PRPW Welcomes stars from Super League
Pacific Rugby Welfare has now opened its doors to stars from both codes.
Rugby League players of Pacific Islands and Maori heritage have been welcomed into the PRPW, with chief executive Dan Leo hailing the association extending into new territories.
Salford Red Devils assistant coach and former Wakefield and Leeds stalwart Willie Poching linked up with PRPW board member and ex-dual code star Mike Umaga to forge the new relationship.
The PRPW formalised the new arrangement with a recent meeting in Halifax, where a host of high-profile league stars were on hand to learn about the organisation's aims.
“A lot of the same welfare issues that are affecting Pacific Islanders in rugby union have also been highlighted to us as concerns in rugby league as well,” explained PRPW chief executive Leo.
“Mike Umaga had some constructive early conversations with the likes of Willie Poching and Motu Tony and things progressed from there.
“We're delighted to extend our membership to cover rugby league, and we're also welcoming players from either code of Maori heritage as well.
“We've felt it was important to extend our horizons here, and we hope we'll be able to help players in league in the same ways that we are already working hard within union.”
Poching forged a formidable league career in New Zealand before making the switch to the UK and Wakefield in 1998.
The 43-year-old has now progressed into coaching, but still believes he would have benefited from an organisation like PRPW when he arrived in England almost 20 years ago.
“The benefits aren't just for rugby, they are for the person as well as the player,” said Poching.
“When you move to a different country, a different hemisphere, you can be isolated.
“A lot of times there's a support network that's there naturally at home through your family.
“The sports of rugby union and rugby league are doing a great job of tackling welfare issues.
“But this is a great initiative, so having spoken to Dan and Mike Umaga I thought it would be a great idea to get the rugby league guys involved.
“Mike explained to me what the association was setting out to achieve, and I just felt it would be a great fit for players in league too.
“When I came to England I had to learn on the run. Older Kiwis in my team were very, very helpful in helping me embed myself, learning the ways in how things work here and what to expect.
“So I learned from them in how to help the next set of guys who came after me.
“We would organise a dinner once every six weeks almost as a support network as much as a social gathering.
“This is an extension of that, but it's far more formal and that's great.”
Poching hopes league players will capitalise on membership of PRPW to help prepare themselves for life after rugby, as well as handle day-to-day issues.
“We explained to the players what the PRPW is trying to do, and they were almost relieved I suppose that there is going to be something that will be helpful for them,” said Poching.
“This is not just for the players, it's for their families as well.
“And it's also about trying to prepare people for life after their playing careers.
“Firstly it's challenging players to think about what they would want to do, and then guiding them into some study, into apprenticeships.
“The players have a big, strong network of players, and sponsors.
“And it's an education for them to use some of that, use some of those sponsors for people who around the team, to help lead them into another career.”
By Nick Purewal