Former Leeds Rhinos captain Stevie Ward returns to rugby league in surprise new role

Former Leeds Rhinos captain Stevie Ward has returned to rugby league in a new role helping to develop the sport across the Atlantic.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 2:24 pm

Ward, who retired at the end of last season because of a long-term concussion, has been appointed as director of welfare and safety for the Canada Co-Operative Championship Rugby League (CCCRL).

Formed last year, the Toronto-based organisation claims to be the “world’s first cooperatively owned professional rugby league competition”.

Ward, twice a Grand Final winner with Rhinos, was set to join Toronto Wolfpack this year, before the club was refused a place in Betfred Super League and his injury led to him hanging up his boots.

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Stevie Ward takes on Hull's defence in his final game for Rhinos, in February last year. Picture by Tony Johnson.

He said: "The concept of CCCRL lit me up from the moment I heard about it.

“I am proud to be a part of something that is building a league where the welfare and safety of the people on the pitch is paramount.

“I and the rest of the CCCRL team are dedicated to implementing a culture where the player’s individual needs, talents, and wider life dreams are at the heart of the game’s success.”

He insisted: “We plan to lead the way surrounding player mental health, well-being, protecting long-term health and promoting the all-round development of the player.

Stevie Ward in pre-season action against Wigan last year. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“The CCCRL will be an organisation that hopes to offer players the opportunity to perform at the highest level within sport, but also build their brand, skills and dreams so they can have success that outlasts their playing career.

“I truly believe in what we are building and I can’t wait to ignite the new era of rugby league in Canada and North America. “

Sandy Shipley, vice president of CCCRL, said: “In order for us to grow and develop this competition in North America we need people like Stevie to help us meet our vision and expectations.

“We are going to rely heavily on Stevie as he undertakes what we feel is the most important and crucial element of our league, which is placing a great deal of emphasis on the health and safety for all our players, coaches and employees worldwide.”

Shipley added: “Stevie has seen and been through the all the rigours of the sport of rugby league and there’s nobody out there we trust more and is better suited to take on this significant role in our organisation.”

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