'Here I am still plodding along' - Legend Paul Sykes enters into his 26th league season as a professional, and he's still enjoying it!

Enjoyment. Noun. The pleasure that you get from something, as stated by the Oxford English Dictionary. As in, “the enjoyment of playing rugby league.”
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Even at the age of 42, Dewsbury Rams’ Paul Sykes is still enjoying playing the sport.

“If I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, I probably would have retired a while ago,” admits the experienced stand-off who, staggeringly, is entering his 26th season as a professional rugby league player.

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Looking back, would he have expected to be playing now when first started out as a sprightly teenager for Bradford Bulls in 1999?

Paul Sykes in action for Dewsbury Rams. Photo credit Thomas Fynn.Paul Sykes in action for Dewsbury Rams. Photo credit Thomas Fynn.
Paul Sykes in action for Dewsbury Rams. Photo credit Thomas Fynn.

“Not at all,” he responds. “To be fair, when I came to Dewsbury eight years ago, I said I was just going to do one year and then call it a day. Here I am still plodding along.

“I think it is just the enjoyment of the game. I still enjoy it, I still enjoy having a craic with the lads. When I start not to enjoy it, that’s when I’ll probably hang my boots up.”

His enjoyment was boosted by last year’s League 1 success as the Rams gained an instant return to the Championship following their relegation in 2022.

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And Sykes believes the squad for 2024 is good enough to maintain their status in the second tier.

He says: “We had a good time last year winning nearly every game. It will probably be a different story this year. We will probably be tipped to go straight back down but we have got a good squad.

“It’s not the biggest of squads but we have got a good set of young lads. If we can start well and get a few wins then hopefully we can gather a bit of momentum. If we stick together, don’t get too many injuries, keep everybody fit and if we can compete every week then we should be alright.

“We have got Bailey (O’Connor) who is a really good player and some good old heads like Garse (Matt Garside) mixed in with some good young lads. Bailey especially has come on leaps and bounds since last year. He will probably be one to look out for this year.”

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Sykes will be coming up against three of his former sides in 2024, including title favourites Wakefield Trinity who were relegated from Super League. It could have been four of his ex-employers but London Broncos moved to the top table at Wakefield’s expense.

He says: “London deserved to go up. They didn’t start well but they finished well and that is what it is all about. It will be good to play against Wakefield this year, going back to the old ground there. That will be a good experience again.

“And with the money they have spent and the quality of players they have got they will be right up there come the end of the year. They will be the team to knock off. It’s not going to be easy for them but they have got a good squad on paper.

“The Championship is so strong now. There are some quality players in the league and it will be a good test for ourselves.”

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And despite his age, Sykes revealed he will be “chomping at the bit” to be playing for the Rams every single week.

“I am available every week,” he confirmed. “I am at the age where I treat every game as if it was my last one. I always want to play every week. That is what I have always done throughout my career.”

But will he still be enjoying playing rugby after this season?

Sykes says: “I will make a decision after the last game of the year! I don’t look that far in front! I just focus on the weeks ahead. We will see, come September, October.”