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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.”
Mammoth are the UK’s go-to provider for professional sport and health professionals for sleep and comfort products that are scientifically tested and proven to improve sleep.
The NHS award-winning technologies in their mattress and pillow collections are the perfect choice for anyone who lives an active lifestyle and wants to maximise recovery and rehabilitation through improved sleep quality.
Rugby League players often suffer poor sleep after playing and training, and Mammoth’s scientifically tested mattresses provide unrivalled support and comfort.
As the Official Sleep Partner of RL Cares, Mammoth are offering an incredible 40 per cent discount on their entire range to both players and the wider rugby league community.
Mammoth’s other relationships include official partnerships with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the Rugby Players Association and the British Athletes Commission – the member body for Olympians and UK-sport funded athletes.
Chris Rostron, the Head of RL Cares, said: “We are delighted to welcome Mammoth as a partner and are looking forward to working with them to help enhance the lives of both players and people across our communities.
“The health benefits of quality sleep cannot be overstated and our partnership with Mammoth will help address an issue that many players struggle with.
“Working with the clubs’ dedicated welfare managers, Mammoth and RL Cares will promote good sleep hygiene to help players with their recovery, conditioning and general wellbeing.
“This partnership once again underlines the charity’s commitment to safeguarding the welfare of the sport’s most important stakeholders: the players.
“Members of the rugby league community can also take advantage of the 40 per cent discount offer on the Mammoth range and enjoy all the advantages of good sleep.”
Mammoth was founded by John Tuton, a former medical executive who developed the first mattress prototype after suffering a serious rugby injury to his back and ribs in his twenties.
Having the good fortune to access some of the world’s leading comfort and sleep technologies used within spinal injury units, John used a sheet of high specification foam to help alleviate pressure and provide postural support through the night.
Fast forward 10 years and John and the team at Mammoth have refined their materials and technologies to create market-leading health and wellbeing products. In particular, Mammoth’s unique Medical Grade foam mattresses and pillows have helped thousands of people to improve their sleeping habits, ease aches and pains, and generally improve health and wellbeing.
John Tuton said: “Our mission as a business is quite simply to offer people healthy choices. Through our award-winning technologies, we’ve shown that the most advanced materials shouldn’t just be reserved for medical settings but can instead provide real benefits to all sleepers, night after night.
“We are proud to count many professional sports stars, elite athletes and Olympians among our customers because of the proven benefits of our products. And I’m delighted that through this partnership with RL Cares we can forge closer relationships with the rugby community.”
One feature of the partnership will see Mammoth work with former Widnes, Castleford and Salford player Lee Jewitt as their sleep ambassador.
Lee has been a presenter on RL Cares’s men’s mental fitness initiative, Offload, for the last two years, and is currently working with the charity on a new health programme designed to support NHS staff.
As part of the ‘RL Cares for NHS’ project, Lee will work alongside shift workers within the NHS to help them build good mental fitness and build resilience.
Lee Jewitt said: “The nature of shift work inevitably means sleep disruption and it’s great to have the expertise of Mammoth to keep me as healthy as possible.
“I know from my own playing days how difficult sleep can be, especially after playing. Your body is still charged with endorphins and adrenalin when you go to bed and there’s always some part of you that’s sore and hurting.
“A quality mattress like Mammoth’s Shine product has all the technology to make a real difference.”
The discount code for players and fans is RLCARES and you can see the full range at www.mammothperks.co.uk
Having spent most of their adult lives as a professional Rugby League player, retirement in their early-30s seems a strange concept and one that many struggle to come to terms with.
The independent charity Rugby League Cares works hard with players to help them find successful and rewarding new careers once their playing days are over.
And this weekend (September 10-11), in a new initiative, RL Cares will give players the opportunity to walk off into the sunset, literally, in a special celebration event for retiring or recently retired Rugby League stars.
The Warriors Walk is a player-only two-day get together at which former players will rekindle some of the friendships forged on the field and enjoy once again the unique banter and camaraderie that was such a strong feature of their playing careers.
The group includes ex-Leeds players Kylie Leuluai and Lee Smith, former Warrington duo Paul Cullen and Paul Woods, current Wakefield Trinity welfare manager Stu Dickens, ex-Huddersfield player Larne Patrick, former Hull FC prop Jamie Thackray, ex-Salford, Castleford and Hull KR player Lee Jewitt and former Batley and Halifax prop Keegan Hirst.
The highlight of the weekend is the Warriors Walk itself, which will see the group tackle the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks of Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside on Saturday.
The players will also spend two nights together receiving advice and information from a range of presenters to help them make a successful transition.
RL Cares Transition Manager Francis Stephenson, who is leading the weekend, said: “This is the first in what we hope will be an annual Warriors Walk and there’s lots of buzz about the activities we have planned.
“I know from my own experience that retiring from playing is never easy and it often feels like a damp squib.
“The Warriors Walk sets out to bring together retiring and recently retired player who are going through, or who have gone through, the same experience and to share with them information and advice so they can be as successful away from the pitch as they were on it.
“We also want to go give them a good time and a weekend to remember: the walk is a bit of a challenge, and players love challenges!”
Many of the players on the Warriors Walk will also be raising funds for Rugby League Cares: you can sponsor any of the players via their Justgiving page
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been keenly felt in Rugby League communities and players, officials and administrators across all levels are working hard to deliver a sport that means so much to so many people.
Most people are showing patience and appreciation for that hard work, as well as continued faith in the game they all love, but in recent months there has been an under-current of misguided and often harmful negativity from some quarters, especially on social media.
Steve McCormack said: “In my role as Head of Welfare at Rugby League Cares, I see on a daily basis how hard everyone in our sport is working and how caring and passionate our stakeholders are.
“I see the sacrifices the players and coaches make to play the games; how our administrators are fighting hard to ensure our sport is thriving when Rugby League, like all sports and businesses, is going through trying times; how hard our match officials are working; the work our club CEOs are doing to ensure we have clubs to support; and the sterling efforts of our community clubs to enhance people’s lives on a daily basis.
“I also see the selfless work the medical staff and Covid officers do at clubs, under immense pressure, to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone takes precedence.
“It is really important to understand that, even though we all look forward to watching our clubs in action at the weekend, the most important thing is the health of players and staff, and the health of their families. Nothing should compromise this.
“Unfortunately, I also see the impact of some of the unjust negativity the people in our sport receive. We all know that being involved in professional sport comes with pressure and public scrutiny and – in most cases – rightly so.
“However, the tone of some of the comments on social media, especially the hate-filled and ill-informed criticism I read on a daily basis, is both unnecessary and unacceptable.
“No-one in our great game, be they a player, an administrator, a match official or a fan of another club, deserves personal abuse.
“Thankfully, these people are very much in the minority and their behaviour has no place in Rugby League.
“We are rightfully proud of our sport’s ability to rally round and do the right thing when times are tough: we recognise the importance of community, of the wider Rugby League family and of the need to be decent, empathetic and honest.
“Now, more than ever, we need to embrace those values and recognise the impact our actions can have on the wellbeing of others.
“Like all sports, Rugby League is facing some considerable challenges in the post-pandemic era, but we have much to look forward to.
“None of us should ever lose sight of the fact that Rugby League is the best sport in the world, with the best supporters and communities that many are envious of.
“Let’s pull together, look after each other and make sure our game and all the people involved are able to flourish like we know they can.
“Rugby League Cares is proud of the role it plays in supporting our communities and we will continue to put Rugby League people at the heart of everything we do.”
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
Many players find the transition from being a full-time athlete to working life away from sport a real challenge and RL Cares is working hard to smooth that process.
The seminars form part of the charity’s ongoing commitment to player welfare, which includes making training and education grants available to players to help them prepare for the next chapter in their lives.
RL Cares’s dedicated player welfare team is headed by Steve McCormack, the former Scotland international coach who works alongside Transition Manager Francis Stephenson, Community Manager Keith Senior and Career Coach Julie Measures.
The first seminar takes place this evening (Tuesday May 11, 6pm to 7pm) when three players who have already taken positive action to prepare for their futures will share their experiences.
The three players, Matt Cook, Matty Blythe and Danny Addy, are all at different stages of planning their journey towards new careers and will be able to offer valuable insight to their peers.
Matty Blythe trained in close protection in the final year of his career at Warrington Wolves and is now training director with Vanquish Security; Widnes player Matt Cook has balanced his playing career with studying for an Open University degree; and Salford Red Devils star Danny Addy is a trained barber who runs his own business.
The online seminars are open to all current and recently retired players, who should contact their player welfare manager or Julie Measures for the Zoom log-in details.
May is Career Transition Month across all sports and RL Cares will follow up tonight’s seminar with one focused on Managing Transition (Tuesday 18th) and one on Why Employers Value and Seek The Skills of RL Player (Tuesday 25th).
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.”
The Government has advised all people aged 70 and over to avoid social contact for 12 weeks, raising the prospect that some former players and their families could be left feeling isolated and lonely.
To support the game’s elderly heroes, RL Cares is working alongside the RFL and club foundation staff to recruit a team of dedicated volunteers who can reach out to vulnerable past players in their local communities.
The volunteers will be drawn predominantly from foundation and club staff, many of whom have already undergone the required training and safety checks needed to work with vulnerable people.
Former players and members of the public are being asked to contact RL Cares to let the charity know of any individual who might need support at this difficult time.
Once we have been informed, RL Cares will liaise with clubs to identify a suitable volunteer ‘buddy’ who will then make contact with the former player to offer the help they need: this might be doing shopping for essential supplies, arranging medical support or simply opening up regular lines of communication.
The past players’ support programme is being led for RL Cares by Francis Stephenson, the former Wakefield, London and Wigan prop, alongside the charity’s Transition Manager, Steve McCormack.
“This is an incredibly challenging time for all of us but is especially difficult for the elderly within our communities,” said Francis.
“As a charity we are well-placed to coordinate and deliver the support that the more senior members of the Rugby League family require to them through this.
“Some people might want their shopping doing, other may just need to hear a friendly voice on the end of the telephone. Whatever our past players need, we want them to know that the sport is here for them.”
RFL Chief Executive Ralph Rimmer said: “This is a typically thoughtful initiative from Rugby League Cares, and one which I’m sure the whole game will welcome and support.
“Challenging times bring the best out of our Rugby League community, and there have been many examples of that in the current unprecedented situation that has arisen in our 125th year as a sport.
“So many of our players have been unsung heroes, and it is reassuring to know that RL Cares are there to offer support if and when required.”
If you are a retired player who requires assistance, or are a member of the public who is aware of one of the sport’s heroes who may be struggling, please contact Rugby League Cares, details below. All contact will be treated with strictest confidence.
Phone: Chris Rostron, Head of RL Cares: 07917 282322
The charity is liaising with the clubs’ dedicated player welfare managers to ensure that players suffering financial, emotional or behavioural hardship have rapid access to expert advice and assistance to steer them through the ongoing health crisis.
RL Cares is also working alongside the club foundations and ex-players associations to reach out to former players who may be feeling isolated at this difficult time.
Government grants accessed by RL Cares will continue to be distributed to the club foundations over the weeks and months ahead to help ongoing projects in their local communities.
Aspects of the RL Cares health programmes, including Offload, are being taken online to reach more people at a time when social distancing regulations prevent group meetings.
To entertain fans missing their regular fix of Rugby League action, RL Cares will be streaming classic matches from the sport’s past on the charity’s Facebook page and Youtube channel.
Chris Rostron, the Head of RL Cares, said: “As an independent charity with responsibility for delivering player welfare to the professional and semi-professional game, RL Cares has the health and wellbeing of the playing community at the heart of its activities.
“Now, more than ever before, players past and present may need help and support and we want them to know we’re here for them.
“A number of Super League and Championship players have already accessed the expertise of Sporting Chance since the pandemic took hold and we will continue to keep that option open.
“Our partners, including All Sport Insurance and Barclays Banks, are all doing all they can to help players through the crisis, and we are grateful to them for their support.
“We would also like to thank the club foundations and player welfare managers for their dedication and the RFL and Super League for their continued support of our efforts.
“RL Cares aims to make a positive difference to the lives of people at every level of the sport and our small, committed team is working tirelessly to keep the Rugby League family together.”
If only the answer was as easy to put into six words…
As an independent charity, we act in the best interests of every section of Rugby League, from the children passing a ball for the first time at junior clubs, through to the heroes who thrill crowds and TV audiences on a weekly basis, and on to the legends of yesteryear, whose exploits are woven into the very fabric of the sport.
Looking back on 2019, even we have been amazed by the scope of our work and the number of people whose lives we have touched.
Our big focus this year has been delivering welfare services to the game’s most important stakeholders, the players. We’ve made some big appointments since January, including the sport’s first-ever Transition Manager in Steve McCormack, who has made a massive difference.
Players are now fully supported and encouraged to make plans for a working life away from rugby, and protected by a support network that aims to offset many of the disadvantages they face as professional athletes.
Working with our sister charity, the RL Benevolent Fund, we have been there for the bad times when tragedy strikes, both on the field and off it, supporting the families who have lost a loved one.
Our grants team are bringing unprecedented levels of funding into the sport from outside agencies and companies, all of whom recognise the value of our work.
Their efforts, aligned to our ongoing fundraising campaigns, have helped us generate £1.2m to spend across a sport that remains as special today as it was when it was born 125 years ago.
We have continued to catalogue and preserve Rugby League’s official collections at Heritage Quay within the University of Huddersfield, and are still working hard to realise our ambition to open a world class National RL Museum. Watch this space!
As we approach the end of what has been a momentous year for the team at Rugby League Cares, the infographic above provides a snapshot which goes some way to explaining what the charity is all about.
We do so much more, but we couldn’t do what we do without the support of so many people: to all of you who have supported our work in 2019, a massive ‘thank you’!
Happy New Year everyone.