Rhiannon Marshall – Castleford Tigers’ number 13 – is an extremely gifted and talented Rugby league player with a rugby brain that is difficult to match.
With a large group of fans and followers who praise her skill and efforts whilst on the pitch, Marshall is revered at the Jungle. Although those fans are loyal, they’re also oblivious to Marshall’s constant battle with her inner demons. She openly admits that her difficult past and social environment has had an adverse effect on her playing ability and that in turn made Marshall realise that she must take some much-needed steps regarding lifestyle choices. That meant taking time out from her international career, something which the forward claims was essential.
“The only reason I can explain as to why I stepped down is that I had a lot of personal issues that needed to be addressed. I wanted to become a better person, player and athlete. I’m truthfully honest, when we went over to Australia for the 9s and then onto the PNG tour I was not fit enough. I was fine skill wise and in terms of mental robustness, but my fitness was severely lacking and I knew deep down I wasn’t ready for that.
“I spoke at length with some of my peers and with my coach Lyndsey Anfield about my concerns. I knew that my playing performance was being affected by my personal life choices, not only physically, but also the people and situations I would surround myself with.
“I knew I needed to “get a grip of my life” and the only way I could address these missing links and build from some poor choices – plus concentrate on a more holistic approach towards my mental health – was to step down from playing internationally.”
Marshall has no problem with honesty and she feels that other players can learn from her decision and thought process.
“I think once players move from merit and Championship teams to the Super League and international teams, their attitudes and efforts must change.
“Gone are the days we can drink before a game; we are watched continuously, not only from our staff but also our fans and followers. I think for us to act unprofessional it sends out the wrong message to our younger fans. The game has grown so much and the talent pool and teams are becoming larger whilst the background staff expect more from the women’s players.
“Those wanting to play Rugby League for a Sunday sport and enjoy it as just that, then that’s great, but for those of us who are in teams that are in the public eye, we must set a precedent and remain professional on and off the pitch at all times.”
After turning her life around off the pitch, Marshall is itching to get back on the field and doing what she does best.
“I’ve made so many changes throughout this pandemic; I’ve moved away from any distractions. And, I’ve even started a new personal training business called RM Fitness. My partner, Elle May, and I became engaged over the Christmas holiday and my mental health is at an all time high with my personal fitness a working progress, I literally couldn’t be happier. I set out to improve me and I think I’ve achieved just that.
“I want to wear the England shirt again; I’ve had to prove that I am the full package – I’ve worked hard to get this far and I’m not about to stop now. The England performance staff gave me a chance last time and next season will be my chance to prove to them yet again that I can represent my country to the fullest of my potential.
“I’m fitter than I ever was, my mental state is clear and strong, plus my personal circumstances are now something that I am proud of. I’m proud of me and that is what I set out to do.”