Exclusive: Alex Eckley balances playing in League One and coaching at Warrington Wolves in busy off-season

Away from the full-time of Super League, most of the players down the divisions need jobs away from the sport to make ends meet.

This is no different for North Wales Crusaders back row Alex Eckley who finds himself in the unique position of being involved in the top and bottom divisions of the three main leagues in the UK.

When he is not training with League One side Crusaders, he is working with Warrington Wolves as part of their first-team and academy coaching staff as a Strength and Conditioning Coach.

Eckley came through the famous St Helens academy and his experience and knowledge will be invaluable to the Wolves young players coming through. However the 23-year-old forward does highlight the difficulties of trying to work and play in the sport at the same time.

“It is difficult to manage especially in pre-season as there are very long days,” explained Eckley. “The opportunity to do both is something I will never complain about however and I try my best to give 100% commitment to both teams.

“I think my previous experiences have set me up well for this role though as I understand the demands needed to be an academy player and hope to pass on that knowledge.”

Being active in both Super League and League One camps, Eckley points out what separates the top of the sport to the players in the lower leagues.

“Professionalism,” Eckley stated. “The level of it shown by the lads at Warrington. They show why they are where they are.

“Playing in League One has been good to me as it has allowed me to continue playing the sport I love, but I hope as many of the academy lads I work with now can make it to the first team.”

Eckley does however think the academy level players could benefit from time spent in the Championship and League One.

“I think the lads would benefit from the physicality of League One and the experience of playing against men for the first time.

“You see it in Football all the time, talented young players sent out on loan to gain that experience of playing against men and not just their own age group.”

As for his playing career, Eckley has been involved in a North Wales Crusaders side which has made the playoffs in the past two seasons as they look to gain promotion to the Championship in 2023. With a raft of changes at the club, he believes they could do just that.

“We have done well over the last two seasons but have fallen short,” said Eckley. “With the new coach coming and new lads this could be the step forward we need to go further this season.”

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