INTERVIEW: Former St Helens star spills all about Being John Stankevitch

Neil Barraclough

John Stankevitch was only 25 when a serious shoulder injury forced his retirement from professional rugby league.

In this first installment of a two-part interview, the former St Helens and Widnes forward, who is now head coach at Rochdale Hornets, tells Rugby League Books about the ‘therapy’ he gained from writing his upcoming autobiography ‘Being John Stankevitch‘.

With 125 St Helens appearances under his belt, John Stankevitch never envisaged that a single tackle at Wigan would end his career in such juddering fashion.

Stankevitch was just 23 years old when he collided badly with Wigan’s Craig Smith in a Super League play-off back in 2003.

He went on to make 22 appearances for Widnes in 2005, but he never fully recovered from the devastating blow that left him with nerve damage in his left arm.

By August of that year, he’d called time on a promising career and was left to find his own way in the big, wide world.


Now, nearly six years on, League Publications are preparing to release his autobiography Being John Stankevitch.

Rather than use a ghost-writer, Stankevitch opted to write the book himself. It was a process he now looks back on with great pride.

He said: “It was a bit of therapy really. It was good to sit down, have a look through time and consider what’s happened.

“It meant I could just go over things in my own mind, and come up with reasons why I did certain things.

“I was so low at points after retiring, I was almost panicking. I bought a bar after I finished playing at Widnes, which looking at it now was a ridiculous decision. Financially there was just nothing in it.

“There is no way I’d have made some of the decisions I made then if I’d have been in the frame of mind I’m in now.”


Stankevitch also managed to produce the work in a time-frame that would stagger most authors.

He explained: “I wrote it all in two months. I’d been a big reader of autobiographies, and all of them had been good but they’d all been along the same lines.

“You know, the happy story, talking about the good times and never really going into the negatives. I didn’t think that painted the true picture of being a professional sportsman and the sacrifices you make.

“I did two or three hours every single night for a couple of months. I got it completed and then rang a few people.”


Being John Stankevitch is promising to be a warts-and-all account of a rugby league player’s life.

And Stankevitch insists he doesn’t shy away from the issues he’s had to face over recent years.

He said: “The book’s about the time I had at Saints, from signing professional terms, coming through the Academy and then playing in the first team and winning competitions.

“Then it talks about my injury, retirement, and how I handled all of that including my home-life and problems financially and mentally.

“But overall it’s about coming to grips with that situation, trying to fight-back, show a bit of resilience and look forward.”

He continued: “I was never the most gifted player, but I’d always work my arse off to get where I was.

“From being a young lad, playing professionally was all I ever wanted to do. I wasn’t one to sit back when I signed pro at Saints at 16, and I felt like I was on the way up when I got injured.

“The playing side of life was fantastic. It wasn’t always the most financially rewarding and I cover that in detail in the book, but the personal and social aspects of it were brilliant.”

You can read part two of this interview, when Stankevitch talks candidly about the dramatic moment that finished his career, by clicking here.