What happens when a player ends his rugby league career is often ignored by fans and media in our sport.
Yet rugby league players do not earn the massive salaries of their soccer counterparts, and relatively have the necessary skillset and motivation to go into media work.
Many players go into coaching, but that pathway does not suit everyone. So what do players do when they finish playing?
Huddersfield’s Eorl Crabtree has a growing media profile now, but he sums up the mental anguish that can grip players as the end of their rugby career nears.
“How am I going to pay for my mortgage? How am I going to support my family and my children when all I know is rugby league?” Crabtree said.
“And it’s a scary thought.”
Sadly, many struggle to find purpose and a meainingful career after playing, and some can drift into problems with mental illness, addiction and other issues.
League13, the players’ association, is now launching an initiative to help players make the transition to a more ‘normal’ working environment when they have to leave the ranks of active players.
Chris Tuson was one player who found his playing career over at the young age of 26. A persistent back injury had stopped his playing days in their tracks, and the abruptness of the change in his circumstances was a shock to him.
“I was just freaking, screaming that, ‘I can’t feel my body!’,” he said, describing the moment when the injury occurred.
“A year ago, I’d been playing in Challenge Cup finals and winning trophies.
“I found myself at 26, meant to be in my prime, finished.”
League13 states that it: “Is committed to helping its players focus on life after their playing career in rugby league ends in order to ensure that they engage as early as possible with career development.
“It encourages players to create individual plans and work towards short, medium and long term goals in relation to education and career planning following retirement from the game.”
As a part of the work that does, League13 has formed a partnership with the Tom Maynard Trust.
This partnership will help players to consider the issue of career transition. The Trust is providing funding for a three-year period to help League13 with general player development, education and career planning.
Following the first year’s funding, League13 have released a film exploring the issues around career transition.
Featuring luminaries such as Kevin Sinfield, Lee Briers and Terry O’Connor, along with Crabtree and Tuson, the film takes a closer look at how players can better manage the transition from their playing career to a new working life.
“We’re really grateful to the Tom Maynard Trust for providing support for us in this way,” Ernie Benbow, chief executive of League13, said.
“We face great challenges in trying to help young, emerging professionals deal with education and personal development issues as they make their way in the sport and help those coming into the twilight of their career with that difficult transition of change.
“I believe this is a top quality professional educational and awareness film which can be used by all facets of the game to help players at all levels to look seriously at their career planning.”