REVIEW: Being John Stankevitch, by John Stankevitch

Neil Barraclough

As a player, John Stankevitch was honest and tough. Being John Stankevitch is exactly the same.

Stankevitch wrote the book himself, sitting down after work every day for two months to complete what he labelled as “therapy” during an earlier interview with Rugby League Books.

When Stankevitch’s career came to a premature end aged just 25, it sent him on a downward spiral from which it took years to recover.

Details of contract negotiations, mounting debts and wrong decisions are all laid bare with brutal candour.

I was desperate to try and make some money so that my family would be looked after, but the more desperate I became, the worse decisions I made.

Starting with Stankevitch’s emergence into the St Helens first team and moving through to the shoulder injury that finished his career, the former St Helens and Widnes forward holds nothing back.

But it is after Stankevitch’s playing career comes to a halt that this book is at its most gripping. It demonstrates the need for all young rugby players to consider life outside of the sport – and the potential consequences if they don’t.

I know it isn’t just me that has been in the predicament of unemployment after sport. If somebody would have told me I would have retired from playing the game through injury at the age of 25 then I wouldn’t have believed them, but the reality is that for my commitment to become a Super League player, I paid a price. I left myself in an impossible position when it comes to finding a ‘real’ job. I have even applied for positions within call centres, simply answering telephones, and I have been unsuccessful… I am a person who has represented the country at the highest sporting level and who has been a world champion, albeit from within a team, but for companies out there, this means nothing. I couldn’t even get a £12,000 a year telesales job.

Now established as one of the most promising British coaches emerging in the game, Stankevitch can again look forward to some brighter times.

After the run of luck he’s had, and some of the situations he’s faced over recent years, it’s hard not to feel that he deserves it.

Lighthearted at times, uncomfortable reading at others, Being John Stankevitch is never less than absorbing.

Being John Stankevitch, by John Stankevitch, is out now. ISBN 978-1901347234, published by League Publications Ltd. Buy now and save more than £5 off the cover price.