The wife of Kallum Watkins has hit out at rugby league fans on social media for their treatment of the England international, saying supporters don’t think twice about a player’s mental health before issuing criticism.
It was announced yesterday that Watkins would be leaving at the end of the season after eleven years at the club, having made his debut for the Rhinos Academy as a 17-year-old.
He has gone on to make over 200 appearances for the Rhinos, winning six Super League titles, two Challenge Cup’s, two League Leaders’ Shields and one World Cup Challenge.
Nevertheless, he will exit Headingley at the end of the season as the Rhinos seek to create space on the salary cap for a recruitment drive ahead of the 2020 campaign.
News of his next club is yet to be announced, although reports in Australia suggest that the 28-year-old could join the growing English contingent playing in the NRL.
Speaking on her Instagram account, Sophie Watkins said: “I’ve had so many messages [today] just full of really positive stuff, which is amazing because there’s been so much negativity and hate towards Kal on social media these last few months.
“It upsets me that people seem to jump on the mental health bandwagon but don’t think twice about giving out hate on social media. I think social media is probably the biggest cause of mental health these days.
“Kal took off all his social media, before we knew that we were going to be leaving Leeds Rhinos, because it was so hard. I wanted him to take it off because of some of the things people were saying. No-one should ever have to read that about themselves and it’s really heartbreaking.
“Quite a lot of these trolls think that if you have a certain amount of followers on Instagram, you can say whatever you want about them and it won’t matter, but it does. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but it’s just how people can get so nasty and personal.”
Despite hitting out at fans, Watkins added that she was grateful for the support of fans following the announcement of his departure in the last 24 hours.
“The comments, likes, support and love [over the last 24 hours] have been appreciated so much by our family,” she said. “I was dreading the horrible things that were going to be put out there about my husband and the father of my children.”