Heading down the mines: Ex-Super League players’ unusual modern career paths forged from rugby league

OVER the years professional rugby league players have had to do it incredibly tough on the field and off it.

A whole career is dedicated to keeping in the best shape possible to reach the top echelon of rugby league.

It’s a short career being a rugby league player. From late teens to early 30s, preparation for life after the game can be difficult too.

For some, there has been a notable infiltration into the mining industry, particularly for those returning to Australia.

Former Bradford Bulls star Ben Jeffries went down the mines after retiring from professional rugby league back in 2012 as did ex-Castleford Tigers hero Luke Dorn, whilst former Castleford duo Grant Millington and Jy Hitchcox will be doing so in 2023 as well.

For Hitchcox it is a ‘smooth transition’: “I didn’t do a trade when I left school at 17 as I went straight into footy,” Hitchcox told League Express.

“Going from footy to mining is a smooth transition.”

Blake Ferguson flirted with the idea of becoming a miner before the Leigh Leopards snapped him up.

Of course, many years ago, the plethora of mines around northern towns in the UK provided rugby league players with a main source of income with stories of men going down the pits then going to play the sport just hours after.

With the closure of the mines in the UK, however, it has become a lesser known career – but not in Australia.

The industry Down Under is thriving with Australia the world’s largest producer of lithium and a global top five producer of gold, iron ore, lead, zinc, and nickel. As well as such remarkable stores, Australia has the world’s largest uranium and fourth largest black coal resources.

That of course means that there is considerable work to be done underground. Mining is brutal and physical and it requires resilience, dedication and teamwork – just like rugby league.

For some former players, being in the mines is as close to rugby league as they are perhaps going to get – without actually continuing to play.

Leadership and communication are vital for ensuring that a day mining goes as swimmingly as possible whilst everyone knows their place.

Those that go into the mining industry love it and it’s clearly a great way to focus that energy that would have been exerted on the field.

For Hitchcox, it just makes sense and that looks to be the case for a number of other former high-profile stars.