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RL Cares is an independent charity partly funded by the RFL and Super League which has had responsibility for welfare provision to professional and semi-professional players since early 2019.
That support will now be stepped up with a more holistic approach that has a strong focus on ensuring players are practically, professionally and emotionally prepared to move on to new roles at the end of their Rugby League careers.
The relaunch builds on the massive investment RL Cares has made in player welfare over the last 18 months, especially during the coronavirus lockdown when the charity has directly or indirectly supported over 400 players.
That support has included providing access to the expert services offered by Sporting Chance Clinics, counselling, crisis intervention, professional careers advice, wealth management guidance, legal assistance and spiritual support.
The Player Welfare Programme is being led by three RL Cares staff members with over 50 years of experience in the professional game between them: former Scotland, Widnes, Whitehaven, Salford, Barrow and Swinton coach Steve McCormack; ex-England, Wakefield, Wigan, London and Hull KR forward Francis Stephenson; and former Great Britain, Sheffield and Leeds centre Keith Senior.
Steve (Welfare and Development Manager), Francis (Transition Manager) and Keith (Community and Welfare Manager) maintain strong connections with the club Player Welfare Managers, working on individual cases and sharing best practice to ensure players receive the best support possible.
“We are very proud of the way the Rugby League family has stuck together during these very testing times,” said Steve.
“RL Cares has been working hard to ensure all our stakeholders are supported when they need it. We have been in constant contact with the playing community and feel privileged to have played our part in helping many of the players who are now back in action with their Super League clubs.
“We have listened to what the players say ‘player welfare’ means to them and are committed to delivering of the best programmes in world sport.
“The one thing that shines through from the people we come across in Rugby League is how very thankful everyone is to those who have supported them throughout these unprecedented times, whether that be the NHS staff, key workers, family, friends or team-mates.
“Gratitude is so uplifting and positive, both for the recipients and for the people who have shown it.”
As part of the relaunch of its Player Welfare Programme, RL Cares is asking the wider Rugby League family to identify and acknowledge the people who have made a real difference to them during their time in the sport.
“We all lead busy lives and often forget, or don’t get the chance to say ‘Thank you’ to the family, friends, coaches or team-mates who have helped or inspired us along the way,” added Steve.
“We want people to show their gratitude by taking a few minutes to write a short letter to someone who has been a positive influence in their Rugby League journey.”
Your letters can be private or shared on social media using the hashtag #shareyourgratitude