Imagine if you went into work and your employer informed you that you no longer had a job at the firm; not only that, you would never be able to work in that sector again. With your financial security gone; your family and social stability shaken; a piece of your identity taken away: would you cope?

This is sadly the reality for some players who leave the game suddenly due to injury or loss of a professional contract. So many players have dedicated their time to perfecting their Rugby League skills during the years that most of us are in education or learning a trade, sacrificing those crucial years to push themselves physically for our entertainment and a love of the Game. As a result, depression and financial strains can start to occur as some players struggle to adjust to a new life.

Rugby League Cares, with the help of the RFL, Sporting Chance, State of Mind, clubs and other wonderful organisations; support players through this difficult transition. Players are offered a wide range of opportunities, advice and assistance to help them adjust and find new careers.

Francis Maloney’s Story

During a playing career that spanned two decades, Francis Maloney experienced every extreme of the uncertain world of professional sport.

Capped by England, and a distinguished representative of several proud clubs, he was known and respected throughout the sport for his skill, tenacity and competitive spirit.

As is so frequently the case in Rugby League, the shadow of retirement was cast large when injury left Maloney paralysed and unable to play the sport that had been his life – and his living – for such a long time.

Thankfully, the injury was not permanent, and has since healed – though he can no longer play. More challenging has been the adjustment to life outside of the sport. The spectre of depression and alcoholism, which affects disproportionate numbers of top athletes, forced Maloney into his toughest battle yet.

“I didn’t know where to turn. My depression was so bad, and I was drinking too much. The injury left me paralysed on the pitch for four minutes, and I was told that if I took another hit in that area my spinal cord could snap.”

At the lowest ebb, Maloney attempted to take his own life more than once. Mercifully he did not succeed, and after reading about Rugby League Cares by chance, he decided to seek help.

“I was at rock bottom; I didn’t know where to turn. My nephew gave me a magazine and I saw Rugby League Cares and what they did and haven’t looked back.”

After reaching out to Rugby League Cares, our partners in the RFL Welfare programme were able to connect Francis with Sporting Chance.

“I went to treatment for my depression and sorted myself out. I realised how selfish I had been – I have three boys who need me and an ex-wife I needed to make amends with. Now, I’m trying to be a better person – eight months on and I’m on the front foot. I’m actually happy.”

Maloney’s progress has been dramatic. He is now living tee-total, and managing his depression which, though there will always be difficulties, has seen a great improvement. He has also returned to the sport, working with Mirfield Stags and coaching the Great Britain over 35’s team. This helps the recovery process, and keeps up his relationship with the sport that he loves.

“I’m loving being back into coaching, they listen to me and learn – which is a great feeling. I want to put something back into the sport; I was a bit disillusioned when I left.”

The process of giving back to Rugby League extends to his role as an ambassador for Rugby League Cares, a role which he takes very seriously having experienced the need for help.

“Picking up that magazine was the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn’t be here if I had never found out about Rugby League Cares and now I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Everyone should know about it. They really make a difference. I hope that from reading about my life someone decides to get involved, because they saved my life – and they can save more.”

In addition to the ongoing support from Sporting Chance, Rugby League Cares continues to work closely with Francis, assisting him as he starts up his own business.

Rugby League Cares is on hand for any player in need, at any stage of their career or retirement.

It is so vital to our sport that we do not abandon our sporting heroes when they can no longer play for our team. The message of ‘One In, All In’ does not only apply to those wearing our team colours. We must give back to those players who have sacrificed so much for us.

Please join Rugby League Cares today.