PREPARING for life after rugby league can often be a difficult part of a player’s life.
Missing that camaraderie and commitment within a dressing room can be tough to depart from, but a number of rugby league stars have gone on to have completely different careers to the 13-man code.
Here are six of the most unique.
Darren Fleary – Women’s Prison Officer
Formerly of Leeds, Huddersfield and Leigh, Darren Fleary earned caps for Great Britain after becoming one of the toughest forwards in Super League around the turn of the century. However, after hanging up his boots in 2005, Fleary took his no-nonsense approach into the prison service, becoming a women’s prison officer at Armley Prison.
Ben Westwood – Fast Food Van Owner
Warrington Wolves legend Ben Westwood began his Super League career with the then-named Wakefield Trinity Wildcats back in 1999 before moving to the Cheshire club in 2002. The uncompromising forward retired in 2019 after playing for Warrington for 18 seasons and quickly created ‘Super Bennies Food Emporium’ that year. Westwood is currently making it crack as a fast food van owner, even serving the likes of World Strongest Men competitors Luke and Tom Stoltman.
George Burgess – Actor
With the Burgess family being on great terms with Hollywood director Russell Crowe, it’s perhaps no surprise that the recently-retired George Burgess has turned his hand to acting, starring in a Christmas show in Heath Davis’ new black comedy Christmess. Burgess has already had roles in three other films: Locusts, Ascendant and A Taste for Blood with a fourth – named Land of Bad coming out in 2024. The 31-year-old is sure to be a big personality on screen just as he was on the rugby league field!
Ashley Gibson – Model
The former Leeds Rhinos academy graduate, Ashley Gibson became a solid Super League player for the then-named Salford City Reds before enjoying spells at Castleford, Bradford and Wakefield. Now, the 36-year-old is a model and regularly posts selfies on his social media, with his agency, Nemesis Models tagged in his profile. His last appearance in a rugby league shirt came in 2020 for Newcastle Thunder.
Jy Hitchcox – Miner
Known for his fast feet and athletic finishing ability, Jy Hitchcox returned to Australia last year. Whilst playing part-time rugby league for the Western Suburbs Red Devils, Hitchcox also became a miner. The mining 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, with Hitchcox playing a role.
Joel Thompson – Rail Construction
Joel Thompson, who joined St Helens ahead of the 2021 Super League season and then retired at the end of that year, went straight into the rail construction industry following his retirement. He became the manager for THEE Group in Slacks Creek, Queensland, Australia – a rail construction and maintenance company – and is now the managing director of Yakka Training which helps people make the first steps to joining the industry.
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