Make a Donation
And help us make a difference.
We need your support to be able to continue enhancing the lives of people in communities wherever Rugby League is played.
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.
Figures released last week by the Office for National Statistics show that suicide rates in the UK are at a 20-year high, with the Yorkshire and Humber region having the highest rates.
Suicide is never a solution: as dark as the tunnel someone may find themselves in, light is always closer than they may think.
Our Offload mental wellbeing campaign has helped steer a number of men back into the light: we also have lots of other resources available to offer supports including a series of virtual workshops featuring some high profile people from within the sport.
Here is the testimony of Mark Davies, a fantastic, well-loved parent, partner and friend of many, who tells his story in his own words of the difference RL Cares and Offload has made to his life.
“I have struggled with mental health since I was 17. I had a really difficult relationship with my stepmum and things seemed to spiral.
The low point for me came a couple of years ago when my dad died. We were very close and had a strong common bond through Rugby League.
When he died I went off the rails. I tried to take my own life by drinking the best part of a bottle of morphine. It was a dark, scary time and I wasn’t in a good place but for the sake of my wife and four children I decided I was going to sort myself out.
I saw a post on Facebook about Offload taking place at Warrington Wolves and thought I’d give it a try. It’s the best decision I have ever made.
Although I live in Warrington I’m a St Helens lad born and bred – my dad coached at Blackbrook – and it felt strange walking through the door at The Halliwell Jones Stadium for the first Offload fixture. Once the session began, though, I knew it was for me.
It’s not easy talking about mental illness but when you’re with a group of blokes who have so much in common with you it’s like a weight being lifted.
I have made some great friends through Offload, friends who will stay with me for life. They’ve told me that when I first came along I was a very angry man and seemed unapproachable. Hopefully that’s not the case anymore.
Our squad has set up its own Facebook group and are always in touch on Twitter. My involvement has inspired me move forward with my life. Things are now easier at home because I don’t get wound up as easily.
There’s so much variety within the fixtures and I’ve been able to take something from everyone. Ian Smith, the former Super League referee, has been incredibly supportive.
I was going through hell and speaking to Ian really did turn my life around.
He talked through the situation I was in at the time and together we found a way through it. We’ve become good friends, although that doesn’t stop me giving him some stick from time to time about his refereeing!
It’s also been great listening to people like Phil Veivers. I’ve looked up to Phil since I used to watch him from the terrace at Knowsley Road and it’s great enjoying banter with him at Offload fixtures.
I spoke to my doctor and told him about Offload. He questioned it on the grounds of equality because it’s a male-only thing but he’s impressed by the difference it’s made to me.
Offload provides something men like me can’t get within the NHS.
At the start it was hard to break down my own barriers. I am old school, I kept things to myself and wasn’t a nice person to be around.
Offload has smashed down those barriers and not only have I helped myself I am now helping others.
I’ve just started something called The Shoe Project which involves collecting unwanted shoes from people in the UK and sending them overseas for children in Afghanistan and Syria to wear.
I feel like a better person because of Offload and I can’t thank Rugby League Cares and Warrington Wolves enough for the difference they’ve made to my life.
However, they’ll never get a Warrington shirt on the back of this St Helens lad, no matter how hard my Offload squadmates keep trying!”
The hugely successful men’s mental fitness programme run by Rugby League Cares will kick-off at the home of the Betfred Super League champions in the New Year.
Offload is a health initiative designed by RL Cares with input from State of Mind and is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. It helps men tackle issues such as depression and anxiety and develop coping strategies to successfully manage the crises we all face in everyday life.
Staged over 10 weekly ‘fixtures’, Offload is presented by former Rugby League players and officials who share their experiences of dealing with pressure, health problems and challenging situations.
Offload fixtures at St Helens will also feature input from OK TO ASK, a campaign which aims to break down the stigma of talking about suicide.
St Helens has one of the highest suicide rates in the UK – 75 people in the borough have taken their own lives in the last three years – and OK TO ASK focuses on the life-saving conversations anyone could have with someone thinking of suicide.
Liam Parker, Health Projects Manager at RL Cares, said: “Offload has a proven track-record of both changing and saving lives and we are delighted to have opportunity to deliver our programme to the people of St Helens.
“Over 1,000 men across the North West have already attended Offload fixtures and we know from the feedback they have given us what a positive difference it makes to the quality of not only their lives, but the lives of their families and the people around them.
“Working in partnership with Saints Community Development Foundation, St Helens Borough Council and the OK TO ASK campaign will enable us to continue that good work and empower more men to be able to cope, and talk comfortably, about important health issues.”
Chris Chamberlain, Project and Finance Manager at Saints Foundation, said: “After extensive consultation and understanding the local needs from across St Helens, it became evident that Offload would be great to support people within St Helens.
“Saints Foundation has been working hard behind the scenes with partners at the local authority and Rugby League Cares to bring Offload to St Helens. This is an extremely positive project which has worked well in other local areas and we are pleased to bring Offload to St Helens.”
Offload has already acquired national recognition for the successful way it has engaged men in what is traditionally a taboo health subject since it was launched in 2017.
Since then, Offload has made a positive impact on the lives of the men who have attended fixtures run at Salford Red Devils, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings.
Earlier this month, Offload was nominated for a prestigious ‘Sport for Social Change Award’ at the 2019 British Journalist Sport Awards: the programme was also highly rated in an independent evaluation conducted by health experts at Edge Hill University.
That report found that men who have completed a set of Offload fixtures:
Offload fixtures at St Helens are aimed at men aged 16 and over, are free to attend and will take place at the Totally Wicked Stadium with dates and times in early 2020 to be confirmed.
For more information on Offload at St Helens, or to sign up to the programme, please contact Saints Community Development Foundation at email@example.com.
Offload has already transformed the lives of over 1,000 men in the North West of England since its launch in April 2017 and the new funding from the National Lottery Community Fund will build on those achievements.
Delivered at three professional Rugby League clubs, Warrington Wolves, Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings, Offload involves men learning the techniques that Rugby League clubs use to manage the mental and physical fitness of players.
Staged over 10 weeks, Offload ‘fixtures’ are delivered by former players and officials and allow men to build their own mental fitness, develop coping strategies to challenge difficult situations and learn how to recognise when people close to them might need their support.
Chris Rostron, the Head of RL Cares, said: “This is terrific news, both for the charity and for men across the North West who now have the opportunity to engage with our hugely successful Offload programme.
“Some of the feedback we have received from many of the men involved in Offload over the last two years has been little short of remarkable: Offload is not only changing lives for the better, it’s saving them as well.
“Good mental health is really important for all of us but for men, in particular, it can be difficult to seek help or advice when things go wrong.
“Offload breaks down those barriers and empowers participants to take care of their own mental wellbeing and empowers them with the tools they need to reach out to others.
“I would like to thank the three club foundations for the commitment they have shown to making Offload such an overwhelming success.”
An independent evaluation of Offload has been conducted by researchers at Edge Hill University and reveals that participation brought about increased confidence and self-esteem, improved social and emotional connections, reduced substance abuse, an increase in physical activity and enhanced working and personal relationships.
The evaluation also revealed that after taking part in Offload:
* 78 per cent of men are more aware of how to look after their health and wellbeing;
* 63 per cent are keen to make a change to improve their education, training or employment;
* 74 per cent are more able to cope with everyday lie;
* 66 per cent have a better relationship with their family
* 73 per cent feel more able to manage setbacks and challenging situations.
The Edge Hill research team was led by Professor Andy Smith, who said: “We were delighted to undertake research which will positively impact on the mental health of men from some of the most disadvantaged communities in North West England.
“We worked with the clubs and delivery staff from State of Mind Sport to design ways of effectively engaging men taking part in Offload, and to allow them to develop positive ways of coping with the mental health challenges they experience.
“How many men revealed to us that the programme has literally saved their life is quite humbling and is testimony to the hard work of everyone involved.”
One participant said: “I can honestly say Offload saved my life. That night that I went to Offload for the very first time, I was planning to do it [attempt to take my own life] again, so I can’t sing its praises enough to be honest. I wouldn’t be here without it.”
Another Offload squad member said: “I used to just turn to drugs and alcohol. That’s what I used to do every weekend, most nights, but now I don’t. Every time I feel down, I do something else that keeps me going, like exercise.”
Developed and delivered with the help of State of Mind and other agencies, Offload fixtures are free to attend and open to all men aged 18 and over.
For more information on Offload at Warrington, Salford and Widnes please click here