Plans put future success in the pipeline for England and Wolves star

Plans put future success in the pipeline for England and Wolves star

Chris Hill makes no secret of the fact that he is quietly dreading the days when he is no longer a Rugby League player.

Now 33, the Warrington Wolves and England prop knows the clock is ticking on an illustrious career that has seen him earn the respect of both players and fans across the game.

Hill, however, will not enter the next chapter in his life blindly, having done lots of preparation over the last few years for his transition out of the sport.

A qualified plumber, Chris now runs a successful domestic plumbing company with his business partner Christian Froggatt and two years ago opened a bathroom and wet-room showroom in Warrington.

‘I’d always wanted to be a plumber as a teenager but my focus was on rugby and I kept putting things off to the point where I missed my opportunity to get an apprenticeship,” says Chris.

“When I signed for Warrington from Leigh in 2011, the club’s player welfare manager (and now chief executive) Karl Fitzpatrick was keen that all players did something to address what they were going to do after rugby.

“He was very supportive when I said I fancied doing a plumbing course and put me in touch with Warrington College. I did my Level 2 and Level 3 at the college at nightschool.

“I’m not going to lie, it was bloody tough.  I had a young family and had just made the breakthrough into the England squad. I remember being in camp in Loughborough with England and travelling back to Warrington to attend college on Tuesday night without getting the chance to see the kids before they went to bed.

“I’d go back to Loughborough the next morning and have to come back for college on Thursday nights. The college were really flexible, I’m still in touch with them and have some good friendships with their staff.

“As hard as it was, I’m glad I did it. There are plenty of hours in the day, enough for all Rugby League players to study or get work experience.

“Being involved in something away from rugby makes you a more rounded person. Rugby League can take over your life, and being at college or working in a completely different environment gives you perspective and helps you focus better when you’re at training.”

After gaining his Level 3 qualification, Chris spent a couple of years doing plumbing jobs in a variety of workplaces before setting up a new company three years ago.

The company has recently taken on an apprentice recommended by Warrington College and employs a range of sub-contractors who are managed by Chris and Christian. In 2019, he partnered with three other businessmen to open the Immerse Kitchen, Bedrooms and Bathrooms showroom in Warrington.

“The shop is going well, even though we’ve only been able to open for around 12 of the last 24 months because of the pandemic,” said Chris.

“The plumbing side of things is ticking along: we don’t do gas work, for now, but it is something to think about for the future. I can look to growing that side of things once I finish rugby.

“I’ve also got five houses that I rent out, which brings in an income. I’ve always been into property.”

All players, regardless of what their plans are, inevitably find the transition out of sport difficult: they may not miss the toll the game exerts on their bodies but the camaraderie that comes with being part of a closely-knit team always leaves a void.

“I know my time is coming and I’m expecting it to be difficult but I have good people around me and lots of things to keep me going,” said Chris.

“There is lots of support available for players now regarding transition from organisations like Rugby League Cares. The charity does a great job and I’d urge all young players to work with them to get an idea of what they want to do next.

“It’s not easy because not everyone knows what they want to do. My advice would be to out yourself out of your comfort zone and try as many things as you can.

“Most clubs have 20 or 30 sponsors, so use those contacts to get some work experience for a few weeks or a few months. If what they do isn’t for you, try something else.

“Some lads need a kick up the arse to do it and to them I’d say give it a go, don’t leave it until the end of your career and suddenly wake up thinking ‘what’s next?’

“Speak to your player welfare manager and ask to be put in touch with RL Cares. There’s a big, exciting world waiting out there and as Rugby League players we have a lot to offer.”

Rugby League Cares employs a dedicated Career Coach, Julie Measures who works with players to help them plan for success in the next chapter of their working lives.

The charity also awards grants to players to help meet the cost of training and education courses designed to gain them vocational and academic qualification.

May 2021 has been nominated as Career Transition Month by the Professional Players Federation, the umbrella body for the UK’s player associations. It represents twelve associations covering more than 17,000 professional and elite athletes.

The PPF exists to bring together different player associations to discuss areas of common interest and share best practice across the different sports. As well as career transition other areas of work include mental health, problem gambling, online harms and sports betting integrity – areas that affect every professional athlete.