Exclusive: Hull FC legend Gareth Ellis ready to take new path after admitting ‘passion just isn’t there’ for coaching

Aaron Bower
Gareth Ellis Hull FC Alamy

Gareth Ellis admits he is unsure what his future in rugby league looks like after revealing he doesn’t possess the same passion for coaching as he did for playing.

Ellis will leave his role as Hull FC’s assistant coach at the end of this season and is yet to decide on his next step, whether that is a new role in the sport or ending his 25-year affiliation with the game in search of something new.

Speaking exclusively to Love Rugby League in an in-depth interview, Ellis has shared how coming out of retirement for Hull in 2019 was centred around him ‘fearing retirement’, and how coaching simply hasn’t filled the hole left by the end of his playing career, leaving him unsure of what he will do next.

“While it seems quite a dramatic decision, it’s probably something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” he says.

“I feared retirement, to be honest. Coming back and playing in 2019 was about getting back to what I felt I did best. I was really fearful of what came after playing and still am in some ways.

“I went into the Football Manager role at Hull and eventually found my feet in coaching, but if truth be told, I just don’t have the same passion for it as I did playing.

“I thought it would replace playing but it just hasn’t. I’ve never wanted to be a head coach and that’s always been an alarm bell for myself in terms of long-term plans in coaching.”

‘It just feels right to change now, the passion just isn’t there’

Gareth Ellis Hull FC assistant coach Alamy

Ellis revealed how he almost walked away from his role on the Hull FC staff 12 months ago before being convinced to carry on by Tony Smith. “I sat down with Adam (Pearson) and James (Clark) and I remember having the conversation then, saying I didn’t think it was for me, being in the staff,” he admits.

“They convinced me to give it one last crack and when Tony came in it made the decision easy, because I love working with him after the time we had together at Leeds.

“It gave me a real buzz, but there’s always been that lingering doubt about whether it was for me long-term. It just feels right to change now. The passion just isn’t there.”

The 42-year-old now faces the prospect of not being involved in the sport for the first time in over 25 years in 2024.

Ellis insists he has no concrete plans for what he wants to do next – but admits it will not be coaching.

“I’m really open to anything, and that involves something away from the chaos of club-land,” he admits.

“I’ve had this schedule for the past 25 years and my family have shared those burdens and sacrifices too.

“It’d be nice to experience a Bank Holiday weekend with the family, doing the school run with the kids and enjoying a summer holiday.

“Those sacrifices, missing that stuff, it was worthwhile as a player but as a coach, it isn’t for me.

“Do I feel I still have something to offer the game? Yeah, I’d like to think so. I enjoy having conversations with players young and old, helping them and guiding them through their careers.

“I know what it takes to be a successful rugby player and that’s what I’d love to pass on. Whether there’s an opportunity to do that, I don’t know, so I’m prepared to look at everything.

“Maybe for the first 12 months I do a mixture of a few things and if I find where my future lies, great. I’m looking forward to a new challenge.”

Gareth Ellis to launch his autobiography this week

Gareth Ellis Hull FC Alamy

One of the most revered and admired players of his generation – underlined by his induction into Wests Tigers’ Hall of Fame last week – Ellis’ 11-year association with Hull FC will come to an end in the coming weeks.

Part of the squads that won back-to-back Challenge Cups in 2016 and 2017, Ellis admits it is a time of his life he will reflect upon with pride.

“I have tremendous gratitude for everything Hull FC have done for me as a player,” he admits.

“Those cup finals will live with me forever. It’s not just the winning, it’s how you do it too. In 2015 I tore my Achilles and then 2016 and 2017, winning at Wembley, it’s the narratives on top of the story and the rollercoaster of it all.

“I’m leaving, Scott Taylor is retiring, Danny Houghton is still undecided… It’s almost the end of an era for the club but one I look back on with pride.

“Someone thanked me recently for what I’ve done for Hull FC but I only did for the club what was expected of me. I treated the club and the badge with the respect it deserves.”

And Ellis’ rugby league journey will be publicised this coming week with the launch of his autobiography at Hull’s final game of the season against Huddersfield Giants.

“It’s been like therapy,” he admits. “Sitting down with someone and going through your memories, it takes you places you didn’t think you could go. I’m really proud of it, and I hope people enjoy it.”

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