England star Sam Tomkins has challenged Super League clubs to do more to educate young players in planning for the future after confirming he will retire in France.
The Wigan great, a three-time Grand Final winner, has revealed his family will settle in France when his playing days are over at Catalans Dragons.
And the 32-year-old believes there is a responsibility on clubs to do more to prevent young players from making the same mistakes that haunted Super League legend Leon Pryce in retirement.
Pryce recently opened up on his mental health struggles triggered by a failure to plan for the end of his professional career, and vowed to ensure his son Will would not make the same “stupid mistakes”.
Tomkins, who will himself become a father for the fourth time this week, believes the sport could do more to help its athletes manage their careers from a younger age.
“I’ve got friends who have finished playing and become really successful and friends who have not done anything ended up on a building site six months after retiring,” said Tomkins.
“There is an onus on clubs, there should be more education for young kids on money management as you are coming through into first grade and being paid proper money.
“There are too many kids in flash cars sleeping in the single bed in their mum’s spare room and when you get to retirement I think that costs you.”
The Wigan great reveals his own retirement plans to host George Riley on the latest SOM Talks podcast. Tomkins is currently contracted for one more year at the Dragons and has no intention of moving anywhere else.
“I know my seasons are limited and I am ready for it whenever it may come. I have seen a lot of people retire and not be ready for it financially, and I listened to your podcast with Leon who didn’t really have his back up plans.
“I’ve had to have a real think about what I want to do. I’m lucky financially that I have invested in properties which has put me in a decent position. “
Tomkins says he intends to stay in France when his rugby career ends, and will repay the support his wife has shown for his career, by backing her own business ventures.
“I’d like to retire here in France,” he added. “We are really settled. My two boys are in school, my daughter starts next year and I have another baby boy due. My kids are fully engrossed in French life and don’t remember England.
“My wife loves it here. We would have to convince our kids to move back to England. I would like to stay here if I can and travel back for work if needed. My wife has been so supported of everything I have done in my career. I’ve always given her the promise that when I retire if there is something she wants to do then we will do it. She’d quite like to own an Air BnB or wedding venue somewhere so I will be the stay-at-home dad and she will have a passion she throws herself into and I will repay the last 15 years by backing whatever she wants to do.
“I’m passionate to stay in the game as some capacity. But I don’t think coaching is for me. I’ve had good people around me. Not all young kids have that luxury. I want to get involved in mentoring young kids, and I think I can add value there and that is what I am passionate about alongside the media stuff.
“I have the wheels in motion and they will be ready when I do retire but I hope that will be a few years down the line. I want to play for as long as I can.”
In an honest and wide-ranging discussion, Tomkins also reveals how he has dealt with a career of online abuse, but admits seeing his family hurt by it has been upsetting.
“I just think that if someone I don’t know can make a judgement on me as a person from watching me for an hour and a half playing a game. That’s a really strange way of judging someone’s character as a person.
“I’ve had the worst possible things said to me online but I know they’d never say that in the street.
“People wish really bad injuries on me and my mum has struggled with that badly. And that’s bothered me.
“The only thing that has bothered me is when things have been said around my parents. But I say to my mum it’s not real life. You don’t watch Coronation Street and start kicking off with the actors when you see them in the road!”
SOM Talks is the official podcast from award-winning mental health and fitness charity State of Mind Sport.
Hosted by broadcaster and mental health speaker George Riley, the first series focuses on Transitions, and is available on all major podcast platforms.