Bryn Hargreaves has delivered a damning assessment of the state of rugby league and admitted the Bulls’ financial meltdown was the primary reason he chose to retire aged just 26.
Hargreaves enjoyed an outstanding 2012 and his performances were recognised by a special award from Mick Potter in the end-of-season honours.
But he was left bitterly disappointed, angry and above all disillusioned by events off the field during a traumatic campaign which saw the Bulls enter administration and huge question marks raised over their Super League future.
When his contract expired at the end of the season, the former Wigan and St Helens prop announced he was hanging up his boots for a career opportunity outside of the game.
He cannot say much about the specifics of his new job as he is currently finalising the position, but it is believed to entail a move overseas.
Hargreaves decided he would quit in July after fearing that the Bulls would be booted out of Super League and he would be left high and dry.
He told the T&A: “Obviously it’s not a decision that I came to lightly. I had some options and was weighing things up before getting the players together and informing them of my decision after the Leeds game at Headingley on July 20.
“I didn’t want my decision to impact upon anyone else or the club, so I said to the lads ‘if you can keep it to yourself I’d appreciate it’.
“Being a rugby league player is not a very sustainable and secure future as it is, but then you see what happened at Bradford and you think ‘wow, the carpet can really be pulled from beneath me here’.
“We’re pieces of meat at the end of the day and we’re not treated with much respect in rugby league as it is.
“There was a meeting scheduled with the administrator and they didn’t even bother to turn up or tell us what was happening. I wouldn’t wish that level of disrespect on my worst enemy.”
Hargreaves said his new career opportunity will provide far greater financial security than being a professional rugby league player ever could.
“We could talk all day about what’s wrong with rugby league and that affected my decision too,” he said.
“It’s a short career and we don’t make vast amounts of money but the segregation of wages in the game is pretty bad and it’s getting worse.
“When clubs go into administration, as has happened at Wakefield, Crusaders and Bradford, it decreases everyone’s value.
“Players are scared and hoping they get something – anything – so clubs are getting them for probably a lot less than they deserve and then spending more on the bigger players.
“It’s a bad time generally, with the economic climate we’re faced with, but rugby league clubs are feeling the financial strain too and it’s affecting players as well.
“When the financial crisis at Bradford became apparent we got told to prepare for the worst; that we might not have a job.
“I started being pro-active, put the feelers out and have managed to find myself an opportunity I can’t afford to turn down.
“Not only financially but also for the fact that it’s something that’s going to sustain me for the rest of my life, whereas rugby league just isn’t.”
Hargreaves queried the licensing process and believes other clubs could follow Wakefield, Crusaders and Bradford in suffering potentially disastrous financial problems.
He said: “There are other clubs in Super League who are struggling massively. If a club’s big-money backer decided to back out at any point, then that club could go.
“The sport is on tenterhooks at the moment and the people in charge of the game need to do something about it.
“I thought this whole licensing process was supposed to stop things like this happening. But it’s happened to three clubs now – Wakefield, Crusaders and Bradford – in such a short space of time and there are other clubs that are on the verge.
“It’s a downward spiral and there is no way of raising the cap to sign players because the clubs don’t have any money.
“The Stobart deal has to be the worst sponsorship deal in history. How can it actually be a sponsor if there’s no actual money for it? It’s obviously not worked and things need to change.”