RYAN Atkins is reflecting on how he has changed as a man since first joining Warrington Wolves from Wakefield Trinity 10 years ago.

The 33-year-old is also continuing to look forward in his Testimonial campaign as he seeks to complete his on-field bucket list.

> Atkins' greatest moment in a Wire shirt

> How Atkins came close to quitting professional rugby league

“There’s a total difference in me now to then,” said Atkins, who got married to Stevie in Jamaica during the off-season.

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Ryan Atkins at the start of 2010 and 2019. Pictures: Mike Boden

“Just growing up in general has affected me, having a long-term partner who is now my wife, having children and having guidance too.”

Atkins shares personal background to his life growing up in Leeds, where his hometown club Rhinos turned him down as a teenager as not being big enough to make it as a centre in rugby league.

“I’ve not had a dad in my life,” he said.

“I know who my dad is and seen him a couple of dozen times. But my mum’s been my everything - my mum and dad - and I love her to bits.”

> Atkins' huge contribution to The Wire

But another man came into Atkins’ life and had a huge influence on him both as a player and person – The Wire’s former head of coaching and rugby, Tony Smith.

Teammates’ lifestyles have contributed in shaping him too.

“I’ve had the guidance from Tony Smith,” said the father-of-two.

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Ryan Atkins and Tony Smith embrace after winning the Leaue Leaders' Shield at Hull FC in 2016. Picture: Mike Boden

“I’m not saying he was a father-figure, but he was the male in my life who was somebody I looked up to for the first time so that was nice.

“And he helped me develop, as age has helped me to as well.

“I’ve also learned from other players.

“I learned so much from Dave Solomona and Matt King, and you kind of take little snippets from people.

“And that was before I had a family.

“Dave Solomona is the ultimate family man and I could see what he was like.

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David Solomona congratulates Ryan Atkins on a Wire try in 2011. Picture: Mike Boden

“He had all girls and he idolised them and they idolised him. That was something I wanted for myself when I had children – never having a dad, it was something I knew I had to prove that I could be a great dad.

“Different coaches and different mentors have different ways of teaching. I’ve had loads of different people teaching me things as well so you work out what’s best for you as you would in any other job but then I take it away and have it in everyday life.

“I’d say I’ve grown up a hell of a lot.

“Being able to develop relationships is one thing I struggle with, not just the intimate relationship with my wife but friendships.

“So I’ve worked on that and just realising that you can be yourself but you have to have a filter where you don’t express yourself too much.”

Saying too much, or saying it at the wrong time, is something Atkins points to as a reason why has not gained as many international appearances as some may think he has deserved over the years.

“I think my relationship with Steve McNamara sums that up at the time when he was the head coach,” he said.

“We had not so much a fall-out but a bit of a disagreement as to why he hadn’t selected me, or I felt like a bit of a scapegoat from a few games.

“I’m the kind of player and person who voices my opinion. Sometimes voicing my opinion is a good thing, sometimes a bad thing.

“I’ve learnt over the years about timing. I’ve developed when to voice my opinion and when not to.

“I’ve got a bit of a filter now, but there’s also been some great centres around at the same time.

“I think it’s eight caps I have achieved for my country and I’ve played in more games without caps, such as friendlies and games against the Exiles.

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Ryan Atkins representing his country in 2012. Picture: Mike Boden

“To have pulled on an England jersey once would have been more than enough for me, so to achieve like I did with England – and scoring a hat-trick on my debut – is pleasing.

“My agent always goes on about that hat-trick debut for England – it was when there was Great Britain, so it was England A against Samoa.

“I scored a hat-trick, but he says ‘Yes, but you let four in.’

“I tell him ‘Yeah, but we don’t have to tell people that.’

“It’s an ongoing joke between us. He exaggerates, I’m sure I scored more than I let in.”

Atkins says he will be able to look back fondly on his achievements in the sport.

As well as cup triumphs, he has his England caps, Dream Team appearances, player of the year awards as well as club records.

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Ryan Atkins in the 2012 Dream Team with clubmates Ben Westwood and Chris Hill. Picture: Mike Boden

He goes into 2019 as the most prolific try-scoring centre in Warrington’s history, while he has also scored more tries at the 15-year-old Halliwell Jones Stadium than any other player.

But he is hungry for more in the twilight of his career.

“To achieve those, it’s been great and it’s something when I’m old and retired and sat in a pub somewhere watching The Wire on television I can say I was ok as a player and achieved things at Warrington,” he said.

“It’s going to be nice, but it’s just that one Grand Final win that eludes me and a couple of other players who have been here for a long time now.

“It’s amazing that we’ve won the Challenge Cup twice since I’ve been here, though losing it twice and losing the Grand Final three times.

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“And winning the League Leaders’ Shield twice is great too. But because I’ve done that, I need to get the Grand Final win.

“There’s a lot of hunger in the squad now. I’m not saying there wasn’t in the past, but it’s gone up another level.

“I think fans expect it of us and now the players are expecting it of themselves as well.

“The culture and everything has changed again. Steve Price and his coaches have laid the law down and we expect it of ourselves.

“We’ve pushed ourselves even more in training and we’ve been taken out of our comfort zone a hell of a lot more than we have done in previous seasons and it’s all for that end goal of winning the Grand Final.

“That’s what I want before I leave this great club.”

Warrington Guardian:

How Ryan Atkins has changed from 2009 to 2019. Pictures: Mike Boden