“It’s such a great city and I think that rugby league is so strong all through Yorkshire but York is perhaps the area that’s missing a Super League team.”
After the announcement of the Knights’ signing of Leeds Rhinos forward Adam Cuthbertson for 2021, the two-time Super League Grand Final winner heralded the potential of rugby league within the city of York. “The population in the city of York and the fact it’s a city means it has so much potential to become a successful organization within Super League, he explained.
Prior to signing for the Knights, the forward had been linked with other clubs but indicated that the chance to be a part of something big was a draw for him. “It’s been a bit of a journey in the last few years for York to find themselves in the Championship and play some good footy there and, now, I think there is a ton of potential in the club, organization and city.
“I think that’s it’s got plenty of room to grow and I’d love to be part of that.”
The signing of a player who is competing this season for a Super League Play-Off spot with Leeds Rhinos is something of a coup and Cuthbertson himself explained how he came to the realization that he wanted to continue playing before paying tribute to the words and efforts of Knights chairman Jon Flatman and head coach James Ford in enticing him to join the club.
“Just before lockdown, I made the conscious decision that I loved playing so much, the competitive side of it, and I really wanted to continue playing if I could, but by no means did I want to just sign another contract for the sake of it,” he outlined.
“I wanted to sign a contract where I knew I could go compete and help build something at a club, whether in Super League or in the Championship.
“I had a good couple of conversations with Jon and Fordy about what they’re aiming to achieve next year and it’s very exciting,” he explained.
“I’ve spoken to a few different clubs [about next season] but the way Jon presented the option to me was very attractive; a great city, great facilities and I could just see everything starting to move on the up for the club and I just thought ‘what a great opportunity,” the 2015 Super League Dream Teamer added.
On Ford, Cuthbertson spoke of the pair’s initial meeting. “I didn’t have any expectations but when I came out I thought that he’s just genuine about rugby league,” he acknowledged.
“To get to know the fella, to have a chat and pick his brains about the direction he wants to take the team was brilliant,” Cuthbertson continued. Noting his awareness that other people hold Ford in high esteem, he further commented: “I think he’s a very intelligent, switched on coach.
“After finishing the meeting with him, I just thought ‘wow!’ It’s rare that you come across people who see rugby league for what it is and are passionate about the game and like a specific style,” Cuthbertson remarked. “I was very impressed by that side of him.”
The 2015 Challenge Cup Final winner is the latest part of a strong recruitment and retention drive from the Knights ahead of 2021, a year that will see the team enter our new home. Of the LNER Community Stadium, Cuthbertson was quick to point out that the whole area is geared up for more than just a rugby league match.
“Where the stadium is situated in that sort of community hub, I think that’s brilliant,” he explained. “What’s great about it is that is in the area where it can be more than just a gameday.
“People can come out and go to the movies, go bowling or shopping, then watch a great game of rugby league after. I think it’s a brilliant setup.”
On the pitch, the addition of Cuthbertson promises to bring a lot to the Knights squad. A man who was a key part of Leeds Rhinos’ 2015 treble-winning team in his first season in the UK after making over a hundred NRL appearances, the 35-year-old brings a wealth of top-end experience from being within a winning culture. “I suppose that’s a bonus,” he stated. “I’ve been quite fortunate in my career to be a part of some great clubs, whether that be in the NRL or Super League, and I’ve managed to lift some trophies.
“I think to come in and help on that front is something I’m really looking forward to,” he noted. “Every one of these teams that I’ve played in has been built around a really great culture and I’m sure, from listening to Fordy, that’s there’s already a great culture here and it’s a case of now working on it to go win more games and, potentially, lift some trophies,” Cuthbertson outlined.
On the pitch, Knights fans can expect to see a man who is really keen to make an impact from day one. “I just like to compete. Anyone who has watched me in the past probably thinks I’m a bit erratic but it’s just that I love the purity of the game and playing what I see,” he reasoned. “I really like to compete and challenge myself and my own teammates so I think, hopefully, they will see someone who goes out there and gives it their all.”
Discussing his move to the Knights, Cuthbertson noted his real love for the city of York. “I have a friend that used to work for a record studio in York,” he explained, “so I used to pop in and visit on weekends and take the family over for day trips.
“I love the history behind York. Growing up in Australia, one of the things that fascinated me was the sense of history in the UK.”
Despite that, however, it isn’t The Minster, Clifford’s Tower or any of the other historical settings within the city that Cuthbertson deems his number one.
“One of my favourite places is York Marina,” he shared. “We find ourselves out there quite a bit. It’s quite similar to something you’d find back home with the outlook over the yachts with the countryside and such.”
While the setting my be reminiscent of Australia, you’d have to speculate that the weather isn’t and, as Cuthbertson explained, his pet dog – after six years in the country – still hasn’t forgiven him. Of Bambi the Bulldog, he said: “She’s eight now, going on nine. She’s a funny dog, bulldogs are really lazy creatures. They don’t care for walking much, they just want sleep!
“Unfortunately, she dislikes wet weather so I feel she resents me for bringing her over here!”
One other endeavor away from the game which he is currently working on is a Masters in Sports Directorship.
“I’m doing it at the University of Salford,” he said. “It’s been outstanding, a really eye-opening course, just to see how things operate behind the scenes within sports clubs. I’m learning a lot, especially because a lot of the students on the course with me are either ex-football players or work at football clubs so I’m having to learn a lot about football,” Cuthbertson added.
Other than learning about a new sport, he outlined how he is relishing the test of the course. “Every time I step in class I’m taking away so much more about how to better myself and, potentially, step into a role like that going forward,” he shared.
“I’m absolutely loving it, though. For me, it’s not just about trying to find one specific role at a club post-rugby. The reason I took the course up was to learn different angles of sports organisations and to learn how they operate and run so eventually, one day, I can get back into the game and help it grow.”
As one of the players to have returned to play while our season was cancelled, Cuthbertson acknowledged that the nature of the game has changed, not only in the shape of the new rules – which mean the matches have “got a bit more tempo” – but by missing a crucial ingredient: the fans.
“There’s one big difference between Super League and the NRL and that’s how vocal and tribal the crowds are and how they generate a brilliant atmosphere for the games,” he explained.
“Off the back of Covid-19, we’ve had to adapt – not just the fans watching at home but the players on the pitch as well who suddenly don’t have the eighteenth man cheering us on. We’ve had to find that sort of lift within ourselves,” Cuthbertson further added.
After spending six years with Leeds Rhinos and experiencing their vocal support, the prop was suitably impressed by the show of faith from the Knights’ fans when he was informed that in excess of 93% of our members elected to become Knights Patrons in donating their money back to the club.
“Support is everything,” he started. “When they get behind you, they can really lift the intensity of a team so it means everything. As players we are very blessed to have the rugby league communities getting behind the team.
“It’s a real family game and we do really cherish hearing stories like that, stories about fans giving their money back to the clubs, especially when they’re going through hard times themselves,” Cuthbertson continued.
“To go through all that and still be willing to put their hands in their back pockets and give up their money to help keep the club alive and running and, hopefully, help us kick off next season on the front foot is absolutely outstanding and we appreciate it so much.”