Championship Focus: The stars now trained as professional bodyguards

This year’s Betfred Championship and League 1 will include a quota of a growing Rugby League phenomenon – fully trained professional bodyguards.

New Barrow signing Jarrod Sammut, Halifax centre Greg Worthington and Keighley’s recently appointed head of rugby Andrew Henderson have all completed their qualifications as they look to life outside of Rugby League.

All three have been full-time players or coaches in recent times but have now followed the lead set by former Warrington centre Matty Blythe, who has overseen their training at the Vanquish Academy.

Blythe – who also played for Bradford – spent two years working in close protection in the Middle East after retirement, acting as a bodyguard to experts clearing the improvised devices of ISIS.

Blythe switched from taking carries for his team on the rugby field to carrying AK47s around some of the most dangerous parts of Iraq.

He fully understands the need for Rugby League players to both plan for life after hanging up their boots, but also in the case of most players outside the top flight, the need to build careers with potential.

Blythe believes it is a natural fit for Rugby League players to consider working in close protection.

“I’ve done some bits with Rugby League Cares around helping players with careers, and we put on an off-season course in Leeds the day after the Grand Final,” Blythe explained.

“It was for people that wanted to up-skill and look at becoming a close protection operative.

“One of my goals in this role now is to help people transition from after Rugby League.

“The guys were all great and you could tell that Andrew Henderson as a coach knows his stuff.

“It was an amazing course to be able to teach, because it felt like revisiting the rugby – we talked about Rugby League each and every day and it was nice to have a beer with them at the end of it.

“They can now work on an ad hoc basis when they need it and at the moment we’re very busy.

“A lot of this job is networking and I know Greg has already done a lot of that and will be looking to get established over the next year or so.

“A big thing in Rugby League is that you cross paths with a lot of people and that will help them.

“And I’ve had a 100 percent pass rate so far this year, which is always nice!”

Blythe believes there is a natural fit between the two professions.

He added: “I’m not saying it’s for everybody, but the skills from Rugby League are very transferable.

“Rugby League players don’t earn millions of pounds and can’t retire to the golf course when they finish playing – they have to go to work and that transition can be tough.

“But these guys are used to putting their bodies on the line every week and doing detailed planning and preparation work.

“All the players that have done the training so far have been great and they’ve now got a qualification in place that allows them to enter the executive bodyguard world.

“It could be politicians, celebrities or anybody that needs close protection, and these guys are now qualified to do that.”

Sammut, who will be part of Barrow Raiders’ bid to re-establish themselves in the second tier next year, has enjoyed the step into a new field of work.

He said: “There are a lot of similarities between being a rugby player and a bodyguard.

“Coming from a Rugby League background you have to have discipline and integrity and be able to work with a team.

“You’re all focused on the same goal and that’s the same in the close-protection industry.

“I absolutely loved the training – it was very gruelling but it went super-fast.

“I really enjoyed the security element – being part of an advanced party that goes ahead and ensures the venue or location is safe for the principal.

“It’s given me a focus outside of rugby and added a few more strings to my bow.

“I still feel that I’ve got a lot to offer by playing, but this is something that is in place for post-rugby, whenever that comes.”

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