Former Super League and NRL star opens up

During the pandemic, a lot of people have said they want to cling to some normality, and one of the legends of our game is no different.

At the end of the 2017 season, Gareth Ellis hung his boots up, for what he thought was the final time and started coaching youngsters at Hull FC.

However, in 2019 an injury crisis saw him return to playing for the Airlie Birds, which was subsequently followed by a new one-year playing deal for last season, during which, after a Challenge Cup victory over Castleford Tigers, he effectively announced his second retirement.

But, with so many high-profile players having suffered with their mental health after retirement, how is the double Challenge Cup-winning captain coping with retirement this time?

He said: “It feels more permanent this time. I spent last year finding a new role at the club and developing it. I felt more ready, and the experience of retirement before, prepared me.

“Now I feel more confident about my future, my plans and my progression in coaching.”

But what originally caused the decision to return to action on the pitch in a reserves game against Wakefield Trinity, followed by a Super League outing in a historic clash at Wigan the next week?

His answer is truly one that will resonate with a lot of ex-players, as well as fans: “I like to think I’m fairly level-headed, but I have heard of players struggling with retirement.

“After I originally retired, I was in a head space where I wasn’t sure where my future was going after living to play rugby league for so long, although charities are starting to help.

“I was very lucky in my career, I won trophies, I represented my country and I jetted all over the world to play rugby league.

“I found it very difficult to talk to people, because I actually thought ‘who’s going to want to listen to stories like that?’, wouldn’t they just think I was showing off?

“Fortunately, Rugby League Cares and Mind charities are starting to break those barriers down now and making it easier for people to talk, which is so important.”

So, what has changed retirement this time, and his role at the club? “When I was captain, the role really evolved, and I noticed definite flaws in my leadership.

“Plus, it was difficult not to be a player at the time, but after experiencing being on the pitch without the arm band, but effectively being a coach on the pitch, there were clear benefits.

“What I have been able to do is bring that coaching experience from the pitch, to my role off the pitch.

“Hopefully I can guide, coach and advise players more and why not add more leadership to the role?”

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