Rhinos star Ward backs community club mental wellbeing project

When Leeds Rhinos take to the field tomorrow evening for their clash with St Helens, you may notice something slightly different about their look.

That’s because a one-off shirt has been produced, replacing the Leeds Building Society logo with that of Samaritans, to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Leeds Rhinos Foundation- the official charity of the Super League club- is also committed to raising awareness and reducing the stigma of mental health problems, and throughout the year has been helping to deliver mental health workshops at the Rhinos’ Ambassador clubs, following the launch of a ground-breaking new Mental Wellbeing project.

Leeds Rhinos star Stevie Ward is an ambassador for the programme and recently visited a Resilience and Character Development session at Hunslet Club Parkside, which worked with players from their Under 13s side.

The forward embraced the opportunity to get fully involved with the session, delivering an inspirational talk to the youngsters on the importance of resilience and dealing with outside influences.

Ward, who is well-known for his fantastic off-the-field work in championing issues surrounding mental health, says that he had no hesitation in throwing his support behind the scheme.

“I’ve had certain challenges in my life that have really made me interested in supporting this sort of work,” said Ward.

“During the workshops, we’re looking to show the lads how they can learn from adversity. Social media can paint a glossy picture where life looks really easy, but the boys need to know that it’s tough, but they can learn from tough challenges to get better and progress.

“I was really excited to get down and link it to mental health, but also the good side of mental health where you can progress and train to improve like you would with physical health.”

Split into two phases, the Mental Wellbeing project is the first of its kind and provides clubs with a bespoke programme of workshops led by trained staff, including Positive Psychologist Practitioner Paul Wassell, former rugby league player Jonny Lawless and his Minds Matter organisation. This has been enabled by funding from The Hunslet Club Trust, The Hunslet Cricket, Football & Athletic Club Trust and Andrew Beadnall, of Beadnall Copley Estate & Letting Agents.

Speaking after the session at Hunslet Club, Beadnell commented: “When the kids come into the sessions, they will probably come in with that typical teenager attitude. By the time they walk out, they have got so much out of it and a totally different outlook.”

“What has been especially pleasing is having coaches come up and say to me at the end of it that they really felt the impact themselves.

“One of the biggest problems is that it’s not discussed enough and that’s why Stevie has been a breath of fresh air to the project, because he’s so willing to talk about it.”

“It is so important that people do talk about these things, because by admitting that it is a problem in society, especially in this age with social media and so on, you can transform people’s lives.”

For more information on Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s Mental Wellbeing project, please contact dan.busfield@leedsrhinosfoundation.org.