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Steve joins the charity after 10 years supporting players at Huddersfield Giants in his capacity as Academy player performance manager and, for the last six years, player welfare manager.
He will work alongside RL Cares’s Director of Welfare Steve McCormack, Transition Manager Francis Stephenson and Community and Welfare Manager Keith Senior delivering welfare and wellbeing support services to the playing community.
Steve McCormack said: “We are delighted to welcome Steve aboard, he’s a valuable and important addition to the welfare team whose presence underlines RL Cares’s commitment to delivering a world class player welfare programme.
“Steve will help us enhance the lives of all the sport’s stakeholders, from junior players upwards, by providing opportunities for them to acquire information and learnings on issues such as building positive relationships, resilience and gratitude.
“Our aim is to help players become resilient, maintain positive and healthy relationship with friends and family and build a network of trusted people. All of these qualities and skills are essential for a player to thrive during their career and after they retire.
“A lot of his emphasis will be on positive psychology and enabling people to flourish by leading happy, fulfilling lives, both during and after their playing careers.
“Our transition programme has made huge strides under the leadership of Francis Stephenson over the last two years and Steve Hardisty’s appointment will enable us to replicate that success at youth and Academy level.”
Steve Hardisty said: “The sport’s player welfare provision has improved immeasurably since RL Cares became responsible for delivery two years ago and I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to work with such a great team.
“Rugby League now leads the way in so many areas of player welfare and I’m looking forward to playing a part in that success.
“Players are the sport’s most important stakeholders and we are committed to doing all we can with the resources we have to ensure they have the support they need to be successful in all areas of their lives.”
Warrington Wolves and England prop Chris Hill, former Wakefield, Hull KR and Huddersfield Giants forward Andy Raleigh, Doncaster and Ireland international Ryan Boyle and Chris Tuson, the ex-Wigan Warriors and Hull FC player are the guest speakers at the online seminar which takes place on Zoom tomorrow (Tuesday May 18) from 6.00pm.
Whatever the circumstance, managing the move from being a professional athlete to a new life outside sport is a challenge for all players. New careers often bring with them different salary levels, very different lifestyles and issues around identity.
RL Cares is running a series of workshops throughout May which, allied to the charity’s ongoing careers advice and welfare support programme, set out to help players of all ages make a successful transition.
Chris Hill has combined his stellar career with running his own plumbing business, a bathroom showroom and a property portfolio, while Chris Tuson forged a new career in athlete management after his playing career was brought to a premature end by a spinal injury at 26.
Andy Raleigh is now a project officer with Kirklees Council, having taken time out to gain experience in a wide range of industries at the end of his career; and Ryan Boyle stepped back from being full-time with Castleford four years ago to combine a playing career in the Championship with a new role as a qualified plumbing and heating engineer.
All four players will share their own experiences during the seminar, which is open to all current and recently-retired players.
May has been designated Career Transition Month across all sports and RL Cares will follow up tomorrow’s seminar with one on Why Employers Value and Seek The Skills of RL Player (Wednesday 26th).
For details of the seminar and to register, please click here
So, too, is luck, especially when it comes to avoiding those cruel bi-products that are an inevitable feature of a tough, uncompromising physical sport like Rugby League: injuries.
Years of hard work can be undone in an instant by one awkward tackle, but more often it is a series of events that lead to lifelong dreams being dashed.
Just ask Mason Tonks.
A glittering career seemingly lay ahead for the Smawthorne Panthers junior when, at 16, he signed a professional contract with Leeds Rhinos. Yet, within six years and a career that took him around the world, Mason was forced to rethink his future after a succession of injuries ended his playing days.
After leaving Leeds to join New Zealand Warriors, Mason returned to the UK and had spells with Featherstone and Bradford before signing for Doncaster. A serious knee injury sidelined him for almost a year and though he made a full recovery, two spells of concussion undermined his comeback before a broken leg forced a major re-think at the age of just 22.
“I couldn’t run because of the pain, both in my leg and in my back, and I seemed to be spending every Saturday in A&E,” said Mason. “I knew I couldn’t carry on playing, it wasn’t worth sacrificing my body anymore.
“Retiring was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Playing Rugby League was all I had ever wanted to do. Where could I turn?”
The answer was Rugby League Cares, and specifically the charity’s Career Coach Julie Measures, who has had a huge influence in helping Mason turn his life around and open up a bright future away from sport.
“Mason was really low in confidence when we first met, he didn’t know what he wanted to do because like a lot of players his age, ‘life after rugby’ seemed such a long way away,” said Julie.
“Mason had been doing some part-time work with his dad in the construction industry so we sat down and worked out what his options were and it all went from there.”
With Julie’s help, Mason secured an apprenticeship with Cidon Construction to become a formwork joiner in their reinforced concrete division but within a few months recurring back pain prompted another re-evaluation.
“I’d got decent grades from school and Cidon were brilliant with me: they said why don’t you study to become an engineer,” said Mason.
“I was hesitant at first but after speaking to Julie I said yes and now I have a career I want to progress in.
“I’ve got a HNC and have been working for the last three years a site engineer. I love it.”
Mason left Cidon last October to join Caddick Construction, the company founded by Leeds Rhinos chairman Paul Caddick: in a strange way, his journey had come full circle.
“I’d put a post on LinkedIn about what I was up to and someone I knew through rugby from my junior days got in touch to say that Caddick Construction were always on the lookout for good engineers,” said Mason.
“That was a good lesson: it’s always worth making the most of your contacts and network to find opportunities.
“I have a lot of people to be grateful to for getting me to where I am now, including Cidon and Caddick Construction, but without the support of Julie and RL Cares I wouldn’t be in this position.
“There’s not a day goes by when I don’t miss being a Rugby League player but I love my new career and I’ll always be thankful to Julie and RL Cares for helping me get here.”