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“I’ve had friends who have gone to very dark places after they’ve stopped playing” Sam Tomkins highlights the need for mental health support for retired players

As captain of England, Sam Tomkins voice carries a lot of weight in the world of Rugby League in this country.

The two time man of steel is one of the more recognizable faces in the sport for people who don’t follow Super League and recently sat down with Mens Health to discuss everything around his own mental state.

Tomkins was keen to highlight the support needed for players who step away from the game as the void left can often be too much for people to deal with, something Tomkins expresses he’s seen first hand.

“I’ve seen players leave the game and crash horrendously. More should be done to stop that,” Tomkins continues. “Some players really struggle after retiring because the game is everything. Then it goes and there’s a big void. I’ve seen it right across the spectrum.”

“I’ve had friends who have gone to very dark places after they’ve stopped playing. They don’t always say it, but I read it and sense it and try to help if I can. Mental health is so personal. Something that might seem minor to one person can be major to another.”

This is an important topic for Tomkins to highlight as the support players receive for their mental health needs to extend to post playing career as well, a time when some players will be at their most vulnerable.

Moving away from a routine which many players would have been doing since their mid-teens is a hard transition and needs to be treated accordingly.

Tomkins also highlights the importance of educating the younger players coming through on how to prepare for post career and how to act during their playing days.

“Young players need more education. I’ve been at clubs where an 18-year-old on £30,000 leases a car for £1,000 a month, not realising that doing that at 20 could affect him at 30,” Tomkins continues. “A lot of players in our sport are from tough backgrounds – they’ve not always had a great upbringing, not had the best advice at home. I’d be happy to work with young lads, mentoring and helping them.”

Hopefully Tomkins highlighting these issues in the game at present will spark a change in the RFL and clubs approach to their ex-players and make sure they provide the adequate support for them.

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