The third and final part of Steven Downes’ interview with Paul Sykes, ahead of Sunday’s testimonial match against Bradford Bulls.
Since arriving at the Rams ahead of the 2016 season, Sykes has helped lead the team’s attack, while chipping in with some vital tries and goals along the way.
“We lost a few games on the trot last season, which was hard to get out of mentally, because you keep thinking when is the next win going to come,” Sykes reflected.
“Glenn left the club and then Neil came in and we started to win a few games, and by the end of the season we were playing some great rugby.
“Neil has been at the club before, and he’s been there and done it, and that is why the fans really like him too.
“I think he wanted to stamp his authority when he first came in and it took a few weeks for the players to come around to his way of thinking, but then we went on a good run.”
Looking ahead to 2018, Sykes is eager for Rams get off to a good start.
“We need to start off well this year,” he said.
“We didn’t do that last time and that made the season difficult for us.
“If you have a good start you can get some momentum going and that makes things easier going forward.
“We’ll be taking the games in blocks and looking at them all on an individual basis. I think that is the best way ahead and I’m sure that’s how Neil sees it too.
“There is no point getting yourself too far ahead, because then you lose focus on what is straight in front of you.”
When asked about his future, Sykes insisted that his focus remains on playing, but said he’d also consider coaching when he finally decides to hang up his boots.
“While ever I feel like my body can keep up with the younger players and the pace of the game, I will keep playing. I love the sport and it’s all I ever wanted to do.
“Beyond my playing days, I would like to start doing a bit of coaching, but we’ll have to see where that goes.
“I do have my coaching badge and have thought about it over the last few seasons, but at the moment I still feel I can be a valuable player on the pitch.”
And with just two days to go, Sykes admitted that he’ll relish the occasion of Sunday’s testimonial.
“It is going to be exciting and it will be a proud day for me walking out onto the pitch, thinking about everything I have achieved in the sport.
“I have been playing a while now so I’ve seen it all.
“It is great that I am getting to play for my hometown club against my first ever professional club – that adds something to it for me.
“I am grateful to Bradford for them playing this fixture.
“But this is also our last warm up game,” Sykes added, “and the last chance for us to show what we can do in pre-season before the real stuff starts.
“I expect all the players on both sides will be giving their all and treating it as a competitive fixture.
“We want to hit the ground running this season, and I think Bradford have got a point to prove after their relegation last year.
“It will be great to see as many people down at the stadium as possible and I believe the game will be a good game to watch for both sets of supporters.”