From Super League to the classroom: The stories behind the league veterans turning to new professions as they go part-time

Drew Darbyshire
Greg Eden, Michael Lawrence, Joe Wardle Alamy

Greg Eden (left), Michael Lawrence (centre) and Joe Wardle (right) have recently made the transition from full-time to part-time - Alamy

The transition from a full-time environment to a part-time one can be difficult. Some find it easy, some struggle to adjust to the change.

Established Super League players might drop down to the Championship and League 1 in the latter stages of their careers when they feel it’s time to reduce the workload on their bodies. Meanwhile, young players might go from being full-time at a Super League club to part-time in the lower grades after not quite making the cut in the top flight.

Love Rugby League were invited to the Championship and League 1 season launch in Wakefield last Friday, speaking to new Halifax recruit Greg Eden, Bradford’s Michael Lawrence and Oldham player-coach Joe Wardle about their personal experience of making the transition into part-time rugby as they start to prepare for life after their beloved game.

Greg Eden learning joinery while plying trade for Halifax Panthers: ‘It’s easier than I would’ve imagined’

Former Super League speedster Eden is experiencing life outside of being a full-time professional athlete for the first time in his career after joining Championship side Halifax on a two-year deal.

The 33-year-old winger, who is currently learning joinery in the day whilst training at night, says his transition into part-time rugby has been ‘easier than he would’ve imagined’.

“The first couple of weeks were hard but once you get used to it, it feels normal,” Eden told Love Rugby League.

“When I was full-time I think I was getting a bit too much time on my hands, lounging on the sofa!

“I’ve started working with a joiner, so I’m pretty much doing everything from refurbs, kitchens, bathrooms – just learning how to do it all really. My mate is a joiner and I want to learn joinery so we’ve been doing a bit of everything.

“Since I’ve been working in the day and training on a night it’s a totally different feeling. It’s hard but I like staying active as well, I feel better for it because I’m always moving.”

Bradford Bulls prop Michael Lawrence balancing playing with teaching as he plans for life after league

Michael Lawrence Jamaica Alamy
Michael Lawrence in action for Jamaica at the 2021 World Cup – Alamy

Powerhouse prop Lawrence made the move to Bradford ahead of the 2023 season, bringing an end to a 16-year spell with hometown club Huddersfield.

The Jamaica international took up teaching once he transitioned into part-time rugby with the Bulls, and hopes to go into teaching full-time once he hangs up his boots: whenever that may be.

“It’s been a slow transition for myself, I’m kind of still going through that process at the moment,” he told Love Rugby League.

“Last year, still having a year to run on my contract at Huddersfield, I came on a season-long loan to Bradford and then signed an extra year, so last year I was still kind of full-time but only playing part-time. I was lucky in a sense that I had loads of time at home in the day and then training on an evening and playing on a weekend.

“I started teaching three days a week at New College Bradford in September, so I’ve got three days of the week when I’m teaching and then going to training, and then at the back end of the week I can focus on my rugby.

“I think I’ll continue teaching part-time until I do finish my career and then when I finish I will probably go full-time with teaching.”

Lawrence, who made 324 appearances during his time with the Giants, says his respect for players in the Championship and League 1 has catapulted to another level since his personal experience of being part-time, purely for the sacrifices they all make throughout the year.

He added: “From starting teaching at seven o’clock in a morning and then having to go training in the evening, I did find that tough at the start, leaving the house at seven and then getting in at 10 o’clock at night.

“I only have to do that for a few days a week so it is a tough transition, but one that you do get used to.

“It’s made my respect for Championship and part-time players go even further, it is a bigger commitment than full-time rugby league – a way bigger commitment because there are plenty of sacrifices as well.

“These lads that work all day, sacrifice time with their families and things like that, to play the standard they do – I commend them.”

Oldham ace Joe Wardle focused on furthering coaching skills as he makes the transition into part-time environment

Experienced forward Joe Wardle decided that it was time to drop down into a part-time environment last season when he suffered a torn pec whilst with Leigh Leopards, who lifted the Challenge Cup at Wembley last August.

The Scotland international made the switch to ambitious League 1 club Oldham in the off-season, taking up a player-coach role.

2024 marks the first year since Wardle left school that he won’t be a full-time professional rugby league player.

“It is quite difficult from coming in as a full-time player,” the 32-year-old told Love Rugby League.

“When you’re full-time you’re getting up early and going to work and then you’ve got the day to do whatever you want, so to going training on a night… It’s trying to adjust to that.

“It does make a difference. You are getting home late so you are getting a bit of a bad sleep and then it’s a knock-on effect the next day. It is a challenge but that’s part and parcel of rugby.

“I’m also really looking forward to it though and enjoying it, all the lads have got a bit more of a relaxed feel because they are part-time and it’s just naturally how they are, so I’m enjoying being around the lads.

“I’m learning a lot from the part-time side of things, like how much you can push lads and how much you can’t and that sort of stuff. It’s opened my eyes a little bit but it’s so far, so good.”

Wardle hasn’t found another job yet because he’s focused on getting all of his coaching qualifications to go alongside his playing duties at Oldham, who have long-term aspirations of playing in Super League.

“Obviously with me being a player-coach I’m trying to do everything I can to get the coaching side of it progressed,” Wardle added. “I’m doing my coaching badges and that sort of stuff at the minute, and I’m enjoying it.”

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