‘We didn’t get paid and had no rugby balls’ – Former Salford Red Devils forward opens up on turbulent time at club

Stephen Wild has had a long and successful career in Rugby League, playing for Wigan Warriors, Huddersfield Giants, Salford Red Devils and North Wales Crusaders. He played 388 games and scored 89 tries in his 16 years tenure.

Wild was born in Wigan in 1981 and signed for Wigan Warriors, his boyhood club from local amateurs Wigan St Patricks. After progressing through the lower ranks at the club, Wild made his debut for the Warriors in 2001 and made his first representative appearance in 2002 for Lancashire.

When speaking with Serious about Rugby League, we asked him what the favourite time in his career was, Wild explaining: “Probably my favourite time was making my debut for Wigan, growing up as a Wigan fan and as a Wigan boy, back in the era when Wigan was one of the greatest teams in the country, maybe the world, I never thought I would be able to play for them.”

Wild spent four years at Wigan, playing 100 games and scoring 30 tries for the club.

One of Wild’s most challenging times in his career was at Salford Red Devils; Wild joined the Red Devils in 2011, just before the team moved to the AJ Bell stadium in 2012; this was a difficult moment for the club. Salford were struggling financially, and the future looked bleak for the club.

Speaking about his time at Salford and what were the positives he got out of it, Wild explained: “During my time at Salford, everything was pretty much up in the air, and I think it was probably one of the toughest times in my career, and at the same time, I loved it.”

“It was a good group of lads, especially during the last year at the Willows.” This included Aussie signing Luke Patten and Daniel Holdsworth, who also became new captain. “We had a really good go and John, the chairman, put a lot of money into that team, and when we moved to the new stadium, it all just crumbled”, Wild concluded. Despite their best efforts the team finished 11th out of 14 teams in 2012.

The move to AJ Bell Stadium was a turbulent one and the club’s finances were in a mess. So much so, Wild referenced how the club were without balls for pre-season one year, something that in turn made the club more close-knit.

He explained: “Financially we weren’t getting paid but we didn’t have any rugby balls for pre-season and we had to go out to train. We were always on the back foot but it kind of brought us closer together from physios to staff to players. We all kind of stuck together.

“I believe the struggles we had to go through is one of the reasons why Salford is a lot better financially today”.

In 2013, the club was rescued by the Marwan Koukash takeover and on 31 January the club was relaunched as the Salford Red Devils. In all, Wild spent two years at Salford, playing 74 games and scoring four tries at the club.

Wild retired from Rugby League in 2016, finishing his career at North Wales Crusaders; we asked Wild if he would like to return to Rugby League.

Wild said, “I would love to get back into Rugby in some capacity; I’m not sure if I want to go into coaching, but just being around the game would be nice, like a volunteer at a club; this would be something I would look into when I have more free time.”