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HOILES’ ‘CLASSIC WALLABIES’ A LIFELINE FOR RETIRING RUGBY PLAYERS

By Madeleine Gray on September 6, 2017 in News

Picture: Alan Hoiles

As a concept, retirement is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’ve made it; you’ve yourself alive for 65 years or so. However, the prospect of idle hours and a lack of purpose can also be incredibly daunting.

Now imagine that rather than retiring at 65, the intensity of your chosen career requires that you hang up the boots (literally) at a much younger age – around 35 – and not only do you have to find a way to earn money using an entirely different skillset from the one you’ve honed your whole life, after years of adulation, reverence, and existence within a carefully curated and controlled environment, you’re now just a regular guy with very little structure in your life.

These are some of the issues faced by ex-professional sports players, and these problems are often exacerbated in the “macho” world of male rugby players, as the pervasive ideologies of toxic masculinity make men feel that voicing their emotional concerns and seeking help for mental health issues is somehow taboo.

This systemic failing is known all too well by ex-Wallabies footballer Stephen Hoiles.

“For a long time in your life [as a professional rugby player] you’re getting paid to do what you’ve always loved,” Mr. Hoiles said.

“I started footy when I was four years old. When that suddenly stops it can be hard to deal with.

“Many guys who finish professional rugby are injured, so there are the physical issues, and then there is the challenge of working out what you want to do for the next 30 years, and wondering how you’ll ever find a career that will give you the same satisfaction.

“Then there are financial pressures, too.

“All of these combined can cause mental distress to some guys and their families.”

As a way to help combat this difficult transition period, Hoiles has taken over the management of the ‘Classic Wallabies’, a team designed for former Australian Test rugby players.

“We focus on three specific areas,” Hoiles said.

“We celebrate our past by hosting social reunions, playing in a few tournaments and exhibition games each year.

“We help the game grow by using Classic Wallabies to get out and visit clubs and schools all around Australia.

“And we help our players develop from professional rugby into the next stage of their careers.”

Hoiles explained that rugby has been going through a “frustrating” period in Australia, and that the game needs to step up when it comes to community engagement, as AFL has done.

“It’s always about the kids and the fans and offering them the opportunity to meet their heroes,” he said.

For Hoiles, playing club rugby at Randwick has been an important part of his transition away from professional rugby.

“Club rugby has always been the lifeblood of rugby in Australia,” he said.

“Rugby isn’t just about the professionals. It’s about the fourth grade guys who put in the same time year after year without any public praise, and the volunteers who work behind the scenes.

“They are what make the club, and the game, great.”

For more information about the Classic Wallabies and how you can help out, visit www.classicwallabies.com.au, or email info@classicwallabies.com.au. To get involved with Randwick Rugby, visit www.randwickrugby.com.au.

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