Helping the stars of today make concrete plans for the future

Helping the stars of today make concrete plans for the future

Former Warrington, Bradford, Widnes and England star Chris Bridge is one of many players who have been supported by the RL Cares player welfare programme. Here, in an article from our magazine, One In, All In, published last year, Chris outlines show the charity has helped him forge a new future.

After a slight pause, Chris Bridge smiles wryly as he says “No, not really” when asked if he misses being involved in Rugby League.

Less than a year after he took off his boots for the last time, life is looking good for the former Bradford Bulls, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings utility back.

Chris is now working in the construction industry as a concrete pumper, delivering ready-mixed concrete across the North West and South Yorkshire, a job he clearly loves.

“Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my rugby career and I’m very grateful for the opportunities it provided but I’m very happy in this new chapter in my life,” said Chris.

“I thought I’d find it harder than it has been, to be honest. I was lucky in that I left the game on my own terms: I did have a few injuries but it was ultimately me who decided when I retired.

“The main thing I miss is the hours. Now I’m working full-time I don’t often get the chance to take the kids to school or pick them up. My hours are crazy now, and the job takes me away on sites a lot of the time, but I’m loving it.

“When you’re a professional Rugby League players you find yourself with a lot of spare time on your hands, and that’s not always a good thing.

“It certainly wasn’t good for me as it left me battling my own demons on too many occasions down the years.”

Chris’s issues off the field, together with some poor luck with injuries, led to him struggling to realise his potential early on in a career which began in the Huddersfield Giants Academy before Bradford offered him a Super League contract.

Things barely improved following his move to Warrington in 2005 but the arrival of coach Tony Smith, together with his new-found status as a father, saw him mature as a person and as a player.

He represented England in the 2009 Four Nations and 2010 international against France, and became a key figure in the most successful Warrington team of modern times, twice helping the Wolves savour Challenge Cup final success in Wembley in 2009 and 2010.

At the end of 2015 Chris signed a two-year contract at Widnes, where his career reached the end of the road two seasons later.

“I had some great times but I always knew they wouldn’t last forever and towards the end of my career I began to think about what I would do next,” he said.

“A lot of players don’t get to choose when they finish but you don’t really worry about that when you’re young.

“Maybe I should have started to look at career option earlier, I don’t know, but it’s something I’d definitely advise younger players to do. Don’t leave it too late.

“There is some good advice out there and I was really helped during my time at Widnes by Julie Measures, a careers advisor who does consultancy work for Rugby League Cares.

“She helped me out my CV together and passed it on to a few companies, one of which contacted me straight away offering me a job, not realising I was still full-time at Widnes.

“I was supported by grants from Rugby League Cares to get my Class 1 and Class 2 HGV licence, and from there I went and did some unpaid work experience. I knew that with my HGV licence I’d never struggle to find work.

“At the end of last season, I got this job straight away and I’ve never looked back.”

RL Cares offers grants to all professional Rugby League players to help them gain academic and vocational qualifications before the end of their playing careers. Players interested in finding out more should contact their Player Welfare Manager in the first instance.