Lee Briers: The former party boy with a bit of devil who cannot wait to lock horns with Rhinos

Pain from 1997 will inspire Briers when he tries to lift the Challenge Cup at Wembley today. He talks to Dave Hadfield

For a player who once looked set to flare and fade like a meteor, Lee Briers has proved to be astonishingly durable. Briers' career at his first club, St Helens, lasted all of six games. With his second, Warrington, he recently celebrated 400.

"I'm a day-to-day sort of person, so I don't think much about longevity," he says. "But I am proud of that 400. There won't be many more do that for one club."

The circumstances of his arrival at the Wolves make his career since all the more remarkable – and are especially poignant at this time of year.

Way back in 1997, Briers was a young reserve at Saints, his hometown club, called into the first team when their captain, Bobbie Goulding, was suspended. He played in every round of the Challenge Cup, including a man-of-the-match performance in the semi-final; come the final, Goulding was back and he was discarded – no Wembley suit, no consolation trip to the final, nothing.

"What happened in '97 still hurts," he admits. There was no going back, no reconciliation for him and his first club after that and Saints swiftly sold him to Warrington.

What they were getting was a half-back of obvious ability, who already had a reputation as something of a loose cannon. "To some people, I'll always be a party boy," he admits. "But that was a long time in the past."

It's not that Briers, now 34, hasn't had his moments at Warrington. He was, after all, not only joining a club which had won nothing for decades, but also one with the biggest reputation in the game for overdoing their social life off the field.

You might have thought he would be a bad match with Tony Smith, whose rigorous coaching regime at the Halliwell Jones has seen them become a trophy-winning side once more.

Smith doesn't want to turn Briers into a saint; he knows that the bit of devil in him is what makes him such a glorious player.

Smith had a neat way of putting it when asked to sum up Briers' career recently. "Lee has done a few things wrong," he said. "He's done a lot more things right."

Much of what Briers has done right relates to the Challenge Cup, which caused him such pain 15 years ago.

Like any player who misses out on the big occasion, he wondered whether he would get another chance. "But you wait for years then three come along at once, like buses," he says.

The first one to pull in at his stop was in 2009, when he helped the Wolves to victory over Huddersfield. The following year he went one better, winning the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match in the thrashing of this year's opponents, Leeds.

He is the short-odds favourite to win it again this year, but he claims not to be motivated by individual awards.

"That sort of thing is for other people to decide," he says. "Its only importance to me is that it shows that you've played well in a good team performance."

Although he has the skill set of a gifted individualist, Briers has become a more and more effective team player as time has gone on.

No wonder he bridles a little at the implied criticism which has surfaced this year, to the effect that Warrington are an ageing team, playing on borrowed time. Someone has had the pocket calculator out and shown that the Wolves have, on average, the oldest side in Super League and the one with the most players over 30.

It is not a situation about which the club seems to be unduly concerned. In the run-up to Wembley, they negotiated new contracts with, among others, Briers, his fellow 34-year-old Brett Hodgson and Adrian Morley, who is a year older.

"As long as you're playing well enough, age is just a number," he says. "We're second in Super League and we're at Wembley, so we can't be doing too badly."

Briers is particularly in awe of the durability of Hodgson, who played for Huddersfield against Warrington in the 2009 final. The two both take more than their share of hard (and sometimes high and late) hits from opponents who know their importance to their team.

"He's 12 stone soaking wet," says Briers of his full-back. "He keeps on getting smashed and he just goes back for more. Brett's just a top-quality competitor."

Significantly, both Briers and Hodgson were wrapped in cotton wool and rested for last weekend's preliminary trip to the capital to play the London Broncos, who beat them by an astonishing 62-16.

Just like 15 years ago, he did not even go to the match and regards the result as a sublime irrelevance.

When it matters this afternoon, however, he is more likely than anyone to bend the occasion to his will.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz