”
Mathers is the latest man to sign up for 2013 but have you committed to the Wildcats cause yet? There’s just over a week to go off the early bird Gold Membership prices which are at an incredible £125 for adults, £25 for juniors, £50 for young adults aged 16-21 and £85 for concessions.
Your membership not only guarantees your spot at every Super League home game in 2013, but is incredible value for money with a whole host of savings that you can find out about HERE.
Buy your Gold Membership by visiting our Ridings Centre Store, the Rapid Solicitors Stadium Box Office, call 01924 201548/211611 or beat the queues and buy online.
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